}

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What To Expect From A New Business Person



There are several common mistakes made by companies hiring business development executives.  Their most common error is not defining the job properly. And by doing so, the company often sets up unrealistic expectations causing the new business person to fail. (Of course, the company blames their failure on the executive.)

Defining the job
The first thing a company must do is to determine what kind of person they need.  It is critical to the success of the endeavor and to the person who is hired.  Companies must be introspective and realistic about their needs and expectations. 

There are many kinds of business development people.  There are cold callers who are primarily responsible for making the initial contact with prospects.  There are many people who are not necessarily cold callers, but they are most effective at going to meet potential clients at trade shows and events; these people are often at their best once a prospect has been introduced to their company.  There are specialists in organizing and orchestrating the actual presentation(s) to possible clients.  And there are strategists who can determine what potential clients need and determine how this information should be presented.  There are executives who can do it all, but they are rare (and often expensive).

I have met many new business directors who are great strategists but poor cold callers, but their job is wrongly defined by how many future clients they bring into the agency or company.

Setting expectations
Successful business development often takes months or years.  First, contact has to be made.  It could often be several years before a client is ready to look for a new agency or other supplier. Establishing contact and developing a relationship may take months or years.  Surprisingly, many ad agencies and other marketing companies hire without thinking through this issue.

Expecting a development person to be successful (however defined) within three or six months, or even a year, is unrealistic.  After all, why should a biz dev person be able to do what the agency or company ownership or management cannot do?  It is a common mistake for an agency principal to assume that a sales person can speed up the process.

Successful business development people must be part of management.  This enables them to know firsthand exactly what the agency wants and needs.  It also allows them to deal with clients at an executive level rather than being seen as a hired gun.

Expecting a junior, non-management person to be able to effectively operate and fully complete the process is unrealistic.

Assessing Results
I know one new business person who took a job at a small, well known creative agency.  The agency was only interested in major accounts (or parts of them) – IBM, Mondelez, P&G, etc.  Those expectations were totally unrealistic given the size, history and background of its principals.  The business development person left quickly because she realized that she could never be successful at that agency.  Unfortunately, when the NB person was hired, she was never told about expectations.

I met a famous new business person who left a highly successful and creative ad agency because the agency rejected almost every company he approached.  For them, the work they had previously done was never good enough. They only wanted clients who they believed (rightly or wrongly) would approve exceptional creative work, but they neglected to tell the development person from the onset of his employment about the kinds of clients it wanted.

Expectations must be realistic.  If the agency’s (or company’s) tools (case histories, presentations, etc.) are non-existent or out of date, it could take months to get them organized, agreed upon and updated.  That time should not be held against the development person and, while their job may be to bring in prospects, they must have the tools (and resources) necessary to pitch once a potential client is identified.  It would be awful to have a prospect come in and not be prepared.

The criteria for determining success should be agreed to by all parties, including the potential new business person prior to their being hired. Among the many questions,  should a development person be judged on the number of contacts he or she makes each month or each quarter?  Should that person be judged on the number RFP’s the completes or should they be evaluated by the number of actual presentations made to clients?   Many development people are graded by income their prospects generate, even though many clients actually exaggerate their spending or underestimate the amount of time required to service them.  All of these things should be considered and agreed to.

Compensation
Pay must be realistic for the job.  People who can deal with prospect executives will cost more than a cold caller who just makes introductions. 

Everyone needs a fair base salary.  One company said to me, “If she is so good, and she believes in herself, she should be willing to work only on commission. She will be making big money quickly.” Wrong.  Everyone needs to be paid for work, no matter how high the subsequent commission.  And, from the time an agency is hired until the time revenue starts coming in may be many, many months.

I have written that biz dev people should be paid a good salary rather than any form of commission.  They may get a good bonus at the end of the year, but there are too many pitfalls and questions with commission payments.

One of the worst examples was a successful EVP who was asked by the agency management to drop everything for six months and work on a major pitch.  The agency landed the account but did not want to give the biz dev person his normal commission since he was not responsible for the initial contact, despite running the pitch.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Adventures In Advertising: The Best Out Of Town Client Visit


Years ago I was a partner at an ad agency.  I had two partners; we were all great friends.  Ironically, and by sheer coincidence, we had two clients in Texas.  Alcon Labs in Ft. Worth and Houston City Magazine in Houston.

My client from Alcon called me and asked if I would come down for a meeting. The call came on a Monday and I was asked if I would come to Ft. Worth on Thursday night for a Friday meeting and my client and I made a dinner date for Thursday evening in Dallas at the revolving restaurant on top of the Hyatt.  Dinner was scheduled around my flight and was to be at about 7:15.  The reservation was in the client’s name.

So a little before the scheduled time I went up to the restaurant.  They seated me immediately.  At 7:15, no client.  At 7:30 no client.  By 7:45, no client and I was concerned.  But it was before cell phones.  I called the client’s office and got his voicemail.  I called through the switchboard and they could not reach him.  I had absolutely no idea what to do since I didn’t have his home number and, frankly, didn’t even know where he lived. He had a common name and I looked in several available phone books (remember them?), but there was no one with his first name.  I didn't quite know what to do, so I decided to go back to my table, ordered a drink and waited.

At 8pm I looked up and, to my great surprise, there was my client from Houston.  Paula was the ad manager of Houston Magazine and, frankly, a date for me when I was down there (I was single).

I asked her what she was doing there.  She burst out laughing.  It had all been a set up by my partners and was a wonderful practical joke.  The purpose of which was to give me some rest and to have a great weekend in Dallas.  The Alcon client was in on it.

When I called him Friday morning to see if we actually had a meeting, he laughed and asked me how my dinner was.  Of course, he told me that if I wanted to see him, I could.  I laughed and politely declined.  I changed my flights and Paula and I had a wonderful three day weekend.

I did break one of my cardinal rule by dating a client, but she was in Texas  and I was in New York, so I rationalized it as a once in a while thing.. I called my partners and thanked them. We all laughed,  I ended up having a great weekend.

It was one of the best business practical jokes, ever.
 
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