In our latest report (2019 RSW/US New Year Outlook Survey), one section delves into Management and Effectiveness of New Business Programs, and we asked agencies the question, “How Are You Managing New Business at Your Agency?”

Per the graph below, 45% of agencies told us they managed the process without a new business director and 41% said a new business director within the agency leads the effort.

In our 3 Takeaways video series, we discussed the topic (Agency New Business Directors-The 18th Month Curse) of just how difficult many firms find the process of hiring a new business director.

I don’t bring this up to be self-serving, it continues to come up in discussions I have with firms.  I had a conversation recently where an agency principal relayed her experience of a new business hire they made, where the new business director sat at his desk and literally waited for prospect calls to come in.

There are many reasons why new business directors fail, but the lack of earnestness, of purpose, is a trait I see often.  These individuals are afraid to pick up the phone, and their success, or lack of it, becomes evident fairly quickly.

It’s an interesting barometer, because the phone is obviously only one of several platforms that should be used in the agency new business process, but look out for that trait.  Too much emphasis on email or LinkedIn, to name two examples, typically results in an overall lackluster performance.

Let me be clear, I am not saying email and/or LinkedIn are not useful, they most certainly are, but as old school as it may seem, if your new business director is not picking up the phone as part of a methodology, they will most likely be gone within that dreaded 18 month window.

So what are you to do?  How do you find that salesperson with “true grit”, for lack of a better phrase?

If I could answer that question, I would probably be hanging out with Jeff Bezos.  (OK, maybe not Jeff, but at least Larry Wilcox.  Of Chips fame.  Look him up.)

In all seriousness, sussing that trait out during the hiring process is very difficult.  Yes, you can and should call on references, which will most certainly help, but I know many of you reading did just that as part of the hiring process and it didn’t work out.

I’ll make two recommendations to you, and I don’t see agencies do these enough:

  1. As part of the interview process, ask to see an outline of his or her prospecting process. What platforms will they use, what does the cadence/timing look like, how many touches do they foresee until they break through, what content will they use/will they need?

Understandably, this is partly based on conjecture, but the goal is to see that there is the shape of a plan ready to be put into place.

2. Give them a writing test. This can take many forms, but let them know before they come in they’ll be asked to create 2-4 sales emails (with a computer available) for example, that will walk the reader along the prospecting path. You’ll gain many things by this: how well they understand your firm at that stage, how well they write and how well they research on the fly, to name three.

Neither of these guarantees a new business director that lasts longer than 18 months, but they will definitely help you hedge your bets.

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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.