Where Do You Find Your New-Business Directors?

Are the Best One's Born or Made?

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Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver
With over 50% of client relationships lasting less than two years and the average CMO tenure 27 months, the role of new business at our agencies is more important and a bigger focus than ever.

Behind the closed doors of every shop there is a person or group of people whose very jobs are to focus on the growth of the agency's reputation, client base and skill set, not to mention revenue. But do you have the right person(s) in place to successfully carry out your own agency marketing plans?

I was recently asked what made a good new-business person. Can just anyone do new business for your agency? Are the best managers born or made?

According to a press release by Reardon Smith Whittaker (RSW), nearly 85% of agencies continue to hire new-business development personnel internally hoping that "this hire will be the right hire." Yet the vast majority in that position are gone within 18 months.

Too often over my years of moving up the ranks I've witnessed an agency lose a client. Desperate to keep the account manager on staff, upper management will shift that person over to new business to "help bring in a few new ones." The individual, used to running the day-to-day demands of an account, falls short of expectations and panics when they suddenly realize that there's work to be done beyond maintaining a long-term strategy and selling through the creative campaign.

To me, a great new-business person is a personality, not a skill that is learned.

A good new-business person has to thrive in stressful situations and be extremely detail oriented. His eyes and ears must be open for opportunities at all times. He must understand the ebb and flow of the agency's needs, and learn that handling an internal pitch team is just as important as knowing how to handle a client. He must be able to say "no" to the wrong opportunities with grace and ease (to both clients and agency management) and build a spirit and ethos of new business throughout the entire agency team.

Most of all, he must be tenacious and persistent. He absolutely must know how to listen and have the skill to develop trust and relationships within the first five minutes of meeting a prospective client and keep that relationship door open for the long-term.

There are too many things in new business that are working against us to give up easily. For example:
  • When it comes time for a review, prospective clients are putting greater reliance on referrals from colleagues or another marketer within the company;
  • No one takes cold calls anymore. (In fact, a recent cold-calling professional told me that the average industry success rate of connecting with a marketer is 1 call for every 100 made and that one should expect to make 10 points of contact with a prospect before ever securing a meeting.);
  • There's more competition. More and more event, digital, advertising and public-relations agencies are all competing for the same piece of business.
There are really three kinds of new business people. Those who have the golden rolodex, those who are cold callers and those who build and run the new-business "machine" in the agency and keep it rolling throughout the process. It's important to note what kind of person your agency needs most and find that individual. Rarely have I met anyone who could successfully be all three.
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