Posts Tagged ‘Business Development’

How to Find Your Agency’s Next New Biz Pro

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Guest Author – Mark Duval,  New Business Development for Advertising Agencies

How do you determine which candidates will perform for your agency based on a stack of paper? You can’t. High-quality hires are few and far between, and in recent years, the process of attracting and retaining a new business person has become almost a competitive sport.

Even The Duval Partnership is not immune to hiring challenges when it comes to high-performance new business professionals who are versed in the agency world. After bringing on some salespeople who did not ultimately perform to our standards, we knew we had to make some changes to our hiring process.

Over the past few years, we’ve been working with a sales recruiter to source our new business hires. The process has been rigorous and eye-opening. I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

Takeaway #1: Hire before you need someone.

Agencies often try to hire people when they needed them yesterday. This limits their candidate pool and forces them to pick the best of a smaller bunch rather than finding someone who is truly best for the role.

Takeaway #2: Use a multi-step interview process.

We have been using a 3-step interview process. Here’s an example of how it helped us filter candidates in a recent round of interviews. We started with resumes from 75 candidates, and thirty-five of those made it through our first round of elimination. After a quick initial vetting call, twenty candidates were invited to go through our interview process. Half of them made it through the first interview and assessment to the second round of interviews. Of those 10, four made it to the third interview.

The first interview is structured for us to ask them questions. The second one is an opportunity for them to ask us questions. And in the third interview, the candidates present us with their 30-60-90 day plan for success.

Ultimately, we ended up with four very strong, qualified candidates to choose from. In fact, they were so good that we decided to extend offers to two of them when we had initially only planned to make one hire.

Takeaway #3: Cast a wide net so you can more meaningfully assess sales abilities.

With a larger candidate pool, you can make more nuanced observations and comparisons about the best of that group. A larger group elevates the baseline and makes it more meaningful to be “the best” of the bunch.

When you have multiple qualified candidates, you can rank them by assessment scores and compare strengths and weaknesses between candidates. Additionally, you can cross-check candidates’ scores against the information provided in their interviews to verify capabilities alignment.

Takeaway #4: Prospect for candidates just like you do for new business.

Just as with agency new business outreach efforts, it pays to be proactive when sourcing salespeople. It’s not enough to wait for someone to respond and hope they will be a fit for your needs.

Additionally, it’s too easy for candidates today to use automated processes to send their resumes out for hundreds of open positions with a single click. If it’s not worth them taking the time to understand your business, they don’t really want to work with you — so why let them? Go out and find the people you’d like to work with and let them know what you have to offer.

Takeaway #5: Desperation invites poor results.

Just as hiring in a hurry for an immediate need won’t serve you well, the same is true when it comes to candidates who desperately need a job. The problem is that someone in that situation will say whatever they think you want to hear to get the job. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to trust what they are telling you and — if you hire them — are likely to end up with someone who is not a great fit for your business and the role. Get out of that cycle by hiring right-fit candidates before you desperately need them.

Sales interviewing tips:

