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News & Views from Alchemis

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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or email Amanda Francis


Considering hiring an in-house business development professional?

Recruiting, training, motivating and retaining good sales people is not easy. It’s one of the biggest reasons anyone would outsource the cold calling element of their new business in the first place. If you are a marketing agency that has someone on board who is happy to grind through the calls day-in-day-out AND they are delivering great results then you’re one of the lucky few, so hang on to them. Actually, there is a reasonable chance they’re an Alchemis alumni. Over the years we have seen quite a few of our people moving into “agency side”. Often they are people with strong creative skills in the first place who saw Alchemis as a proving ground to hone their sales skills and all-round industry knowledge.

If you have an in-house new businessperson who came from a business development agency background then they will know the process and metrics required to deliver success. And they won’t mind putting in the hard work. Often though marketing agencies employ sales people from a variety of backgrounds and are disappointed with the results. This may be less about the quality of person hired and more about the change in sales environment an experienced sales person is likely to experience when they enter the average marketing agency.

Most telephone sales people prefer working in a sales team, with a positive buzz where everyone can feed off one another’s energy and the success of teammates. And lets be honest, most sales people like to be able to moan to a colleague that’s “been there” about how tough it is when things aren’t going so well. The average sales person is not going to be at their best when they’re the only person pitching in a room full of “creatives” hunched over their Macs.

This has created a niche for new business agencies to service the appointment generation needs of marketing agencies. The best new business agencies will be doing the following:

  • Have a reasonable sized team; fewer than 8 sales people and its hard to create and sustain the right atmosphere.
  • Have clearly defined KPIs; like the pennies and pounds, if you make the calls in new business then the results will come….so long as you do the following
  • Provide thorough and ongoing coaching; a new business manager will be expected to call on a variety of different clients and disciplines over their career so the learning process never really stops. A graphic example of this is the fact that probably a third of our clients make a living doing things that were not technologically possible a few years ago
  • Reallocate (quickly and painlessly) the business development manager if it’s not working. This is a massive advantage a new business agency has over an in-house approach
  • Provide a supportive environment. It’s one thing to have incentives and awards for the best performers but at any point in time it’s likely someone will be struggling with a new client or in a tough industry sector. Coaching will help but confidence is important as well, so helping people through a tough patch is important. A sales person at a new business agency is lucky as they can switch to calling on a client they are confident on, achieve some quick results and then crack on with their tough client with their “mojo” renewed and intact

Some large marketing agencies will be able to offer this themselves but for most small to medium marketing agencies the economies of scale just don’t work. They can’t justify a full-time sales team and probably don’t need a full-time caller at all, which may mean they have the one person making the calls and going on initial meetings with prospects. This will work for some marketing agencies and when it does it’s probably the best single solution to new business. This is how many agencies got started in the first place, the passion of the agency owner determined to build their business from scratch. But for many agencies the person hired for making the initial calls isn’t the best person for attending face-to-face meetings. Hiring a new business agency to make the first contact on the phone setting meets for a board level person to attend seems to work best.

If you are a marketing agency and you’re determined to explore the in-house sales person route then I recommend the following:

  • Look for a proven business development background either at a marketing agency or in a new business agency. These people will know what they’re getting into and ought to be able to provide quantifiable evidence of previous success
  • Have clear and reasonable expectations of what this person should be able to achieve with timelines
  • Set short term and achievable targets to begin with in terms of calling activity and appointment generation, which can be increased over time. If these are not being met then you may have a problem but if they are, you should be patient and supportive if the big wins don’t come straight away
  • Have a clear idea of the role and how it may develop. A business development person who thinks they will get out on face-to-face meetings will quickly become disillusioned if they find themselves chained to their phone. Similarly, someone hired to make phone calls may find themselves out of their depth if they find themselves pitched into meetings
  • Ensure they have leads and software to work with, often this is a challenge for marketing agencies

In conclusion, having a dedicated new business all-rounder under your roof is probably the perfect solution but finding such a person can be a needle in a haystack even if you can afford it. You then need to make sure that you have leads / data and software for them to manage a lead generation campaign effectively. Even if going in-house was your first thought it would be well worthwhile bringing a few of the better established new business agencies in for a conversation as we do possess some genuine advantages.

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