Talking Up the Brilliance of Business Development – the BD100 Awards Evening

Senior agency executives shared insights on business development best practice and gave advice on how to progress in the role at a packed event held to celebrate the new BD100 cohort.

The evening was held in partnership with The Drum and also included an inspirational talk from Frank Dick OBE,  President of the European Athletics Coaches Association, who has coached athletes such as Daley Thompson, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.  For the finale, the winners of a clutch of coveted new business awards were revealed.

The informative panel was chaired by Robin Bonn of Co:definery and featured people who all have experience in business development. The line-up included Fran Brook, New Business and Marketing Director at Crispin Porter Bogusky, Julian Douglas, Vice Chairman of VCCP, Ian Milner, CEO of Iris Worldwide and Rose Bentley, Director of Clients & Strategy at Propeller Group. 

Business developers are truth tellers

All emphasised the importance of the new business role. Rose said: “As a leadership role, the business developer is uniquely placed – they are a partner both to the client and also they are the client within our own business”, while Julian added “The role is the heartbeat of the agency.”

Ian pointed out that the business developer keeps an agency anchored in the real world and can see “what is good, bad or indifferent” about their agency. “It puts you in an amazing position to tell the truth – it’s important for agency heads to understand what can be learnt from new business that can make the agency better.”

The important skills

Looking at what talents are expected for business development, the panel said that it was important to have people who were always on the front foot and, because agencies have so little differentiation, people who bring “lots of personal theatre” to the role. 

Whether business development should be in the pitch prompted several observations. Julian was firm the team that will eventually work on the business should pitch, while Fran added: “Business development should not be in the room if they do not have a role.”  

Rose added that people in the new business role should have the ability to read the room – if they’re not in the pitch it’s vital that they coach the team on this ability.

Advice for rising to a senior position included  developing a strong relationship with the MD or CEO because it can be a stressful role which needs “air cover” occasionally; bringing energy to the team and having commercial awareness to understand a prospect’s pain points. 

Taking a measured approach

One of the questions concerned how agencies safeguard the mental well-being of business developers, as the role can include working late and over weekends. Julian said he had found no correlation between putting in intense efforts over long hours and business wins. A calmer, less frantic approach has yielded better results.

This question dovetailed with business development’s role in being able to say ‘no”’ to taking on a pitch if it feels wrong – or withdrawing from a pitch if it’s becoming evident that you could be working for a poor quality client and Ian said: “It’s really empowering to withdraw from a pitch.”

Ultimately, the business developer is a key conduit for demonstrating and selling the agency’s thinking and must think of ways to bring this thinking to life creatively.

If losing doesn’t hurt, winning doesn’t matter

The panel discussion was followed by Frank Dick’s enjoyable and inspirational mix of anecdote and motivational encouragement. He stressed that what you accept is all that you can expect. Based on his experience of successful sports leadership and translating to the world of business development, Frank focused on the importance of taking personal ownership of every moment to turn it into an opportunity to make a winning difference.

Frank also talked about the importance of having courage and stepping beyond the edge of risk to achieve success. If you are always striving to win, what else can you be doing to improve your performance? And if losing doesn’t hurt, winning doesn’t matter.

Shining the spotlight on great business development

The BD100 then did a fantastic job of shining the light on all the great business development being done in the UK. Well done to all of those who made The BD100 and this year’s winners.

🏆 Business Developer of the Year – Helen Lee (Marketing & New Business Director, Wunderman Thompson) 

🌟 Rising Star of the Year – Alex Johnson (Senior New Business Manager, Born Social)

🏆 Business Development Team of the Year – Engine

🏆 New Business Win of the Year – mcm creative group

Great to see business development getting the recognition it deserves. A great initiative from our Managing Director, Jody Osman and Co-Founder Richard McHardy. Well done to everyone involved.

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