Today’s Adweek broke a story by Maureen O’Leary that portends bad new for agency new business pros. Various recent industry surveys revealed the half-life of someone working at agency new business is measured in months, not years. The article prompted me to check Who’s Who at Campbell-Ewald in Detroit; just when I was getting to know Barbara Yolles, she’s gone! Many of our contacts there have retired or moved on. Maureen makes the point that “new business” is a risky business. So I countered with my position based on our experience here at AgencyFinder coupled with my new business consulting at Sales Marketing Institute and Sanders Consulting. I said …
Face it, new business is not a job for an agency person. Let’s stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Most agency people are not fit for a new business because they’re creatives by nature and creatives flinch when their work is criticized. Imagine the internalizations when a prospect tells them to “get lost!” At VCU’s Ad Center here in Richmond, Virginia, unless things have changed, there isn’t a single course or a single semester that even introduces the critical topic “How an agency gets new business.” As in, how do we pay our bills and pay our employees. New business doesn’t “fit” an agency-trained individual and never will.
New business is a “sales job” and I’ve yet to visit an agency to see a door or department banner proclaiming “Sales Department; Sales Manager.” They prefer “Manager of Organic Growth!” Matter of fact, most agency folks cringe at the word sales yet the majority of what an agency produces is funneled into and out into the world through a sales rep (media rep) for the media of choice.
Agencies need to hire “sales people” with the assistance of qualified headhunters like Paul Gumbinner. They must bring “process” to the agency (most don’t have one to offer). The agency needs to hire a new business consultant (ask me, I can make some recommendations) to teach proactive outreach. And the agency needs to invest in what they’re told. Like the need for a developed prospect database, a computerized Contact Management software package along with an assortments of flat and dimensional mailers and conversation pieces. Finally they need an incoming opportunity source, lead generator or agency-side search consultant (as in – us) to vector in real time-sensitive opportunities.
Maybe then they will see the results they seek … I’ve volunteered it before – anyone want to join me in building a Sales university?
Thoughts from Chuck Meyst, Chairman & CEO at AgencyFinder
In a reply to a subsequent post by “Lucy” I wrote:
The entirety of agency new business needs more than a forum and I wasn’t suggesting “agency new business” shouldn’t include and embrace other non-sales-types at the agency. Nor do I see the first-line new business person as a “closer” or someone who does it all alone. Once the prospect’s door has been opened, then a pair (new business person + senior account person “well-versed in all there is to know about the agency and how to interview”) visit the prospect for a face-to-face sit-down.
Not enough space here to address all that is covered then, but a suggested next-step is a client visit to the agency. The “agency-tour-as-new-business-tool” was one of my lectures prior to AgencyFinder and is now an integral element in our agency search process. Walk the floor together, interview department heads where they work, let them “show & tell” and let the prospect see things lying around you wouldn’t have thought to show them. Many times those visuals helped close the business.
I could go on, but as many have already said, certainly it’s a team effort and everyone on the team needs to be trained, rehearsed and ready to integrate with the whole. If it was easy, every agency would be doing it!