I Want A New Business Person With A Magical Rolodex.


I got an e mail from a new friend in NYC the other day.  He shared some of his recent agency experiences as a New Business person.

“Over the course of the past two years I met with a number of agencies who were looking for New Business leads.  What they are really looking for are miracle workers with magic Rolodexes of prospects just wanting to hand out work.  I wonder where these agency folks came from that think that’s a realistic expectation in this day and age.”

So true.

Although I love my agency brethren, many don’t get the New Business game in the New Normal.

I always receive requests for New Business people with magical Rolodexes.

I also hear from other misguided agency souls. They think that New Business people should reap what they sow and they should accept low salaries because if they were any good they would make a lot of money bringing in work to that agency because of their magical Rolodexes.

Here’s what some agency folks don’t understand. There are numerous agencies that all do the same thing.  They are across town from you or down the street or in the same building.  There are few New Business people with powerful relationships today.  Why would they want to work for an agency that had no skin in the game and wants to put the entire onus on them?

These are agencies that promote performance based compensation for their New Business people but would have a hernia is their agency compensation was based on client sales performance. We can’t control that they say.

New Business is a tough game.  A game of rejection.  A game where there are more losses than wins.

But then again most agencies aren’t that good at New Business.  That is because effective New Business takes time and money and most agencies aren’t willing to invest in either.  If you did you would see an agency Principal at a networking event from time to time.

Investment is what agencies tell their clients to do.

They are too eager to accept the old adage of we are all Cobbler’s Children. They keep the bar low.

Rarely do agencies invest in PR for their agency or New Business Consulting or a PPC campaign.

Google Digital or Advertising agencies or whatever you do in your own town and see what comes up.  There is a good chance that it won’t be your agency or you.

Few agencies market themselves with the same intensity the market their clients.  Such an irony.

Do the metrics for your agency.  How much financial investment did you make in marketing your agency in the last year?  Out of pocket expenditures not having your people work longer and harder. It is about spending your money on yourself.

Although we are now years into the New Normal most agencies still want to believe in magic and magicians with rolodexes.

I do believe in Magic.  When I was a puppy I worked at JWT somebody at the agency much higher up the food chain came into my office and gave me a ceramic coaster with the symbol of JWT on it. I think I still have it today.  They explained that the symbol was comprised of an owl and a lamp.

The lamp is for magic they said because great advertising can be true alchemy.  The owl they told me was for wisdom. That’s pretty powerful I thought at that time and I still do so today.

I remember really appreciating the person opposite my desk that shared that insight that day. I was really surprised that he was there.  His time was very valuable and he only interacted with levels of clients that as a young person I thought lived in rarified air.

There is no wisdom thinking that other people are going to give you their magic for free if you don’t invest in them and your agency.

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Read: Creating an Agency Culture in the New Normal.

Watch: Why Ad People Need to Market Themselves Better.



15 thoughts on “I Want A New Business Person With A Magical Rolodex.

  1. Mark Uk

    Very pleased to say I left my agency new biz job today. I’ve only been in role for 3 months, having spent five years in Biz Dev with my previous agency. The job I left today just didn’t get it, they believed new business was still down to cold calling, with a compensation scheme based purely on client sales to whom I’d made the first call. No time allowed to blog, or maintain social media, or attend industry events. No incentive to convert incoming calls, but equally as much work involved, and no incentive to generate those incoming calls in the first place. I thought I could take them on a journey and show them that this approach no longer works, but it was a constant battle, and I’m glad to be out of it. As luck would have it I’ve already been offered a new role, by a colleague within the same group, who’d heard my frustrations at not being able to make use of the tools with which I’m most comfortable, and have used very successfully to build and maintain relationships for many years. My new employer appreciates the importance of marketing the business, and have given me free rein to shape the biz Dev function as I see fit. I can honestly say today is the first time I’ve properly smiled in the last three months. Onwards and upwards!

  2. Great piece Hank and really accurate. I’ve done new biz now for a good 15 years starting at a small place which became a big place that became part of two successively bigger places, and now back to a smaller one. But the game is always the same. The magic Rolodex doesn’t work. Anyone who had one is likely rich enough by now and smart enough to have left this silly business behind. Everyone left or coming up in the space is faced with this sobering truth. No matter how good you are at getting a meeting, if the agency doesn’t have what clients want today and doesn’t express what they do in a clear, compelling, relevant, credible manner, you are SOL. Kind of like what we tell our clients to do when selling their stuff.

    This last point may be my personal bias coming through but I think some of the people who look like they are the best at doing new biz look that way because they are working in the rare less than 5% of agencies that are truly knocking it out of the park all the time. It’s a lot harder to be successful at new business in the 95% of all the other shops that are anywhere below that level. That’s where new business is the hardest. Find someone in that sort of environment who does well over time and you can kiss the need for the golden Rolodex behind.

    Eric Hyman
    CMO, The Partnership, Atlanta

  3. Media Sales Chick

    Great article. Although this magical Rolodex is not confined to agencies. As a media sales professional, all jobs want the magical Rolodex and just as you have stated, 99% have no traction or strategic marketing tools in place to assist sales. Hence, the “churn and burn” of talented salespeople due to unrealistic expectations. Experience means little these days.

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