New Business, sir?

First, the obvious question: what is a New Business Agency? Well, we’re a group of trained individuals who disguise ourselves as your agency – that could be an  events agency, experiential, social, web design, PR, packaging specialist… whatever. The important thing is that we take the time to really understand your company and your business so that anyone dealing with us never sees through the disguise. 
Then we research the life out of your sector and – in conjunction with the brief you’ve given us regarding where you’d like new clients to come from (geographically, turnover-wise or via some other set of criteria) – we then try to get your agency in front of relevant companies, either to pitch for a specific brief or to become a retained agency. In one sentence: We pretend to be you so that we can source new clients and business for you.
If you work in a marketing department, procurement or PR department, there’s a fair chance that one of our team has spoken to you in the last ten years under the carefully-constructed guise of one of our clients.
Our hidden little niche industry of outsourced business development is variously described as a “dirty little secret”, a “necessary evil” or more often just a clever way to have great salespeople fighting for your business without the hassle of finding them, hiring them, training them and keeping them. 

I’m a good salesperson – that’s how I got into this business. I learnt my trade from high street retail, selling memberships for the Institute of Directors, and doing “PR” for bars on the streets of Tenerife. I’ve seen and heard sales horror stories and I’ve witnessed moments of genius. Mostly I’ve tried to keep my head above the waters of mediocrity.
Everyone reading this has been on the end of a great sales call. Nobody likes receiving telesales calls, but once in a while a great one takes us by surprise. This is something I drill into my team; we’re calling people at companies all day long, extolling the virtues of our stable of marketing agencies. It’s our job to be the pleasantly surprising best call of the day. Doing what we do without just annoying the heck out of decision-makers requires planning a call carefully, doing our homework and working out how company X can possibly benefit from marketing agency Y.
However, at a former employer (and this is often the case in many “New Business Agencies”) we were paid a bonus for each meeting “booked”. In light of this dangling carrot, we mostly bullied, begged or just pestered prospects into meeting with our clients. One day I was calling on behalf of a big design agency and tripped over a real opportunity for them: A national, high-street restaurant chain was launching a sauce range and needed an agency to create the packaging. I booked my client a meeting to pitch for this and found out they were up against only one other Design Agency. Job done, right? Well… the thing was that if I “sold the lead” to my colleagues I got half of everyone else’s commission for that meeting. So – looking at my bank account rather than my client’s pleading eyes – I stood up and loudly announced the “opportunity”. Twelve of my colleagues gleefully booked the meeting before the restaurant company in question realised that the word was out and then understandable stopped passing on calls to their marketing team. I made a few thousand pounds out of this debacle, my client didn’t win the business (none of our clients won it – I was pretty much the only “winner” in all of this) and the drinks were on me that Friday afternoon.
These aren’t the moments that make me proud – these are the shameful memories that push me to look for better, more acceptable ways to pick up the phone and sell.
Telesales has a terrible reputation. It’s not because of one bad apple, it’s because the crop is mostly rotten. Horribly structured commission schemes, greed-inspired targets, blinkered salespeople and bad bosses lead to an industry with a reputation in tatters.
If you’re in control of any sort of marketing activity, you’ll recognise our calls because the person on the other end of the phone will know something relevant about you, ask good questions and be interested in listening to you rather than blathering on about themselves. For the other calls you get, please accept my apologies on behalf of the phone-jockeys.