Why Your Group Account Director Is Not Your Agency New Business Director

Just because your Group Account Director excelled in helping win the pitch, doesn’t mean they want, nor will be a willing participant in going out and finding the next one as your newly  crowned Director of Business Development.

When you choose to pay attention to agency growth, and I do mean choose, it’s often at an inflection point created by an event of some kind, rather than one planned. In my experience this type of ‘who’s the best person we have today syndrome’ causes some unusual behavior and decisions to be made within the walls of agencies. Decisions that almost always end badly for all involved.

Inflection point or not, when you choose to address an opportunity or issue within your agency your goal is to identify the requirements and to then deploy the right resources and people against it, not just what or who happens to be perceived to be lying around idle – even partially.

So why do agencies pivot this thinking when it comes to creating a new business role for the agency? Why look around and say, “Hey Account Director, you’ve built solid relationships with clients and it looks like you have some spare billable time, how about being our Director of New Business?”

Like any mission critical function, new business has specific requirements, and levels of expertise to design and implement a successful growth strategy. These skills, experience and training are not typical of a Group Account Director, nor are they desired to be learned by such a team member of your agency.

A roller-coaster of emotion in the new business world of hunting, cold shoulders and rejection sprinkled with moments of pure joy, pride and illation is not what they signed up for – no matter how well you think you can ‘sell’ it to them on it.

  •         Your Group Account Director (GAD) is not your New Business Director.
  •         Your Group Account Director has a day job.
  •         If you must, focus ‘non-billable time’ only on organic growth.
  •         New Business requires a different set of skills.
  •         New Business most often requires a new person for your agency.

This skill set gap between a Group Account Director and a professional New Business Director is no ordinary gap to overcome with training and incentives. It’s a canyon, one that Evil Knievel would have hesitated to soar across.

I’m a huge believer in niche expertise and focus. And in this increasingly competitive world of new business, one where your agency needs to be actively pursuing new clients rather than relying on inbound alone, you’re doing so in a market where tech and consulting companies are also playing and winning.

Get past the fact and accept that this role is one without billable hours. You need a dedicated expert. Find and hire a New Business Director who will lead the agency growth strategy and can do the implementation. Hire someone who has the proven capacity to hunt and win consistently.

You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your team and perhaps most importantly, you owe it to your Group Account Director who feels like they’re failing you because they don’t have the skill-set or the passion for the role you’ve handed them. They’re likely a phenomenal Account Director, keep it that way.

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Dave Currie

Dave Currie is CEO of List Partners Inc., the leading sales intelligence and solutions company, recognized as one of world’s most comprehensive and widely used business development solutions for the advertising, technology, media and marketing industry. With a career that spans across three continents, Dave has helped create some of the most innovative, scalable and effective business development programs for customers, with more than $1B indirectly attributable new business opportunities in North America alone.