Tuesday, November 14, 2017

9 Things To Consider Before Hiring A Business Development Executive Or Taking A Job As One

Many agencies think that the way to obtain more new business is to hire a dedicated new business prospector.  My observation is that many of those agencies have not really thought through the implications of that hire.  It may be a successful strategy, but consider these factors before you hire.

If you are a new business person, you should turn these considerations into questions before you take a job.

All this is just food for thought.

1.    Develop realistic expectations before you start interviewing
It takes a long time to develop the relationship which will bring in an account, often years.  Hiring a new business executive can be expensive, not only in terms of salary, but they also need sales materials, travel expenses as well as an entertainment budget.  Can the agency really afford this investment?  And is it committed enough to sustain the program for two to three years at a minimum?

2.    Have you really thought out your sales proposition
Surprisingly, most companies have not thought out what makes them different and why they should be hired.  It isn’t necessarily about past success of the principals. Nor is it solely about the work.  Many new business consultants tell me that too many agencies sound alike and lack unique positioning.

3.    Do you have the materials you need
Not only does the company need a unique positioning (which can take months to develop), they need success stories, written case histories and a great presentation.  It may take months to develop these selling tools before a newly hired executive can become 100% effective. I have seen many company’s management lose patience during the time it take to develop these materials.

4.    Does the agency have a realistic current prospect list
Before someone is hired there should be an A list of immediate (and realistic) prospects, a B list of long term prospects and a C list of “likes” and “wanna haves”.  The agency needs to know where it is going before hiring someone to take them there.  Hiring a new business person with a large contact list may not be the right answer; their contacts may not be A or B list people.  A biz dev person needs a place to start which matches the agency's needs and abilities.

5.    Have you thought out who you really need
There are all kinds of business development executives.  There are cold callers.  There are people who are best able to do RFP’s and RFI’s. There are people who are adept at organizing and creating presentations. There are strategists.  There are people who are great at developing relationships.  I have seen many people hired who have no particular skills but "look the part"; they can be sent to meetings (e.g. The Consumer Electronics Show, the ANA, etc.) and can deal with the consultants. There are CMO types who can position/reposition the agency.  Rarely is there one executive who can do it all, however, the answer to this question will help determine whether a new biz person could come from within or outside the agency business

6.    Where does the new business person fit within the organization
Is he or she a part of management or are they merely a hired gun?  Answering this question will provide guidance in hiring.

7.    Can the business accommodate an influx of new business at this time
This is an important and often overlooked question.  If the business has just lost or gained a large account, does it have the ability to bring in a new piece
of business?  This also has to do with morale as well as staffing and scale. No new business executive can do it alone.  They need support and staffing.

8.    How do you want to compensate a new business person
Many companies pay low and commission high.  Many companies wrongly think that this incentivizes executives.  However, low pay generally attracts more junior people.  I have written about paying commissions several times before. Title is also a part of compensation.  The better the title, the better they will be able to perform; this relates to point six, above.

9.    How do you handle a prospect who wants the new business person to run their account
If the prospect account is big enough, it may be beneficial to hire a freelance to help bring it in.  Otherwise, an agency runs the risk of the prospect wanting the new business person to run his/her account.

These are the kinds of questions I ask when taking an assignment for my recruitment firm.


  1. Excellent post, Paul, thoughtful and thorough.

  2. A good article on an important subject and much to digest for those who don’t already know. And while I could certainly comment on what agencies should consider when hiring a new business executive, let me just add one more tidbit of food-for-thought for new biz folks before THEY take the job – especially if at a smaller agency: GET THE REAL STORY ON THE AGENCY IN TERMS OF CURRENT CREDENTIALS. Ask the same questions that clients ask in an RFP or RFI. That is, how many full-time employees do they really have vs. freelancers? How many “current” clients do they have and who are they? What are their financial contributions to total agency revenue and income? What accounts have you won or lost in the last three years, and why? Etc. Because ultimately, you will have to truthfully answer these questions for your prospects, both verbally and in writing. And if a potential agency EMPLOYER bullshits YOU at the outset, just imagine what follows next when your personal good name and reputation are on the line.

    1. Anon: Of course companies need to tell the truth both to prospective employees and to their client prospects.

  3. Read your whole post the best thing about your post is that you explained in simple way.



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