When Should Agencies Hire a Business Development Expert?Apr 03, 2023
Advocation has worked with countless boutique-sized PR & marketing firms over the years. When it comes to sales, most think delegating to a business development expert is impossible. However, if an agency is looking to scale, this is a limiting belief that will hold them back from doing so.
Sales is genuinely a skillset of its own, and typically agency owners cannot successfully delegate it to team members with an already full plate. When working with agency owners, we often see recurring issues hindering their ability to hire and maintain an effective sales team.
A few of the most common roadblocks are:
- Leaders don’t have the building blocks in place to make sales effective
- Leaders aren’t effective at leading a sales team
- The agency isn’t investing in the marketing and thought leadership that is truly required to close complex deals in today’s landscape
- The team doesn’t have an understanding of their sales cycle timeline, which either results in activating sales and lead generation strategies too late or giving up too early
These are common challenges we’ve seen firsthand with the many agency teams we’ve audited. The good news is that there is a clear path to create the operational changes needed to add a business development expert to the team and continue scaling the company.
Knowing when to make this hire is the key to success. Of course, many leaders look at revenue when making this decision, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Before hiring a sales expert, a few essential building blocks need to be in place first.
The agency must have a strong position in the market
Creative agencies are typically great at doing this for their clients but often overlook the importance for their own business. Strongly positioned agencies have:
- A differentiated position in the market. The agency should be able to communicate its unique position in the marketplace with compelling, research-backed messaging across all of its communication and marketing channels.
- A defined target audience. The agency should be able to define its clientele and why they align with the agency’s mission, vision and services.
- A laser-focused message on the compelling problem the firm solves for target clients. Agencies that have relied on referrals for the entirety of the business often get away with an unclear position in the market because they’re conducting business with people who already know them or know of them. Agencies can’t continue overlooking this lack of clarity if they want to hire a sales team.
- Clearly defined services. A sales team needs to know what they are selling to be effective. While customization of services is a great way to prove that an agency is a true partner to a client, changing services for every sale is not a sustainable strategy when looking to scale.
Effective leadership must be in place
Like every other department within an agency, sales teams need effective leadership to succeed. This requires training, resources to do their job well, defined KPIs at each stage of the sales process, and a clear path forward with targets to work towards.
- An agency leader trains themself or someone on their team to lead sales effectively. This only works if the leader or team member has the bandwidth to embark on this training without neglecting other departments within the agency.
- Hire an effective sales leader with the necessary skills.
- Leverage a coach or contractor to help the sales team excel. We’ve seen many agencies succeed with this strategy, and in a market increasingly reliant on contract workers, this is often an excellent option for boutique agencies.
The agency needs to invest in thought leadership
Marketing and communications agencies tell their clients to invest in thought leadership but forget to do it or simply don’t prioritize it for themselves. For any outbound sales strategy to work for a professional services company, agencies must support it with top-notch thought leadership. This is vital because leads have multiple touchpoints to build trust in the agency’s expertise.
Further, thought leadership is essential for agencies looking to scale beyond referrals. Why? Leads that come through existing relationships go through a much shorter sales cycle. Warming up a cold audience can take months or years until those leads raise their hands as potential prospects. Building these long-term relationships is the key to a healthy & robust sales pipeline.
These are just a few key building blocks necessary for an agency to effectively build and delegate a sales department from the founder or CEO. If you have additional questions, ask us on social media, and we’ll compile the answers into another post on business development!