Decision-makers at companies you covet aren’t interested in dancing around the matter in hand. If you want a brief, ask for it. If you want to meet them to show them what you’ll do, ask for that.

Selling is about questions, not statements. It’s about being interested, not just interesting.

Okay, agency credentials aren’t all terrible, but I’ll stick my neck out: most of them are pretty bad. Worse than that, they look just like the other set of bad credentials that your prospect received.

Fix one of those and you can stand out. Fix both and you’ll get a higher response rate from your new business endeavours very quickly.

Agencies all need to find new clients from time to time. We advise some of the world’s biggest and smallest agencies on how to do this. We do it for lots of them. I wanted to share a few thoughts about agency credentials.

There are extremes when it comes to agency creds documents (in case you don’t call them that, I’m talking about a “deck” – the document you send someone hoping they’ll be inspired to consider you as their next agency).

Some say lots about an agency. Others say lots about agencies. The really good ones say little about the agency and lots about the prospect.

Marcus Boothby-Lund, Client Services Director, Sponge NB:

Too many agencies focus on themselves in their creds, not the prospect and what they will get.

To start with, let’s consider the beginning. Most agencies open their creds document with something about how long they’ve been in business, where they’re based, how many people they have in their offices and perhaps a mention of a couple of their bigger clients.

Seems right, doesn’t it? There’s an old sales truism that the prospect is tuned to WiiFM (What’s in it for me?). They’re tuned to that when you send them some creds.

So far, they want to know what they’ll get and all you’re telling them is that you’re a business with an address, some staff and that you’ve been in business for a finite amount of time. That, agency person, describes everyone.

So, scrub that until the last page. If they like what you have to say, whether you’re big enough, close enough or experienced enough will become more important.

That first page is critical. Screw that up and it doesn’t matter what else you’ve written or what examples you’ve lovingly turned into a visually arresting dossier of your team’s genius.

If you haven’t read Andy Bounds’ amazing book “The Jelly Effect”, go order that right now and don’t send out any more creds until you’ve read it. Once you’ve read it, come back and finish this article.

Andy Bounds' amazing "The Jelly Effect"

You’re back? Right, now you’ve understood The Jelly Effect and Andy Bounds’ A.F.T.E.Rs, you can write your first page properly.

Next, are you addressing something you know about the prospect? Have they told you something about their business challenges? Did you ask about them? If your creds don’t somehow deal with what the prospect is looking to fix/improve/push then why would they read them?

Creds are not there to talk about your agency – they’ve just ended up that way. Find out what the prospect wants to do. If you can’t ask that question then don’t send anything general. Do your homework, make an assumption and busk. It’s bad practice, but it’s still better than sending a set of creds that are simply about you.

The more you ask prospects about what they might want to achieve, what they would actually get from you (rather than what you will do while you work for them), the more effective your creds can be. We’ve tested this hundreds of times. We’re right.

If your creds don’t have a call to action (I know, it sounds a bit old school) then you’re missing an opportunity to get to the point. Decision-makers at companies you covet aren’t interested in dancing around the matter in hand.

If you want a brief, ask for it. If you want to meet them to show them what you’ll do, ask for that. Selling is about questions, not statements. It’s about being interested, not just interesting.

Create your creds as a PDF. Don’t use PowerPoint, don’t use Word (and more so, if you insist on Word (why are you doing that?!), don’t save as .docx)  – in fact, don’t use anything that isn’t PDF.

Everyone can open a PDF. You can know exactly what it’ll look like. You can embed links. It’ll stop you from putting in awful swooshing page transitions.

Switch off your ego. Creds are not there to remind you that you have the best agency ever, anywhere. If everyone sends out a document that says little other than “we’re really good”, then how would anyone choose?

If you’re worried that you didn’t get to tell the prospect about the massive client that made you lots of money (sorry, I mean the massive client for whom you made lots of money…), don’t worry too much. Keep to relevant work. If its relevance isn’t clear to everyone in your office, don’t include it. You’re sending it to someone who will spend about 8 seconds on each page. Make it clear. Make it short.

If you use a new business agency then they should be telling you this. If you run new business in-house, then try this for say, five years and see if it works better.

If you worry about your new business efforts even a little, you could do a lot worse than giving us a call. There are lots of new business agencies though, so y’know, shop around.

Your creds should be short, absolutely relevant to the prospect’s needs (which you found out by asking them, remember?) and start with a page that tells the prospect what they will get from working with you.

Stay relevant, wrap it up fairly quickly (10 pages max, anything else is ego-stroking) and only at the end can you say where you are, how many buddies you work with and that your agency is of the excellent {insert year here} crop. Good luck.

Monkey with Typewriter image used under Creative Commons licence. Originally by Heather Fallows.