  • Resumes are rife with misinformation and exaggerations. Use assessment tests to verify skills that have been self-reported. Evaluate candidates based on demonstrated results in a range you deem acceptable for the skills and capabilities necessary to succeed in the role. Don’t get attached to a candidate whose test results don’t support what they have told you.
  • When interviewing, push back on candidates’ claims. Ask for more information. Question strategies, approaches, and statements that seem too good to be true. Drill down on their sales math and the numbers and activity that have led to their success at each stage. It will quickly become apparent who knows their stuff and is representing themselves accurately.
  • Pay attention to the questions candidates ask of you and how they answer your questions. Are they asking questions that have already been answered — perhaps revealing that they aren’t a great listener? Do their questions reveal that they are a strategic thinker? Are they clear? Succinct? Do they talk around a question rather than answer it directly? In a prospect-facing role, these abilities factor into whether opportunities are won or lost.
  • Get them out of their comfort zone. You need to know how candidates will react in adverse, high-pressure situations. Will they get emotional? Defensive? Will they shut down? How do they react when they are put on the spot? Can they improvise and maintain their composure?
  • If you aren’t in sales, get some help when it’s time to hire a new business, sales, or business development person for your agency. Hire a sales trainer or reach out to someone you know in sales and ask if they can help craft the interview questions and assist in the vetting process.
  • Be wary of being “wowed.” It’s common for hiring decisions to be made based on first impressions or gut instinct. Don’t be so impressed by certain aspects of the candidate that you gloss over other details. These are notoriously bad reasons to hire someone (and can also be a red flag for affinity bias).
  • Beware the “magic Rolodex.” Agencies are always looking for that special individual with limitless contacts who can get them new business. But if they can’t perform, their connections are meaningless. And someone who can perform will compensate for any lack of connections. So be cautious about putting too much weight on who your candidate supposedly knows.
  • Don’t skip steps because you find a candidate you like. People who communicate well often find themselves in sales and business development positions — they interview well and make a great impression. Sometimes it is only after hiring that you’ll discover they’ve misrepresented their experience or abilities. Throughout our interview process, we eliminate some candidates who initially are standouts, while other candidates emerge as true superstars. Who we like at step one is always different from who we like at step three.

Interviewing questions for your next new business hire

What are some good questions to ask your agency’s next salesperson or business development person during the interview process? For your interview to be effective, make sure that you have identified the skills you are looking for, and develop a questioning strategy around those areas. These questions (which are modified from the Sandler Training we use) are broken down by some of the skill areas that are most critical for success in a sales role.

Attention to detail, planning and organization:

How do you go about getting the information you need to get started on a new project or to make important decisions?

How do you prioritize your projects and work responsibilities during the week?

Describe a project where you had to gather and analyze details before moving forward.

  • How did you determine which facts and information were most important?
  • How were you able to stay on track?

Describe the last time you prepared a sales call plan or agenda and what it included.

  • What format did you use?
  • How often do you write down your sales call agenda?
  • Do you pre-plan all of your sales calls?
  • How do you communicate your agenda to the prospect?

How did you prepare for this interview?

Prospecting abilities:

When prospecting, what is the greatest number of “no’s” you ever pushed through to eventually get to a “yes”? Tell me about that. How many “no’s” do you typically go through with a prospect before reaching a “yes”?

How do you determine which prospects are a waste of time and which are worth going back to repeatedly throughout the multiple rejections? How do you remain positive despite the high rates of rejection?

If two prospects give you a “yes,” one via cold calling and one in person, do they both carry the same weight and significance, or do you think there is a difference?

What would make you decide that a certain method or channel is not worth your time for prospecting?

Proactivity:

Tell me about the last time you had to make a quick decision to make something happen – something that is not normally your responsibility, but in this instance, you had to jump in.

  • Why did you have to make a quick decision?
  • How did your decision to jump in affect others?
  • Did you step on any toes in the process?
  • Looking back, did you make the right decision? Would you do anything differently?

Parting thoughts

Follow these tips to improve your outcomes next time you hire an agency new business person. Don’t forget to explore our eBook to learn more about hiring for new business.

Mark Duval is the Founder and President of The Duval Partnership, a full-service sales organization working exclusively with agencies. The Duval Partnership helps agencies acquire new business through the creation and implementation of customized, strategic sales solutions.

What Did You Think of the Rubber Chicken?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

What did you think of the rubber chicken? Today’s business development pros strongly suggest you avoid the cold call. Maybe that time is gone but maybe it’s time to bring it back. Folks are abandoning email like files on dead meat; the experts now advocate we annoy people in a new way. Let’s fill up their text message folders. People have considered text messages personal and sacred. But they do see business intrusion coming and they aren’t happy. But there’s good news for those working in the B2B world. Your intended recipients expect to be approached, one way or other. Enter direct mail and the call.

