Why do agencies struggle with new business?

A loaded question.

Selling for RSW I get asked, why should we consider outsourcing our new business effort and more specifically, working with your firm?

Part of that conversation will ultimately lead to how we, specifically, work with our clients, but another part speaks to why agencies struggle with new business overall.

While I know lead gen stats can often be misleading or pulled out of the air, roughly every quarter I like to search for a few of the latest numbers on calling, emailing, inbound and the lead gen process.

And this SlideShare presentation lays out some useful stats on lead generation.

But first a stat from our own research:

The average new business director at agency lasts 18 months or less.


Here’s a brief litany of reasons.  Agencies . . .

  • . . . hire individuals with an account director mentality (not sales mentality)
  • . . . hire someone who supposedly has contacts in the region (aka giant rolodex)
  • . . . expect too much
  • . . . don’t provide the new business lead with anything but air to sell (then expect miracles)
  • . . . don’t have realistic expectations of the entire process, because they’ve tried to do it themselves without success.

Other reasons NBD’s last 18 months or less?

The average salesperson only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect.

You can also file that under no consistent process or too many responsibilities.

It’s why the backbone of our RSW new business programs is a consistent process.

And one more:

80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after 1 follow-up.

Agencies ignore this at their peril often.

To be fair, clients have to come first, but that’s why you have a dedicated new business person who is not just smiling and dialing but following up with relevance.

And by the way, that’s not an account director who also does new business, not the agency principals and not an intern.

Are there exceptions to this rule-of course.

I personally know agencies where the principals are selling or the new business role is combined with account management, but success rates are rare in those situations.

Too many agencies make assumptions up front about hiring the new business roles and then put little forethought into the ongoing process.

-You really want to combine the new business function with account management but is that the right decision?

-You really want to hire someone internally but the current pool is questionable, you’ll probably hire them anyway (as you did the last time) or you could consider outsourcing (yes, that’s a plug) or manage it yourself until you do find the right person.

-You really want that beverage client but you have no clear path to get there or story to tell even if you were in front of that prospect.

Parse out what you want from what realistically makes sense.

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.