Ad Agency New Business-Playing The Short Game


For this post, I want to give a shout-out-to all of you in the new business trenches, whether you’re a new business director or a partner at your firm.

It’s no newsflash to point out that this business is hard.

A short, entertaining story to illustrate my point (at my expense):

When I started at RSW almost 10 years ago, I was a new business director, so I had my own agency clients I represented, driving new business for them.

For one client, I was reaching out to a fairly large chain retailer focused on footwear.  Over the course of multiple touches, I was able to secure a conversation with this CMO, with the ultimate goal of securing a meeting for my client.

We exchanged emails where the CMO ultimately asked I call her on a specific day and time to talk how a prospective fit with my agency.

The day and time arrived the following week and I made the call-here’s how the very brief conversation went:

Me: Hi, CMO of a large chain retailer focused on footwear, thanks again for the opportunity to talk.

CMO: (Silence, for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds) Who is this?

Me: Lee McKnight, with X agency. We had this time set to discuss a potential fit with our agency services.

CMO-You have got to stop bothering me.

Me-(Very perplexed at this stage of the game) Well. . .you actually asked that I call you.

CMO-(Another pause) I don’t have time for this.  CLICK.

Yep, that happened. And to be fair, she was probably just having a really bad day, but that’s the kind of thing salespeople go through.

And look, everybody’s job is hard, but when it comes specifically to sales, if you’re not living it every day, there’s a tendency to forget that, and then the impatience sets in.

I’m guessing you’ve probably heard of Gary Vaynerchuk-an entrepreneur who has made a name for himself by, amongst other things, producing a lot of motivational content.

He’s not for everyone-I’m going to guess in any given piece of content there are at least 50 F-bombs, but he is, at least in my opinion, very good at the getting you motivated part.

I posted a video below that I found helpful to get me fired up, and here are a few quotes from it:

If you put in 18 hours a day, every day of your life and you suck s**t, you lost.  That matters too.  What are you good at?

Patience is grossly underestimated-you have to keep putting in the work.

You play the short game, I’ll keep playing the long game.

That sums up new business in a lot of ways.   4 months, for example, is not the length of a new business effort, it’s only the beginning.

You have to give yourself time, and be given time, to succeed.

Per Gary’s quote above, that doesn’t mean you keep someone in the new business role if they aren’t delivering, but you also don’t cut them off 3 or 4 months in.

I’ve talked to agencies who look at new business as a separate series of try-outs, all short game.

In the meantime, agencies who understand what it takes are taking your business, playing the long game.

Don’t let that happen.

Author: Lee McKnight Jr

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.