Your lead to leadsYour targeted B2B phone call will hit the target. It will always take more than one attempt, but your target finally answers. “Bernard Epson here”, and you say “Bernard, what did you think of the rubber chicken?” Rubber chicken you say! Yes you sent Bernard (or his female equivalent) a bright yellow rubber chicken. And he’s been waiting for your call. This call format is not for the faint of heart. It takes someone who can strike up a conversation and keep it going. The chicken (or anything else) is your conversation starter. What happens next is up to you but if you’re good, you had a warm conversation and an open door to call again.

You’ve Got 30,000 Competitors – Did You Know That?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

How in the world can you expect to stand out; how will anyone find you? If you’re an ad agency or any of its derivatives, you’ve been told for years there are 29,999 more agencies in the US competing with you, wanting to be found. So what’s the secret for breaking through the clutter to connect with ideal clients?

Follow this… Not too many years ago in the mid-nineties, most agencies were content to prospect within a limited-mile radius of their office. Biz Dev consisted of direct mail, modest early-stage email and telephone outreach. And most competitors were also within that radius, but certainly nothing like 30,000! From the client’s perspective, other than Yellow Pages and Redbook, there was a crying need for a place or service they could use to search and find perfect-fit agency candidates. In 1997, to answer that need we introduced AgencyFinder.com, one place clients could visit to find and explore a database of extensive agency data contributed by our many good-friend agencies themselves. Substantial Internet traffic found us and for quite some time the “world was our oyster.”

We delivered no-cost algorithm agency search coupled with HI (human intelligence) consultant-assisted guidance. That was good for the industry because agency websites were themselves at an infant stage. Maybe you don’t remember, but agency websites were often wanting! Then after quite a spell, AgencyFinder copycat directories began to surface. Disappointingly directories embraced the “Google Model” – the more an agency paid the more prominent their display. Not really fair to agency or client. Close but “no cigar” in what they delivered, but they chipped away at our traffic anyway. And agencies were beginning to learn.  SEO and SEM; keywords, social media – all to vector searching clients directly to their websites. And that’s where things are today. Slowly but without mercy, those 30,000 agencies each introduced websites all decked out in their best SEO, shouting “I’m here!” But what is here? Is it equivalent to searching a database of 4,500 prominent agencies committed to new business who drew upon more than 500 data fields, 7 essays, case histories and website access to factually and visibly define their firms, or is it the relatively shallow agency website data Google will use to find candidates? For local search Goggle is powerful, but most clients are well beyond locations as their primary stipulant.

So what to do… well, what goes around comes around. Direct mail is again shouting “look at me!” Agencies advise clients to target; so agencies should target as well. Email these days is destined to the giant junk mail folder in the Cloud. Clever DM can be a pleasant and compelling surprise. That coupled with professional telephone outreach to ask – “what did you think of what I sent?” can begin a meaningful business relationship. But don’t forget to check out or overlook AgencyFinder.com and those few like us that still offer the precision and free service that’s always been our forte’. If you’re an agency needing targeted client introductions Enroll Now. If you’re a client needing “perfect-fit” agencies, Search Now!

Why the World Doesn’t Need Another Generalist Firm

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

We’re going to kick this off with some tough love: The world does not need another generalist firm.

The reason why running your agency still feels so hard is you have not successfully positioned your firm. And let me tell you, avoiding The Difficult Business Decision is the single biggest problem when it comes to business development.

Specializing is scary. It feels risky. You don’t want to scare off leads — lord knows, they’re hard enough to come by!

Think about that for a second.

You call yourself a “full-service agency” because it makes you feel like you’re covering all the bases. Look no further, Mr. Client! There’s nothing we can’t do for you.

But if your client list is bloated with too many clients, paying too little but demanding way too much and, keeping you from actually attracting the ideal clients you so dearly need — you have a positioning problem.

Maybe it’s time to rethink risk.

Like a list of competitors as long as your arm — and that’s just your local market.

That is risky.

In this scenario, you have little or no power so you capitulate and write the Big Damned Expensive Proposal (and miss eating dinner with your family, again).

Your power comes from being seen as meaningfully different in the eyes of your ideal client.

