Why winning new business is difficult, misunderstood and vital

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It may surprise some of you to learn that the job of creating new business opportunities within an agency, or any company for that matter, is the most difficult, misunderstood and vital. Here are three reasons why.


Winning new business is difficult

Imagine you are a new business manager in a medium-sized, well respected agency in London. It's Monday morning and having read the various blogs and publications (and the Financial Times, of course), you stare vacantly at the screen... A long list of cold, warm, semi-warm, hot and to be recycled opportunities stare defiantly back at you.

You see, you won’t have received too many emails over the weekend that are in any way relevant to the business of new business, aside from the odd bit of spam and a request to join a lousy networking event with the inspiring title: The key to growth this quarter, networking event of the year!

That event guarantees to be a room full of desperate, new business and sales folks vying for the attention of the odd mid-level, bored, single (only a single person would spend a valuable Thursday in a shabby Hoxton Hotel talking to desperate strangers), marketing manager on the hunt for a free beer.

So, your inbox is empty and your screen a long list of varying shades of promise depending on what mood you're in. The point is, what you do is almost 99.9% outbound. Why does that matter? Because it requires huge amounts of energy, guts and patience to assiduously pursue these unforgiving lists of faceless corporations. It takes a committed, flexible, intelligent, energised and optimistic realist to do this job.

All your materials are ready; a killer ‘creds’ deck, a slick but wacky sizzle reel with a mid 90s ambient backing track and your 200-word elevator email pitch reads like a dream. This is shaping up to be a really good morning. Three cups of coffee down, an egg McMuffin on the way to work, life is sweet.

You send out a raft of, say, 25 of these bad boys to the various email addresses you've managed to scrape from the internet or old rolodex left behind by your predecessor, who may well have been summarily fired after as little as three months.

On a good day, 15 of these well-meaning missives will bounce back into your inbox 'undelivered' like a cheque from Del Boy. But don’t despair, the other 10 are sure to have reached their mark. Right?

Time for another cup of coffee. Maybe swing back the creative floor and see what’s up with the cool gang. A week passes….

You're back at your desk and without any warning receive an email. Like a child at Christmas seeing a plie of unopened presents or a nervous singleton bagging a second meet with their blind date, you glow with expectation. This is no spam nor a software update, this is a reply to your email from a week ago from a prospect! Nervously you click on the bold, fleshly lettering of the unread emails title. OMG! OMG! OMG! A rush of excitement, flows through your body as you read...


Mr Smith,

Many thanks for your email dated 23 October. Having reviewed your materials, we have decided that we would be pleased to meet with you to discuss The Marketing Company’s capabilities and suitability for our global roster, which we are updating in the next few weeks.

Please advise us of the team you will be sending and send a suitable presentation ahead of the meeting. Paul Knight, Head of Brand; Pamela Shersburk, Head of Communications; and myself will be attending from our side. We have slots on the 9 and 11 April at either 11am or 2pm. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best Wishes,

Katie Billsbrook, Corporate Affairs Manager , Whopping Big Brand.


Your heart has stopped. Well, almost. After six gruelling weeks of literally bashing your head against the screen you have a fish (a whopping big one at that!) on the end of your line. All you need to do is reel 'em in, right ? What could be simpler? Which brings me smoothly to my second point…


New business is misunderstood

You rush to your CEO’s office and gaspingly try to tell them the exciting news. "It’s a pitch and it’s for a whopping great brand and..."  You're greeted with a mixture of annoyance and disbelief, that heady cocktail that so inspires loyalty in an employee.

"What’s this?" They ask as if you had presented them with a document written in Elvish. You try to disguise your slightly hurt feelings and reply. "It’s a new business pitch for a massive brand and they want to see us next Thursday." The CEO stares at you then responds with a hint of annoyance in his voice... "Well the team are very busy, that’s very short notice, I'm not sure we have the capacity for it.’

Your heart sinks… You see the problem is, people simply don’t understand the process of new business. If they did, if they knew just how hard it is to get that initial sniff from a big brand in a sea of agencies, they may well be more, I'm not going to use the word grateful, but happy? So that's how what you do is misunderstood.


New Business is vital

The problem it's also vital. For any agency or enterprise looking to grow, the constant push towards defending the business you do have and winning new work is the lifeblood.

So, to all you new business and sales folks out there, chin up! When you do get it right and win big you may be celebrated, albeit fleetingly!


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