Who should be driving agency new business efforts?

Looking for the silver bullet for agency new business efforts? I could sell a great new business person to agency owners all day long. They don’t just want one — they hunger for one.

In fact, they’re so hungry for that killer salesperson that they’ll gladly pay a premium salary and perks to 8-10 losers before they find someone who can even cover their own salary.

And that’s just for the privilege of breaking even. Hardly a home run in the agency new business efforts World Series.

In a recent new Agency-Marketer Business Report from RSW/US, 80 percent of agency respondents said the tenure of their new business director was two years or less.

And (my editorial, not the study’s) it was a very frustrating and expensive 2 years at that.

Adweek covered the story and concurred with the study’s findings. They had quotes from some of the bog box agencies and even a client or two who said agency new business people didn’t get their business issues.

I know it’s a different world when you’re JWT or Saatchi, but in the world of most privately owned agencies — agency owners have two choices:

  • You can gamble on finding/hiring someone who has incredible sales skills AND can talk marketing/business problems with prospects
  • You can get over yourself and accept what you know but don’t want to hear.  The best new business person in your agency is you.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a conversation with a new business agency owner who said “for XYZ reason, I had to step into the new business role and we are killing it! We’ve got 5 proposals out and we’ve already increased AGI 20% over last year.”

The reality is the clients quoted in the Adweek article are right. Most agency sales people who are pitching for their business simply don’t have the one two punch. They can either open the door (good at sales) or they can talk marketing/business. As a marketing expert and a business owner, the agency owner is uniquely qualified to do both.

Agency new business, especially in the small to midsize agencies, isn’t about the hard sell, toe in the door kind of sales. It’s a finesse sale that’s part networking, part trust building and part being helpful.

That’s the agency owner’s sweet spot.

And add this into the equation. No one is more motivated to care about agency new business efforts. Agency owners literally live or die by their agency’s growth. It only makes sense that they’d feel a pressure and drive that no hired gun could possibly feel.

I’m not saying it never works. I’ve seen a handful of agencies who have found a spectacular new business person and both the new biz pro and the agency owner reaped incredible benefits.  But for every good one I’ve seen, I’ve witnessed 20-25 disasters.

So why don’t agency owners want to lead the new business charge?

  • They don’t like the idea of sales
  • They’re too busy doing client work to have the time
  • They have no process in place, so it seems too daunting to tackle

All of the above are reasons but they’re not good ones to excuse yourself from taking control of your new business agency.  In the next few blog posts, we’ll tackle each one and show you how to crawl out from under it, so you can do what you do best — grow your agency.