To choose a focus for a market is to choose power. You are choosing to be strong.

The truth is, successful positioning is what separates the good WWP firms from the great.

They didn’t get there by failing to decide.

They got there by boldly staking their claim and building deep expertise in the service of their ideal clients.

They didn’t let an expensive consultant do the picking for them.

They didn’t delegate it to a writer or make it a branding-by-committee exercise.

They did the hard work of reframing their business around their bold decision (we’ll get to that later) … but first, they decided … to decide.

“I’m going to do X discipline for Y market.”

Stay tuned: we’re going to share the framework for making that Big Business Decision and all the things that flow from it that have served other WWP firms just like yours so well in a few days.

And just in case you’re thinking:

“I get it. I do. But we’re a creative firm … I’ll be bored with any one thing I choose in about 3 months flat. Then what?”

That’s a topic for our next email.

It’s one of the BIGGEST misconceptions — that your creativity will shrivel up and die. I promise you, it’s the opposite.

I’ll show you what your new and powerful world will look like in my next email.

We’ll look for it and get it posted!

This post compliments of Shannyn Lee, Director of Coaching at Win Without Pitching

Your Agency Needs New Clients Now; What Are Your New Business Options?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

The word on the agency street is that most want and need new clients now, not tomorrow. But how realistic is that? That expressed urgency has everything to do with orders to sequester-in-place issued for the COVID-19 fiasco and then the ensuing riots in protest of the killing of George Floyd. Just as some states were beginning to allow phased openings, the country-wide riots frightened many people who in-turn chose not to travel for work to city-center properties or to begin shopping in ernest. The result – a continuing drag on the prospect of renewed commerce and positive agency cash-flow.

After months of deep cash-flow reductions, many agencies, even those who managed to snare some of the government’s stimulus monies, were down to spending for absolute necessities, and that didn’t initially include spending for future business development. So what’s an agency to do? Some rather lucky shops may have been cultivating opportunities during the past months and now feel comfortable working to close that business. For them that’s great. But the majority found themselves stuck in limbo; choosing not to reach out to prospects and at that same time, prospects were also “hunkered down” and constrained their research and outreach faced with an uncertain future.

OK, time to get moving! Consider these options and sequence for deployment. Options are sorted by timing and costs. Not considered are items and inventory already owned by agency. Nor is talent or training of agency individuals.

Code: Timing A-Now B-3 months C-6 months D-9 months  Costs F-Free $-charge

  1. Agency Website content – AF
  2. Agency Telemarketing – AF
  3. Agency Email blasts – AF
  4. Match-Maker enrollments – AF$ i.e. AgencyFinder.com
  5. New Business Newspapers – Leads, espionage – A$ i.e. Ratti Report, Winmo
  6. Agency Website SEO & PPC – B$
  7. Agency Direct mail w/phone follow – B$
  8. Directory Listings – BF$ i.e. Clutch, AgencySpotter
  9. Outsourced (Third-Party) appointment setting – B$ i.e. RSW-US
  10. Agency Search consultant enrollments – CF i.e. See 4A’s
  11. Agency LinkedIn Programs – C$
  12. Agency Speaking engagements – CF
  13. Agency experiential events – C$

This rather long list illustrates the fact that agency business development is no part-time proposition nor is it for the faint-of-heart!  Have at it.

 

Where do you lay your head? Consider embedding.

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Every spring, I put together a list of trends that I think agency owners need to track. I present this content at the spring meetings of the AMI owner peer groups and then later in the summer/fall, I share the trends with my podcast audience (2019 parts one and two). I just finished the deck last week and presented it for the first time today. One of the trends that we talked about in 2019 that has really gathered steam is the idea of embedding an agency employee into the client’s work environment. Many agencies initially offered it to keep a client from taking work in-house but what they’ve discovered is that it’s an amazing biz dev strategy. Remember that 60-70% of your new business goal should come from existing clients and this is a smart way to trigger some of that growth. I don’t have one agency in my world that has an embedded employee that isn’t reporting client growth, new opportunities with other divisions within the company, and a strengthened relationship. It’s definitely a winning strategy for the agencies that have implemented it.

