In our latest agency new business survey report, we asked:

Have you hired a full-time new business hunter/director/manager (as part of your staff) to prospect for leads for your agency in the past three years?

Here’s that 3-year breakdown:

33% of new business directors at agencies last a year.

46% last 2 years.

Only 21% last 3 years or more.

Why such a high turnover rate?

The reasons for the ongoing turnover are myriad and most likely familiar: the rolodex ran out, not enough experience, he/she never quite understood the agency with any depth or it’s simply difficult to find a quality candidate at a fair/reasonable salary.

All of which are valid and extremely frustrating for agency owners, but there’s another, equally valid reason.

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Are you to blame for the turnover?

Facing that dreaded mirror, ask yourself these questions:

Are you giving your new business director the support they need?

Is she/he fully aware of what’s expected?

Are those expectations reasonable?

Are you tasking her/him with too many responsibilities beyond new business development?

One of the biggest red flags I hear in talking with agency principals: “We gave her 6 months, and nothing really happened.”

By “nothing” that usually means business wasn’t closed by then, which is (usually) completely unrealistic. Here’s why-

More often than not, there was the initial hire, and the agency principal starts the clock on closing business then and there, and that’s a mistake.

It will take a minimum of a month to get outbound and inbound structures in place (and realistically probably longer) and the new business director typically has to depend on several others in the firm to solidify these structures.

And those individuals almost always delay or push back deadlines the new business director needs to meet to get the job done.

So the reality typically is, the new business director has only been able to perform the job for about 3 of those initial 6 months, through no fault of his own.

Now let’s be fair, every situation is of course different. Plenty of cases where the new business director had everything needed and wasn’t the right fit or was simply not adept at the job.

What to do about new business director turnover

I’ll address the elephant in the room-outsourcing is a viable option for driving new business. In all transparency, it’s a big reason why we exist, but that’s not the reason for this post, so that’s the extent of the plug.

If your goal is to keep things internal, a few first steps to take:

Identify what one person can realistically do and define those duties (e.g. I strongly suggest you not consider splitting account management and new business for this person, it rarely works)

Calibrate your new business expectations (for example, as a new business development firm working at the top end of the funnel, we typically see 20-24 qualified meetings over the course of 12 months, see 30-50% of those meetings turn into a pitch or proposal opportunity and see clients close some form of business between months 6 and 12.) For someone internally, this would be only part of their job, as often they’ll also be answering RFP’s and are involved in pitches-an extraordinary amount of work.

Make new business an agency-wide concern.  Of course not everyone in the agency will literally be involved in the ongoing process, but often a new business director is out there on an island, separated from the rest of the agency. Include him/her where it makes sense and do what you can to ensure they have the support and the tools they need to succeed.

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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.