Adweek featured an article yesterday declaring business development the "most dangerous job" at an ad agency.
The piece raised a lot of important issues but I'm going to focus on two of them.
Forget about prospecting. Managing unrealistic expectations was one of my biggest challenges as an in-house biz dev director, and it's still a big part of what I do with my agency clients today. As a consultant, it's often my outsider's perspective that makes it easier to counsel clients, many of them agency CEOs, on how to set more realistic goals for their new biz team - and then stick to them.
But biz dev leaders can be their worst enemy. We're an optimistic bunch by nature and want nothing more than to over-deliver, but we're not miracle workers and we can't do it alone. To be successful, you need a management team behind you that is equally willing to invest the time and talent to grow the agency. That means putting in the hard work to position the agency in a way that meets a true client need and marshaling the discipline to abide by the processes and methodologies you put in place.
A Process Only Works When It's Used
And that segues beautifully to my next point. According to research by RSW/US cited in the article , two-thirds of agencies feel their new business execs don’t have a solid methodology.
Here's the paradox: business development cries out for strong processes and methodologies, yet its very nature is chaos and unpredictability, making it almost impossible to enforce a sense of order. Here again, a shared sense of mission can alleviate the problem. Agencies that can integrate business development into their operations as firmly as they do creative or brand strategy are more likely to be successful. That means you're going to spend less time replacing business development directors and more time pitching (and winning).