Can’t you see we are busy!

squarewheelsIn my piece about new business programmes being largely dysfunctional I mention that the problem is the unwritten rule that an agency must be proactive. Which is Steven Covey’s Rule #1.

I wasn’t saying don’t be proactive but think about your proactive activities.

Agencies in my experience tend to choose the easiest proactive activities imaginable for their new business programme i.e. e-mailing, DM or cold calling a wish list.

Easiest in terms of setup time,  from zero to prospecting in no time. And easiest in terms of skills and bravery. Not hard to e-mail a few people a case study, is it now.

When in actual fact most (usually around 85%) of an agency’s new business come from referrals and yet they rarely have a  organised method in place to capitalise on this.

Agencies rarely have a systematic way to integrate client serving methods with requesting referrals. Despite that making sense If most of an agency’s work comes from referrals we need to get more referrals then don’t we? Because great referrals come from our best clients don’t they?

Without referral there would probably be no agency. And if you continue to neglect requesting them…I’m just saying.

Just compare the cost of referrals to your largest cost of sale which is meeting tyre kickers and pitching for new business when we have squeezed onto a pitch list and then lose.

Not to mention the cost of the hiring and firing of new business people over and over.  Hire them, be proactive in the usual ways, fire them because it failed. Get a new shiny one, polish the wish list, hit them again with DM, watch it fail, fire them…That’s dysfunctional you’re just chasing some KPI that has been set arbitrarily – we must get 3 meeting per month etc and chasing your tail before long.

New business people are good people – very good people –  smart – intelligent – they are just too frequently put to task on the wrong activities. They are hoping to get lucky, the MD is hoping they’ll get lucky too. When they don’t they fire them or they quit and then the agency does the same thing again. And the new business manager goes onto their next new business role clutching their four-leaf clove.

Of course we can add to this proactive list lots of other things today (there’s me being old-fashioned) be it social media marketing activities that take time and resource but generate very few ‘winning’ leads. Maybe a few leads but do they close?  Are they worth it? Time will tell I am sure.

The issue is not the new business person it’s the marketing system.

So Coveys rule #4 is worth mentioning he calls it –  ‘sharpen the saw’. He tells a story of a man in a forest cutting down a massive tree.  A passer-by interrupts the lumberjack – “Wow that looks hard work how long you been doing that?”
The lumber jack replies “5 hours and I am beat.”
“Wow, you must be ,why don’t you stop for a minute or so, catch your breath and sharpen the saw. When you start again I am sure it will be easier to saw that tree.”
The lumberjack impatiently replies “Can’t you see I am busy using the saw, I haven’t the time to stop at the moment.” and then he carries on.

Here is Steven Covey telling the story.

This is what agency new business programmes sometime suffer from.  Agencies get run ragged by their new business programmes.  The cost of which get completely out of control – what is your agency’s cost of sale, dare you look?

Yes, you need to be proactive, it is rule #1 after all but choose wisely how you spend you time and it won’t be the easiest or most trodden path that works best.

Let’s face it thousands of agencies are banging out DM pieces right now to the same wish list as you are. Then you are all following up with a cold call. You need to be braver and more thoughtful and add to your skills the ability able to ask for referrals comfortably within a client servicing programme as a priority then add selectively other proactive activities.

Abraham Lincoln – “If I had 9 hours to chop down a tree I’d spend the first 6 sharpening my ax?”

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