Unify your new business effort. Don’t polarise


‘I’m not comfortable getting on the phone’ is often a justification for limited involvement in new business. Apart from being a simplistic view of what new business entails, it’s a coded way of saying ‘I’m just not that type – confident, hard skinned, able to cope with rejection.’

Why is new business seen as a separate function, a polarising activity that people are either good at or uncomfortable with? In reality, many skills are combined in the new business effort and we can all contribute in different ways.

Let’s take designers. Involving them in new business is a great idea, although difficult in practice. The key is to make the process speedy and enjoyable, not onerous. Try to make brainstorming sessions last no longer than half an hour. Crack it in ten minutes? So be it. Most designers really enjoy contributing to new business in this way.

In account management, it’s proactivity that wins business. However, this rarely happens unless it’s planned and prepared for. Developing an action plan for each client will ensure that client development becomes part of your culture, not just an aspiration. Client development employs some of the skills and principles of new business, but needs to be approached differently and sensitively.

A Business Development Manager can help professionalise new business, but be clear about expectations. Someone with five year’s experience can be a great door opener but don’t expect them to convert business. He/she needs continued support and direction, not left alone in good times and questioned when things get tough.

Many small and medium sized agencies have found new business problematic and slightly dispiriting. They’ve tried hiring new business people and they’ve used tele-sales agencies to help generate meetings. In many cases, neither approach has ever been truly successful. There’s a feeling that things are going round in circles. In the current recession there is also a realisation that many of the conventional and ingrained approaches to new business have ceased to be effective. A new approach is called for.

Increasingly, these agencies are undergoing a root and branch reconsideration of how they tackle new business. This often involves moving to a truly collective approach, instead of just one or two people being saddled with total responsibility. This requires a concerted and planned effort, but when done well it can transform new business activity into a much more rewarding, fun, insight-led and effective process.

Remember that most agencies tend to rely on tired tele-sales and credentials presentation approaches. There is a huge opportunity for new business that is more imaginative and tangibly different from your competitors. Your approach has the greatest chance of success when everyone’s experience and insight is utilised, and an environment is created where business development is central, not a hived-off specialism.

Jonathan Kirk