You don’t have to be a geneticist from Harvard to know if Business Development is in your agency’s DNA. You can just feel it. It either comes from the top down and is embedded in your agency on every level, or it isn’t. It’s that simple.
Things get complicated when you find yourself working for an agency that doesn’t have this in their DNA, but you’re in charge of creating new business opportunities. How do you go about creating a proactive business development environment in a place that has none? Here are a few tips we’ve seen work at any size company.
1. Get buy-in first and foremost from the very top. Founders, Partners, CEOs all have to be invested in the idea of proactive business development. You can certainly create a groundswell of support from the bottom up, but it’s much more difficult if you don’t have buy-in from the top and the most vocal people within an agency. People want to follow a respected leader and if that leader isn’t ringing the new business bell every day, then people don’t know who to follow or where to go. Also, how do you go about getting the resources you need to build a new business tech stack without founder buy-in? Leadership and resources are necessary for any business development effort, so make sure they are on board.
2. Start reporting on new business. Too often nobody outside of the New Business Director or the CEO know what prospects they are chasing or speaking with. This leaves teams in the dark and de-prioritizes business development. Reporting weekly both verbally and in writing somewhere not only holds the new business team accountable but gets everyone in the firm involved in thinking about business development opportunities that they may run across throughout a regular day.
3. Celebrate the victories and acknowledge the failures. Once a piece of new business is won, we see pitch team’s celebrating and then immediately handing down workloads. A lot of energy goes into winning a client and recognition needs to be made across the agency in order to help people feel appreciated for their past work, excited for the future, and accountable for their immediate tasks to get things kicked off. On the other end of the spectrum, if you lose a pitch, a lot of time it gets pushed off that we lost because of price or “the client just didn’t get it”. The pitch team, plus other impartial members of the agency, should take time after a loss to analyze everything and try to understand why the client didn’t see value in what we produced. Fact is, you never lose because of price, you lose because they didn’t see enough value in the price you put out there, so how do we better present that value?
In summary, change your agency’s DNA by getting buy-in from those with the most influence in the agency, start creating accountability for the new business team, and recognize the accomplishments and failures of that team to better learn how to create more successes.