On Thursday 13th September, Upfront was proud to partner with The BD100 for its launch event, bringing together over 100 business developers and like-minded individuals for an evening celebrating new business and recognising the best in business development.
The evening was hosted by The BD100 founders, Upfront’s very own Jody Osman and Richard McHardy of the McHardy Collective, with a panel discussion led by Robin Bonn, founder of management consultancy, Co:definery and featuring: Kerry Glazer (CEO of AAR), Matt Edwards (CEO of WCRS), Roy Jugessur (Senior VP of Global Sales at Selligent) and Kate Bosomworth (Chief Marketing Officer at M&C Saatchi).
The theme of the discussion was mindset, including how to create a winning mindset, making sure you’re “pitch fit”, and everything in between. Each of the panel shared their experience, insight and ideas to provide inspiration and tips around a number of key topics.
Business Development should be at the heart of every agency
How do agencies create an environment where business development can thrive? Roy believes it starts from the top, whilst Kerry added that the best agencies are those that are led by people who put new business at the heart. Matt, who before becoming CEO, led business development at WCRS, drew on his knowledge both in new business as well as leadership. He argued that this environment can be created by educating your entire team about just how difficult new business is. All successes should be celebrated, not just a pitch win, but all the small successes that led to that point. Agreeing with Matt, Kate stated that new business doesn’t happen in silo, and the entire company – from top to bottom – needs to understand their relationship with the agency business developer.
Good mentors can be found close to home
As a mentor to various people, Kate advised that you need to think about what you want from your relationship with your mentor very carefully. No matter where you are in your career, you can always benefit from a mentor, whether you’re just getting started or if you’re running your own agency. Roy added that it is beneficial to build good relationships with leaders within your company and attributed high emotional intelligence as key to a good mentor. Matt agreed with this, and also recommended that if your agency is part of a larger agency network, make use of these connections and find mentors within other companies. Whilst there may be resistance to this due to the competitive nature of the job, Kerry argued that business development is a small but unique community and we should be taking advantage of our shared experiences.
There can be very little difference between success and failure
Whilst Business Development is often a team effort, it can often feel like a Business Developer’s personal responsibility – and when it’s not going the way you want, it can feel like a personal failure. Kerry advised that you need to be resilient, you need to galvanise yourself and your time, and don’t let your team try to get out of rehearsing for pitches. To achieve this Roy recommended that you need to plan, plan, plan and work hard to maintain creativity on a daily basis. Kate attributed one of the biggest struggles for business developers is coping with the highs and lows of the job: If it isn’t going brilliantly, then it’s awful, and there’s not really an in-between. Matt added that it’s a role with a very visible definition of success with a much less visible means of getting there.
It’s not just about the wins
On the night Diane Young, co-founder of The Drum, also asked what would be a reasonable rate of growth was for an agency to expect. All panellists agreed that this was incredibly difficult to measure and that it varied depending on agency. Robin highlighted that an agencies definition of growth should be unique to them and their plans as a business. Kerry and Kate agreed that retention of clients is often overlooked, and business development should be celebrated as much as new business. If a client’s budget increases, this can be as important for an agency’s growth as a new win.
You have to know when to say no
The subject of conversation soon moved to the topic of pitching. All panelists agreed that who you should be selective about who choose to pitch for, and you shouldn’t be afraid to reject new opportunities. Kate went on to elaborate: Say no to a pitch opportunity and believe me, you will have the attention of your business
Thank you to all the panelists for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion.
If you are interested in finding out more about The BD100, attending or speaking at any future events, then please get in touch.