We’ve seen an uptick since June for new business directors.
As market activity picks up and RFPs float in, agencies recognize they need a more nimble business development process. They’re burning out their most prolific thinkers when they ask them to shoulder pitches in addition to their regular workload. So we’ve been asked help with a lot of first-time new business hires.
This is not an easy role to fill! If they’re any good at new business, it’s probably because they passionately believe in what they sell, they’re making lots of money in their current company, and they’re bound often by a commission schedule and some level of non-compete.
To extricate these top performers out of their current companies and into yours – and to make sure you don’t make an expensive and insincere mishire that doesn’t deliver – it’s important to have:
1) An accurate job profile, (not something lifted from another organization with different requirements!)
2) Commitment to hiring at the right level
3) Clearly defined performance metrics, revenue goals and commission structure, and
4) A fail-proof formula for vetting candidates.
Here’s a good Inc. article that drills into these topics and these are our quick tips:
The Job Profile
Inevitably, you want a “rainmaker.” But biz dev people come in all different varietals.
There are salespeople and hunters that are adept at defining a pipeline, exercising their relationships to get meetings and building an efficient new business system. There are more consultative types that excel at coming up with the pitch strategy, writing decks and responding to RFPs.
These two types enjoy different aspects of the biz dev function. They may have an aptitude for hunting or farming, but not both… and as a result are probably attracted to different compensation plans.
What kind of BD person does your company need? And who do you want representing you to prospective clients?
The Right Level
Once you’ve acknowledged the true job requirements, realistically evaluate the level of person you need to ensure success.
Because it’s often an investment/non-billable hire, many agencies prefer to get in “someone hungry, that they can groom.” But if you’re asking that person to turn on senior-level contacts, they just don’t have that kind of rolodex so early in their careers. It’s like that mythical income property that everyone’s looking for in real estate: Cash-positive from Day 1. Those aren’t for sale. You’ve got to put a little work in before you can get fresh-faced BD people up to their full potential. Ask yourself if you’re committed to training and can forgo immediate wins as your new hire cultivates a pipeline.
Performance & Revenue Goals
You probably have quarterly and annual revenue targets for the agency, fueled by existing and new business. What portion do you want your new hire to contribute? What’s the timeline?
You can back into decisions about compensation and level of hire this way. For example, if you’re an agency doing $7 million revenues/year and you need to eke out another $3, which you think can be done mostly by beating the bushes with your current clients… then maybe you pay a straight base – high enough to attract someone that can present and develop client relationships autonomously.
If you have more aggressive goals, want to diversify by breaking into new verticals, then you’re hiring someone with connections and a track record of closing deals. These types want details about how prospects move thru the funnel and what kind of earning power they’ll have. A pay-for-performance model might be more incentivizing for them, offering a percentage commission on the revenues they bring in.
Asking your candidates to quantify their past performance is an excellent litmus test, as is how they go about building a pipeline and the role they play in writing and presenting RFPs.
Some of the most salient questions:
- Do they understand your service offering? Can they differentiate it from competitors?
- Are they well-connected in the industry, e.g. know how to get your agency name out there, who to market to, important industry events, relationships with pitch consultants, etc.
- How does their current agency define and pursue new business and what role do they play? Asking them to describe a recent pitch is a good way to get tactical-level details. What kind of decision-makers and industry verticals are they calling on?
- Ask about their current performance metrics. Do they have sales quotas? How many pitches and how many wins were they part of last year? Success they are most proud of.
The list goes on. In terms of softer skills, we look for people that are confident, entrepreneurial, even a bit maverick, but not mercenary. Meaning, they’re capable of allegiance to an employer they really believe in. They’re accountable, not just “sales guys.” They’re willing to put skin in the game, and will promote agency services as if they were running their own business.
They’re networkers and comprehend the power of networking. We’ve found a good initial proxy for these is not just how many connections they have on social platforms, but how many recommendations they write and are given.
Just those things. Oh, plus presence, charisma and resilience. The most intoxicating biz dev people have stopping power and are unstoppable.