It’s a common question from agency principals: what can we do to help our recently hired new business director?

It’s an excellent question, and one that is apparently tough to answer, as 85% of Agency New Business Directors last less than 2 Years.

We’ve discussed how difficult it can be to hire an individual who understands how to sell your agency.

Retaining them is another subject altogether.

Interestingly, we’ve talked before about not paying enough attention to your new business director but a few conversations I’ve had recently have focused my attention on the other end of the spectrum: retention.

What I was hearing was along the lines of, “We had this person on board for 5 or 6 months and we got no results. We had to let them go and try something different.”

It’s not something anyone wants to hear, but 6 months is no time at all, especially when it comes to prospecting for your agency.

Define the new business position clearly up front

That’s your first tip.

Is this person responsible for all facets of new business, from top of the funnel all the way through to pitching and RFP responses?

Is that person purchasing prospecting lists, or expected to build those out?

Will there also be account management responsibilities?

Pro tip: Do not combine new business and account management.

It does not work.  Dedicate that person solely to new business.

Here’s your second tip:

Set (realistic) expectations for your new business director

Let them know right up front what’s expected of them, too often that doesn’t happen.

Undoubtedly there are a few caveats based off individual situations, and you should absolutely be seeing positive movement from a solid, targeted prospecting effort after 6 months, but if that’s your deadline for a new business person to have a signed contract in-hand, you’re going to be consistently disappointed.

Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, we’ve seen closed business that early with our own clients, but it’s not the norm.

I mention in the above paragraph that you should see “positive movement” at 6 months.

I admit that is fairly vague, so what does it actually mean?

At the risk of being vague (again), that definition really rests with the individual agency. You need to set up realistic expectations of overall results and a reporting structure and weekly progress updates that you and the new business person can remain committed to.

How about a quick real-world example of setting realistic expectations (or in this case not having them.).

All shall remain anonymous (I know, no fun), but an agency’s new business director goes to a conference and has multiple appointments set up.  Excellent.

He gets back and the agency principals are incredulous: where’s the closed business?

They were sincerely miffed that no closed business came from those first meetings at a trade show.

Doesn’t work that way.

Which leads to the third tip:

Ask your recently hired new business director for a plan-in writing

I have, strangely, heard more than one story from agency principals telling me they weren’t quite sure what their previous new business director had been doing.

Conceivably prospecting and such, but they basically left that person to their own devices.

Please don’t do that.

When you make the hire, ask for the process and plan your new business director will carry out.  And really, you should be asking for a top-line version of that before you make the hire.

Give your new business director a fighting chance: set your expectations, targets and goals accordingly and keep them in the loop on what’s happening in the agency so they can use that to their advantage.

You’ll be happier in the long run.

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Lee McKnight Jr
VP of Sales at RSW/US
I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at lee@rswus.com. What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.