Many agency owners love servicing clients but have a hard time stomaching the process it takes to get them.
That tends to make them very good at developing strategies, executing campaigns, and keeping clients happy.
It’s also not unique to agency owners.
I got my career started by working in professional politics. Most of the politicians I knew loved giving speeches and making policy, but absolutely detested fundraising.
Unfortunately, politicians don’t survive without raising campaign funds — and agency owners don’t survive without signing new clients.
Sure, you can get by for a while — perhaps quite a while — by happenstance clients who ring you up.
And many of you think you have a business development process because you grow by “word of mouth.”
But real business development is about proactive activity designed to fill your funnel, build a pipeline, and close new clients.
When I was in politics, we addressed the problem of fundraising avoidance by scheduling the Member of Congress at a specific time to spend an hour or two “dialing for dollars.”
The process was simple. We put it on their calendar, walked them across the street to the party’s campaign headquarters, and gave them a call list.
The trick was to make sure they had no distractions and that the time slot was protected.
That took coordination between the political team and the politician’s scheduler.
It required the rest of the team to respect that calendar block and not try to convince the Member of Congress to be somewhere else at that time.
It wasn’t fun (for anyone). But it made sure the job got done.
Agency owners who are not naturally passionate and motivated salespeople need to think the same way.
Here’s the process.
- Determine how much time each week you will spend on business development. Yes, clients come first. But if you don’t carve out time, you won’t have the resources needed to sustain your operation and provide that excellent client service. Most agency owners should be spending at least one day a week on business development. Like exercise, it doesn’t need to come in one single session, so it’s probably best to spread it over 2-3 time blocks.
- Find a time when your prospects are available. When you schedule your biz dev time matters. The time you spend on 1-on-1 outbound activity, in particular, needs to be set at times when your target audience is likely available. Scheduling phone time at 10 PM at night only works if your prospects are many time zones away.
- Know what matches your work habits. We all have times when we do certain tasks better — I tend to do most of my writing in the morning and technical work in the evening. If you have times when you don’t do things like writing well, set it aside for calls and meetings for biz dev instead.
- Put the time on your calendar — and mark it as “busy.” Your calendar software likely allows you to put something on your calendar but mark it as “free” so that others can schedule over that time. Don’t do that. Make sure the time is blocked out and just as protected as a doctor appointment or your kid’s Little League game.
Will there be times when you need to move your business development time? Of course.
But note that I said “move” and not “cancel.”
If an urgent client meeting comes up, move that business development slot to the next available time.
It is so tempting to say, “I’m too busy helping my clients this week. I’ll get to prospecting next week.”
That’s a fast-track way to shrinking your business.
I often tell agency owners that the time they need to be most active with business development is when they are busiest with client work.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it actually makes sense.
If you’re starving for business, you don’t need a lot of motivation to go find that next client.
But when you’re busy, it is easy to put it off.
That’s why so many agencies ride a revenue roller coaster.
The only way to get off the feast-or-famine path is by blocking out time on your calendar every week to do business development.