Now that I’ve had a year of studying it from afar, I have some thoughts on best practices around this growing trend. It is not without its pitfalls, if you make some wrong turns.

  • This is a premium product — having your AE on-site in their environment — so price it accordingly.
  • Think long and hard about who you choose to embed. It’s easy for them to begin to feel more like your client’s employee than the agency’s employee. You want someone who is very committed to your agency’s success.
  • Do not allow them to work onsite at the client’s office more than 3.5 days a week. You need them to spend time back at the agency, staying connected to the team and being reminded where they actually work.
  • Have a very well-written non-compete and non-solicitation clause in your contract with the client so they cannot “woo” your employee away.
  • Have a very well-written non-solicitation, no stealing clients clause in your contract with the employee so they can’t branch out on their own or offer themselves to another agency with the promise of delivering your client in the deal.

There is a lot of upside to this idea but be mindful of the risks and protect yourself accordingly. In 2018, I saw a handful of these arrangements. In 2019 — it went up significantly. I am seeing agencies of all sizes, in both the B2C and B2B space, offering this to clients. It’s not going away anytime soon so you should probably decide how you feel about it and if it might make sense for your shop!

A contribution from our friend Drew McLellan at AMI

 

Does Your Agency Really Need Its Website?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Marketing Consultancy

Silly question you might say, but what’s your website for anyway?

Before You Had Your Website:

Before you had a website, you should have had an agency brochure. Something you kept in inventory for those times when a prospect conversation ended with “can you send me something?” Off went the brochure with an accompanying cover letter. That conversation and package was normally sent by the person charged with agency business development and followed a meaningful telephone conversation. The cover letter was written accordingly.

A good “agency business development person” (ABD) would make a follow-up call to confirm package receipt and continue with a probative conversation. Using what was learned during that call, the ABD now sent a very carefully considered and grouped collection of materials designed to emphasize and confirm the agency’s suitability and candidacy for handling the client’s business.

This process was carefully tailored to each client and each client’s interest; when speaking with a B2B client, there was generally no “show and tell” of fashion-related experience. Conversely fashion prospects were not burdened with industrial examples. Thinking back, didn’t this all make sense?

What’s Your Website Today?

What’s your website today? A pithy mini tome declaring purpose and intent; a collection of everything you do and have done; an introduction to smiling team leaders with photos and bios, text hopefully appealing to all visitors, samples of current work in all categories, a listing of current but seldom past clients, concluding with a “Contact Us” page. Not necessarily in that order, but available for viewing.

Many variables determine why an agency is selected by a client, but all will agree that “chemistry” or likeability plays a deciding factor in the final selection. Knowing that, good agency people also know that “chemistry” plays a factor from the very beginning. Meaning – “You never get a second change to make a first impression” and undeniably the ABD can make or break your chance for success from the get-go.

If that’s the case, why not give your ABD star billing on the Contact Us Page? A handsome photo, and brief but credentialed bio, and multiple contact options. And while you’re at it, if your ABD is engaged in multiple forms of proactive outreach, rather than pointing to your website in those materials as your competitors do, suggest they engage in an initial telephone conversation; then respond with a “custom digital agency brochure” tailored to that discussion.

How About A New Website?

As to your website? How about other alternate versions – just a powerful page or two featuring a vertical market, then declaring your understanding of the importance of relationships and of one-to-one conversation. Agency-to-client and client-to customer.  Let them know your initial conversation will lead to a uniquely-selected collection of samples and examples specific to their interest and needs. Not like other “we-do-it-all” agency websites.  Incorporate AI to let them schedule a day and time for their call and conversation. Confirm by email plus a real honest-to-goodness agency business card via USPS.

Oh BTW – agency websites are used to recruit new hires too. But rather than burdening someone on staff who often has limited HR experience, why not engage an employee search consultant to narrow the field and present only qualified candidates? (as they’ve done for years)

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