The Agency New Business Blog


Before You Hire an Agency New Business Person . . .

Posted by Mark Duval on Jun 2, 2016 6:30:00 AM
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This is the first post in our new blog series that will explore how to hire a new business development person for your agency.

The first step in hiring a new business person for your agency is to identify and articulate your need. In an earlier post about common sales hiring mistakes made by creative agencies, we explored the idea of understanding whether, when and who to hire for sales.

Once you have determined that a new business person is the solution, you must decide what types of qualities and qualifications this person must have to fit in with your agency and fulfill the job effectively.

Hunter or Farmer, which is best for your agency?

Most salespeople lean towards one of these two generic sales types: Hunter or Farmer. The approaches and personalities are quite different, so consider which will be the best fit for your business and your revenue goals.

Hunters are proactive, fearless, and will get you into meetings that have been impossible to obtain. Once your seat is secured, a Hunter may be your best chance to close.

Why not hire a Hunter?

Downsides of hiring a Hunter include:

  • They are sort of “lone wolves,” so they may feel restricted by too much management or too many rules.
  • They can be poor communicators, and if not seasoned may be a bit undisciplined when qualifying leads.

Farmers, on the other hand, are very good at building relationships and servicing accounts. Their approach is more helpful in nature. Very large agencies tend to fill their business development roles with more Farmers than Hunters.

Why not hire a Farmer?

Some Farmers don’t do well with strong personality types (such as those of CEOs and CMOs). They are often reluctant to push back when interacting with executives and business leaders, which introduces its own problems.

Typical qualities of Hunters compared to Farmers:

Qualities of a Hunter vs. a Farmer

Though these are generalizations and the distinctions are not set in stone, you should identify which characteristics you want before you even write a job description, so that you can hire for the qualities you need.

No matter which type of new business person you hire, they must possess a certain set of abilities to succeed in the role:

  • The ability to have a more consultative sales approach. That means the ability to listen and take questioning to its highest art form.
  • A command of the written word. Because it is the first introduction a prospect has to your agency, the ability of your new business person to craft a well-written email, letter, and response is critical.
  • The ability to research and qualify leads as if everything depends on it. Agencies sell complex services in a lengthy sales process that has the potential to waste a lot of resources if improperly applied. It's critical that they do the necessary homework prior to approaching a prospective client. The new business person should always be evaluating whether a prospect is a good fit for your agency.
    • Getting upfront agreements (permission to ask questions)
    • Setting the agenda for the meeting rather than being reactive and handing control over to the prospect
    • Taking a consultative sales approach (strong questioning, listening, not interrupting)
    • Being able to identify true pain vs stated pain, which puts them in a position to become more of a" trusted advisor" instead of just another salesperson

What activities will your new business development person be doing?

As you consider which sales persona would be the best fit for your agency’s needs, you must also take into account what functions this person will be responsible for in their new role. Will they be strictly doing business development or a combination of sales and marketing?

Which of these responsibilities will fall to your new business person?

  • Prospecting & Lead Generation
  • Marketing
  • Content Creation
  • Pitching

The answer may inform not only the ideal qualities of your new hire but should also get you thinking about how to frame your job description in an accurate manner. Turnover rates for new business professionals at agencies are high. Managing expectations from the start increases the likelihood that your new hire will regard their mix of responsibilities as a plus rather than a negative.

It is our recommendation that your new business person concentrates on sales activities as prospecting and lead generation are crucial drivers of revenue. However, not all agencies have the luxury of being able to afford two or three different people to cover all of the responsibilities that are needed. Just keep in mind, the more time your new business salesperson spends on marketing activities and content creation, the less time they will have to identify and engage with prospective new clients.

What background and experience should your new hire bring?

As you articulate and define your needs for your new business hire, here are some other things to consider:

  • Must they come from an agency background, or could they have business development experience in another context?
  • Must they have a sales background, or do you have the resources to train someone with agency experience but less business development experience? Could such a person succeed in the role?
  • Must they have an advanced degree? Or even a 4-year degree? What education or training is imperative for them to succeed in this role?
  • Are there certain educational backgrounds or experiences that would move someone to the top of the pile? Perhaps a team sports background, or a communications degree?
  • Will hiring be contingent upon their sales assessment results?

We advise that knowledge of the industry is a must — but depending on what type of hire you are looking for, industry expertise is not always required. For example, if an agency is looking for a Hunter, they want a proactive salesperson. We have found that candidates with a strong media background are excellent choices to fill that type of role. For a Farmer role, industry —or even category— expertise is preferred.  

Finally, consider cultural fit. Culture is so important, in fact, that some agencies look for cultural fit before anything else. What is your agency’s culture, and how does it apply to hires that may not be in creative roles? Particularly if your new hire is going to be exclusively devoted to business development and sales while everyone else is working on creative, you must consider how this new hire will be able to fulfill their function successfully and not be isolated in a vacuum.

With a bit of pre-planning, you can create a more accurate job listing that draws a better group of applicants to your new position. With a thoughtful and deliberate approach to hiring, you can expect a better quality of hire for your agency new business position — with better bottom line results.

Stay tuned for future blogs in this series.

Did you know most new business directors don't last two years? Break the two year barrier to get the results you need:

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Read more about how to hire an agency new business person:


This was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Mark Duval on May 5, 2016.

Image credits: ugde / 123RF Stock Photo; modified by resizing and text overlay.

Topics: Hiring an Agency New Business Person

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