April 13, 2010

Everything I Know About Business Development I Learned at the Movies!


(Please click on photos to link to videos or articles)

By Jurgen Stephan, Executive Director of New Business Development at Hacker Group

I love movies. And movies about business and selling are especially close to my heart.

We learn something about the tough world we live in when Alec Baldwin snarls, "Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee is for closers." There's at least a grain of truth in Willy Loman's belief that to be liked is one key to sales success. If Gordon Gekko hadn't told us "Greed is good," would we have figured it out for ourselves?

Did you see Ben Affleck in Boiler Room? Best quote: "There is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can't. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who's gonna close? You or him?"

Not all movies with points to make about business development are obviously about selling. Here are eight things I've learned about promoting my agency while at the movies.


1. Be ready to meet Dr. No.

Nothing is new under the sun. And there are no objections that haven't already been invented. What I've learned is that you just need to be prepared for them.

- "We're happy with our current agency" should be interpreted "You haven't made the value proposition clear to me."

- "Let me talk to my boss and get back to you" really means "I'm not the decision-maker." That's been my clue to ask who else might be involved -- because it could be an entire committee.

- "The timing just isn't right" means . . . well, either it means the timing isn't right (in which case, I made a future appointment) or that you haven't made the value proposition clear to the prospect.


2. Jerry Maguire is alive and well.

"Show me the money" is what prospective clients say when they want a reason to spend their budget with you. You're selling salvation. Your agency is the one that will bring them marketing nirvana. Some clients want to be famous. Some want to win awards for their creative genius. But for a Jerry Maguire client it's always been clear to me that I've needed to develop a pro forma that shows a return on their investment.


3. Mission Impossible has nothing on the changing identities of business prospects.

Even if the company you called on months ago turned you down, the opportunity may still present itself when their current agency underperforms, a new person comes on board, you have a new and more relevant case study to present . . . the list goes on. Things change quickly -- and while the clock may be ticking down, it ain't over until the bomb actually explodes. I try not to get discouraged if I haven't gotten an immediate sale -- and I darn well make sure to regularly follow up. Stay in touch with that contact. Continue to nurture that lead until it flowers into something beautiful -- a new client.


4. It can be a Rocky road.

No one said getting new business clients was easy (otherwise everyone would be doing it). It requires training every day by doing your homework about the prospect. It's important for me to always be in fighting shape, by staying focused on the goal of getting my prospect to the next level of the sales pipeline. You'll need good footwork when it comes to deflecting objections. Keep punching during your pitch and knock 'em out when you ask them to sign on the dotted line.


5. Look who's inside of Shrek!

We may not always put our best foot forward when an opportunity looks small or unpromising. That's a mistake. In time, it may turn into a beautiful princess. Many potential clients make life difficult at the beginning, just to see if you're persistent. Once I've gotten my foot in the door, I've seen all kinds of revenue opportunities.


6. Don't be afraid of The Usual Suspects.

You may think you're talking to the sole decision maker. But even if your direct contact is the CEO, you should always expect other characters to enter the scene. The marketing director will have at least veto authority; the procurement person upholds corporate purchasing policies; and others on the team will certainly weigh in. I've learned to never assume I know who's really Keyser Soze until the deal is done.


7. Remember the final scene of The Sound of Music.

Sometimes, after all the praise and applause, the prospective client disappears and goes silent on you. It's not the end of the world. It's my job to re-establish the momentum and remind him or her of their last experience with me and my company. Keep calling out the key benefits your agency provides them. Climb every mountain. Ford every stream.


8. You may need to be Braveheart -- but make sure it's for the right cause.

What hill are you willing to die on? Business development guys and gals have to be passionate about their agency's ability to solve the client's business problem. They have to rally the troops. They may even need to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Just be sure this is the right opportunity for the ultimate commitment. If you are like me you don't want to pull out all the stops for the wrong one.

Business development in the ad agency world can be comedy or tragedy -- but it's always dramatic. That's show biz! And that's why we love it.


Jurgen and his new business team plan and manage the execution of marketing strategy for a number of Hacker Group clients. He started his career at Unilever in Europe 25 years ago, immigrating to the U.S. in 1990. He worked in New York as a Marketing Director for Rosenthal's high-end consumer line. In 1997 Jurgen started with Hacker Group as Account Manager, overseeing IBM direct marketing programs. Mr. Stephan became head of marketing for the business division of US West (now Qwest) and later Vice President of Global Marketing for Captaris Software before returning to Hacker Group in 2007.



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