I’ve written extensively about hiring an agency new business person, but there is something I haven’t addressed yet, and it’s an area where I often see agencies fall short. It has to do with managing your new business director or new business team.
Agencies, for the most part, aren’t built as sales engines. Salespeople may get tacked on as an agency grows, but having a bona fide sales manager is more of a rarity. More often, the responsibility of overseeing the new business development team is just another hat assigned to someone already wearing too many hats, and often that someone is the agency owner. Unfortunately, however, agency owners are ill-equipped to take on any more hats of any type.
Just as most new business activities tend to get pushed to the back burner out of necessity, so does management of new business professionals. But having someone to provide that oversight, coaching, and to hold salespeople accountable is a crucial part of success in sales.
In fact, the three critical ingredients of success with your new business professionals (after hiring correctly) are:
- Making sure they are set up to succeed
- Incenting the right behaviors
- Holding them accountable
Set them up to succeed how?
- Provide them with the tools they need to do their job effectively and efficiently. That includes, minimally, a CRM and the ability to track your agency’s KPIs.
- You must have a formalized new business plan and sales process with defined target prospects for your agency. It has to encompass the entire agency; it can’t just be limited to the new business team.
- If you want your new business person to succeed in generating new business, don’t saddle them with a lot of other responsibilities that take away from the time they need to invest in setting up those relationships.
- Your agency has to sellable. By that, I mean your positioning must differentiate your agency, and you must have case studies and other supporting materials that your new business professional can use to generate new business on your behalf.
- If you are like many agency owners, you hired someone at a lower salary with the expectation that you would develop their talent. But you may be falling a little short on the “developing” side. Even veteran salespeople benefit greatly from sales training and role-playing sessions to exercise their critical thinking, questioning, and improvisation skills, and to be prepared for opportunities before they occur. If you don’t have the resources to provide this internally, it can be easily outsourced.
- Onboard them properly. You may not have a formal onboarding program for your new business team (tip: creating one will save you time in the long run), but if you never went through this with a new business hire, it may be worth reviewing the content of a good onboarding program to see if there are any knowledge gaps that may yet need to be addressed.
How to incent the right behaviors?
Your new business professional’s compensation plan should be clear, consistent, and attainable. If it’s not, they may soon become disillusioned and unmotivated upon realizing that they will not be rewarded for their hard work as they had hoped.
Likewise, be sure that your commission structure is consistent with the type of business you want to close. For example, if its structured to offer zero commission on projects but 20% commission on AOR contracts, that may not reflect current market conditions and it may also encourage your new business person to pursue opportunities that are not right for the agency or have little chance of closing.
How to hold them accountable:
Holding them accountable means establishing a certain number of activities that they need to achieve on a weekly basis. This is a crucial step and one that must be monitored on a consistent basis to achieve maximum results. We suggest weekly check-ins are a good place to start.
This is another reason that you need to track your KPIs and have a sales process and plan in place. The new business generation activities that you agree on with your new business professional should be based on your agency’s target benchmarks and should be realistic according to historic performance, and be aligned with your sales plan and processes.
In other words, you should be able to determine with a fair amount of accuracy how much new business you need to close to meet your revenue goals this year, and based on your win/lose ratio and average sales cycle, how many activities (calls, conferences, emails, meetings, new connections, etc.) must be completed each week to be likely to hit your goals. Throughout the year, as accounts are won and lost, be ready to adjust those top-of-the-funnel activities accordingly.
The other thing that needs to happen are pre and post-call debriefs. What worked and what didn’t work, and why? This is a critical learning opportunity for everyone who participated in the call, and it will help your team avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. (Get our tips for your next call or meeting here). If you don’t have the bandwidth to take these managerial functions on, think about how you can delegate them to someone else so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Again, outsourcing the managerial functions on a part-time basis can be a sensible and cost-effective solution.
Get our tips on hiring a new business director:
Read more about how to improve your new business director's performance:
- Why Your Agency New Business People Don’t Last 18 Months
- Before You Hire an Agency New Business Person
- How to Tell if Outsourced Biz Dev Can Help Your Agency