The boss of a successful digital agency has revealed the secrets to winning new business.

Ross Green, founder and managing director of Embryo, is set to celebrate a turnover of more than £5 million this financial year.

Since starting in 2015, he and his team have seen success securing countless deals in automotive, home and garden, business services, as well as many other industries. Today Manchester-based Embryo employs 70 people.

Green has tried and tested methods for navigating negotiations and winning new business amidst turbulent fiscal landscapes including Brexit, COVID-19 and the current economic downturn.

His first tip is to perfect your listening skills – then offer solutions. “Let your prospect do the talking,” he advises. “Instead of focusing on selling and listing every product or service you offer, perfect your listening skills. 

“When you give them room to talk, not only do they appreciate it but you can pick out nuggets of information about what their needs, problems and weaknesses are. It’s all about solution selling – selling with a purpose.”

Second is to not allow your words to get lost in translation. “It’s very important to get in front of the right people, the company’s key decision-makers, when selling or negotiating deals,” he says. 

“Don’t pitch to people who don’t make the decisions, because value gets lost in translation when you pitch to one person, who has to then re-pitch to their key stakeholders. This is how you stop your proposition from being a cost-saving number on a sheet of paper.”

He also believes in personalisation and breaking down barriers. “When you’re pitching to key stakeholders you have to be prepared to have some tough conversations with them and break their barriers down. We call the way we break barriers down ‘thought leadership overboarding’. 

“We share whitepapers with relevant information about what we do, how we do it and how we provide value to businesses. We send one a week for a few weeks before we meet them and by the time we do, they think of us as thought leaders within our industry.

“You can also personalise this experience. We have a client in the engineering industry, and before they were, I looked at the LinkedIn of the operations director. He’d posted about Manchester United losing a football game, so I sent him a book about the history of the team.

North East hailed as ‘perfect location’ for tech startups

“We arranged an in-person pitch with his company and halfway through I said, ‘Did you like your book?’ He paused for a few seconds before he realised and said, ‘Oh my god! That was you, I loved it!’. 

“Acts like this help to sell deals – you allow yourself to stand out from the crowd and connect with somebody.”

His fourth tip is to create urgency to avoid buyer remorse. “Communicate after your pitch and do it well. Create an urgency to get the deal over the line quickly, without being pushy. Sometimes when someone sees something on Instagram, they go to buy it but Apple Pay isn’t available, so they don’t do it because it wasn’t easy enough for them. The opportunity is lost and this can happen with negotiating and selling deals – make it easy for them.”

His fifth and final tip is to talk about how you can save them money and demonstrate your value. “It’s really important to understand what the key stakeholders’ interpretations of success are, this could be a decent return on investment. 

“If a company wanted to bring in an in-house marketing team they’re looking at £30-£50k per person. Using an agency is a third or half of the cost: demonstrate your value to them. 

“Be prepared to negotiate on price only if the deal works for both parties – they’re happy with the price and you’re happy you can deliver the services. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver, or sell at whatever they’re willing to pay, because this rarely leads to future success – stick with value-based selling.”

Why exiting a business is all about timing