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Look Beyond a Pitching Frenzy for New Business in 2017

Posted by Mark Duval on Oct 27, 2016, 6:46:00 AM
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Recently, I wrote about a few things you can do to stay focused on your new business goals for this year as it comes to a close. I suggested it’s time to assess where you are, where you want to be, and to consider whether your efforts and plans (and people) are delivering the results you need.

Now I want to encourage you to look at next year. 2017 is just around the corner, and there is no time to waste in determining whether you are going to do things differently in the coming year.

Is Your Agency Getting Ahead, Or Are You Just Treading Water?

I have spoken with people at numerous agencies over the past few weeks, and many of them seem to be in a holding pattern. Not ready to make decisions about 2017 yet, they want to see how this year shakes out first. They are waiting to learn the outcome of their current pitches to inform their decisions about next year. Certainly, I can understand how that will help them get a better idea of upcoming revenue, whether they can take on additional headcount, etc.

What I don’t understand is waiting to create a new business plan that is ready for multiple different scenarios. I have seen this situation play out far too many times. The agency succeeds in their pitch, gains some business, and everything is fine . . . Until they lose a client. Or two. Remember, the average agency-client relationship is two to three years (The Bedford Group). How long have your clients been with you? I recently met with an agency that had six pitches within the first half of the year.  And five of those six were to retain their existing business! They were doing a tremendous amount of work just to keep their billing flat.

Explore the Cause of New Business Performance & Retention Problems

While you are waiting to hear whether your upcoming deals will land or not, here are a few more things to “chew on.” One area that is ripe for improvement is evaluating your new business personnel with a more informed perspective that you might have applied in years past. Amid current industry conditions, the costs of getting hiring and retention wrong are harder to shoulder, and should not be overlooked.

  1. Do you have an in-house new business person? If so, do you have an internal mechanism to evaluate their performance—beyond just wins and losses? (If not, you should).
  2. Before you decide to replace your new business person, take an honest look at what they have done and if their performance has not met your expectations I would ask you the following questions:
  • Did you monitor their activity during the year?
  • Is their lack of performance a new thing, or was this something you were hoping they could turn around during the year?
  • Have you had prior discussions with them to communicate your expectations?
  • Did they have what they needed to meet your expectations?

The answer to your performance problems are not as simple as getting a new person and hoping they will somehow do better than everyone else prior. It is much easier—and much less expensive— to get some training and coaching for your new business person instead of replacing them. We recently published an informational booklet that explores the costs and length of time to hire a new in-house new business person, which you can get here.

I spoke to an agency recently that has had four new business people in 10 years. They are currently looking for their fifth. It might be time for them to take a good look at their hiring practices for new business personnel (and onboarding, and management). Having non-salespeople responsible for hiring and managing a sales role is a hard thing to do. The average tenure of a new business person is quite short; about 18 months, so if you do the math, this agency’s retention is better than others.

It’s easy to blame the new business salesperson for this troubling trend— and admittedly, they are not completely innocent in this matter. But there is plenty of blame to be shared. Most agencies’ lack of differentiation creates a major obstacle to securing new business. For your new business person to succeed in delivering new business, here are some of the things your agency should have in place (and these are all aside from the actual management of the new business person):

  • A plan or roadmap that states who the agency is and what they stand for
  • A demonstrated expertise with a few industries
  • Tools with which to engage prospects
  • Creation of prospecting profiles and buyer personas
  • Realistic expectations

These are some of the foundational elements of an effective new business plan. In my experience, agencies often have some of these things done, but not all. Cleaning this up not only supports your effectiveness in pitches and can help you better identify worthwhile pitches to break out of the pitching frenzy, but can create additional opportunities that you may be missing.

Learn more about maximizing ROI from your new business hire:

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This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on October 13, 2016.

Image credit: © ayerst / 123RF Stock Photo, modified by text overlay

Topics: Biz Development Processes & Tips, RFPs & Pitching

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