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Mr. Stephen Boehler

Turning Your New Business Efforts Upside Down

Agencies everywhere are finding new business development to be a greater and greater challenge, and, unfortunately, the business development strategies of most agencies are destined for failure:
  • Unattainable growth rates are often needed to achieve agency growth objectives.
  • The investment required and the low odds of winning pitches are debilitating.
  • The stress on organic growth is intense and rarely achieved.
  • Too much reliance is placed on a small group of senior “sellers.”
  • Difficulty “standing out” in pitches leads to expensive, wasteful theatrics.
  • Cold-calling experiences are generally unsuccessful and demotivating.
If you have experienced some of these challenges, your team is not alone! Most agencies face these challenges; hence an opportunity exists to reinvent the industry’s business development strategies. There is a better way—and if you start today, you may salvage 2009.
Agencies everywhere need to turn their business development strategies upside down. Instead of the classic priority order of:
1. Reviews
2. Prospecting existing relationships
3. Hoping for organic growth and praying you don’t lose accounts
Turn it around and re-invent your approach to each strategy:
1. Avoid account losses & drive organic current client growth by loving your current clients the way clients want to be loved. Evaluate each other and bond over the improvement opportunities.
2. Learn to sell. I don’t mean giving theatrical presentations. I am referring to asking the right questions and developing solutions to a client’s business problem—and then go get the accounts that you really want. Learn to bond with prospects over their business issues, as opposed to your capabilities. This approach will dramatically differentiate your agency.
3. Use your newly gained sales skills to improve your odds in reviews. Learn how to make presentations truly interactive and how to bond with your prospects in the first 5 minutes of a pitch.
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Is selling a skill that can be taught?

I heartily agree with your approach although the execution of this strategy may not be as easy as it would seem to be. First, you have a long legacy behind the classic order of priorities you describe and old habits can be hard to break, which really gets down to changing the culture. While that can be like turning a battleship, it's well worth the effort and something we are actively trying to do here at MPG.

One of the challenges is getting people comfortable with the notion of selling -- breaking down apprehensions and dismantling stereotypes of what it means to "sell." This year, we're going to try to tackle some of these challenges through a series of workshops. It's kind of a variation on the "teach a man to fish"theme. Unless you are one of those talented people who gets elected to pitch teams all the time, new business, and in particular this notion of "selling," is somewhat of a mystery. We're hoping to take some very simple steps towards removing the mystery. I'll keep this blog posted as the year goes on and hopefully will have some good results to report.

Posted by Ms. Jody Sutter (Wednesday, December 17, 2008 10:02 AM)

Teaching "selling"

Jody - Your plan to take simple steps makes a great deal of sense. I think people often aim higher than necessary - thinking perhaps that they can get a number of people trained to sell their agency proposition from end to end - finding prospects and closing deals. I think that's a bit crazy. I do think you can train your folks to create some curiosity, build some credibility and how to bond with prospects around the prospect's problems. Getting that far is a huge part of selling. Closing actually becomes "almost" an afterthought. 
Posted by Mr. Stephen Boehler (Monday, December 22, 2008 11:40 AM)

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