The Homer Simpson loop for (agency) new business people

I heard it said on linked-in last week that the demand for new business people is about to rocket, it was on linked-in so it must be true right?  Oh and a recruiter said it too, let that be proof if proof be need be.

What I wonder is will the agencies looking for yet another new business person make the same mistakes as last time?  Of course some will say “what mistake?” We don’t make mistakes here, how very dare you Jim.

Well, did you or did you not employ a new business person in the past for about 9 to 12 months then have to ‘let them go” because results were not forthcoming?

And nothing unusual in that at all is there? It’s the norm in fact. But could it be avoided?

For the record I have been let go in the past too, in fact way more than once.  But I think I can now see why. Maybe you’ll agree, maybe you won’t, let see if this rings any bells.

The reasons you gave last time for that new business person (who you loved when you hired) not working out was something vague like “not quite working out, or tried hard but, but,but or didn’t quite understand our offering” or something that pretty much lets everyone (including you) off the hook for hiring them. Because all of these things could have been picked up at interview stage, no?  Why else interview? So how were they missed?

However, the biggest mistake you are most likely to commit – just like last time – is to employ someone just like the last person (give or take) and set them the very same task using the pretty much same methods and wonder why they pretty much failed too?  You can play the ‘this time is different’ card but in all likelihood it isn’t. What’s changed? In reality nothing.

You will give the same resource and empowerment (yeah right) as last time.  It will go something like this.  Put together a wish list of brands we’d love to work for, you can make it as simple or s complex as you like, however that it was it is – a wish list. Gold, silver and bronze prospects, ring any bells?

Then you’ll send them stuff in one form or another, right? A DM piece or an e-mail with a link to join your agency mailing list.  Just like the last person did.  You may even chase up with a few cold calls.  You may even have a new proposition who knows.  But will results change? Granted you’ll get a bit more SEO savvy and blog heavy too.

The way agencies tend to grow historically is a  mixture of incoming referrals and incoming cold opportunities.  But we know empirically referrals close circa 85% of the time and colds close 6% of the time and some never close at all – no decisions etc.

So a new business person looks great when referral opps come in compared to cold opps but this is just luck, right? If you are the new business person when the referrals come in you’re made and if you are unlucky enough to just pick up the cold ones then the likelihood is you will fail. Because you spend you time chasing those prospects like a headless chicken wearing rose tinted spectacles on a wild goose chase. Admit it, we’ve all done it.

Problem is that the opportunities come in  higeldy piggeldey not normally distributed and agencies don’t qualify by how the leads come in – and they should.

Typically they still qualify the old way e.g. by spend or if the decision makers is involved or if they have a brief or if your agency has relevant sector experience, if the prospect said nice things about their work / website etc..

In all likelihood all those boxes get ticked because why else would they have sent you the RFI / brief?

And they need you on the list to keep procurement happy – them’s the rules today, they must have 4-5 agencies per project even if they know who they are going to use and you maybe just cannon fodder. Vendor beware!

And of course you as a new business person is delighted because you hit a KPI and that keeps your boss off your back at the next pipeline status meeting and the new business functions now looks functional. Phew!

Agencies love proxy KPIs – quantity of e-mails/ DMs – qty e-mails opened, qty or RFIs or RFPs, qty of briefs, qty of meetings, qty of pitches. So you cant blame new business people for hitting them by hook or by crook.

So if referrals and cold leads come in and are not identified as different qualitatively because of their statistical close possibilities and they don’t come in equal measure what happens is this –  depending which leads the new business person picks up randomly, referred versus cold, will determine their success rate way over and above what you asked for in you job spec. Typically being passionate, determined, GSOH, team player, experienced at working in agencies, good at building rapport and relationships and so on will have less impact then the qualifying criteria.

So the mistake that looms for agencies now is whether they can move towards qualify leads by strength of referral over the typical metrics and put in place methods of marketing that are supported and guided by referral qualifiers. Or they will fire and hire again and again till one gets lucky i.e. hits a run of referrals.

For example as we have spoken about many time on the blog is your current new business person given access to all your clients to ask for referrals or do they monitor all the client facing teams progress on asking clients for internal and external referrals?  Most new business comes in via referrals and yet having no method in place to capitalise on this is bonkers / dysfunctional and it’s so easy if you dovetail it will client servicing protocols like NPS.

Direct marketing is the same – instead of looking at wish list brands to DM instead looking at who your current client knows on linked-in for example.  Then send an e-mail to the new contact quoting a reference from your current client.  Doesn’t that make more sense?

Because if that much needed prospect calls in as a referral you are more likely (85% ish)to close that business than the cold one 6% ish) and yet agencies spend the exact same time, money and heart ache with each.  But you need to repeat the same process with the cold one up to 16 times.  And in my experience the cold one gives you the run around far more because there is no trust there like there is with the referral.  A referral transfers trust and that is what business relationships are built on.

So do you think agencies will make the same mistake when hiring new business people? Will you?  Time to be smart this time? Of course it is.

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