The Old Truth About New Business
Editor’s Note: Recently, Adweek posted an article titled “What’s the Most Dangerous Job at an Ad Agency? New business chiefs deal with a lot of stress and a short shelf life.” We got our industry-approved expert to weigh in on the subject.
When I started out in the ad business, I thought that agency people sat in fancy offices high above Michigan Avenue while prospective clients lined up outside the door, waiting for their turn to be blessed with the agency’s wisdom and creativity. I realized pretty quickly that the prospective clients existed, some in desperate need of wisdom and creativity, but the process wasn’t that easy.
The first new business guy I ever worked with put Don Draper to shame (in the dazzling clients department at least. In the boozing and carousing department, I’m not at liberty to say.) He was bright, outgoing, and had a natural enthusiasm that convinced prospective clients that their business would be in good hands. People believed he really cared because he really did. Watching him taught me the most important lesson of new biz right off the bat. You can’t be a salesperson. After all, you’re not pushing product to make a monthly sales quota. You’re laying the foundation for what, hopefully, will become a partnership for many years to come. So you have to really know what you’re talking about—not just about your business, but also the prospective client’s—and mean what you say.
The well-known new business coach, Robb High, tells agencies to “fire the new business person”. By that, he means don’t employ a new business specialist; assign the best-qualified advertising person for the job. Think of it like this. An agency’s sales pitch is essentially a commercial. And the person delivering it is a brand ambassador. And the most effective brand ambassadors are those who are knowledgeable but, as importantly, know how to connect on an honest, human level with their audience. This is true whether the medium is a thirty second spot or a thirty-minute lunch. A good ad person understands this implicitly.
Of course, the dream scenario is when new clients find you. How does that happen? When you create work that attracts attention; so much attention that people will want to know the name of the agency that did it. The trick to turning their interest into a partnership is no bullshit. Know what you’re talking about, care about what they say, and get down to business as equals. Do this often enough, and one day maybe you will have clients lined up outside your front door. Most likely with a group of flying pigs circling directly above their heads.
09.19.14 The Biz