On average, agency-client relationships last about 36 months, which means that at any given moment one of your competitors is about to lose one of its clients. Or you are.
It’s no surprise that experienced new business professionals capture a bigger slice of that business. If you’re looking to grow your agency through building your client portfolio, you should consider hiring a full time new business director.
The most successful new business directors have a “hunter” mentality. They have a passion for new business prospecting, enjoy cold calling and have a track record of success. They nurture strong and lasting relationships, have outstanding communication skills and love the “hunt.”
Whether you’re hiring your own new business director or using a fully outsourced resource, asking smart questions can help you avoid making a costly mis-hire. Here’s a few to start you off:
Question: How much “hunting” have you done?
Why you ask it: New business—indeed, any sales—is about experience in the field. It’s easier to go from 70 to 80 closed pieces of business a year than to go from zero to one; getting that first deal done builds confidence to get a second. The second builds a desire to get a third. Experience teaches that getting to the firm “no” lets you move on to another prospect who might be a “yes.”
Question: How comfortable are you with cold calling
Why you ask it: Cold calling is a brutal business. Even with tools to increase your chances of setting appointments, you have to be able to handle rejection dozens of times every day without letting it affect the next call. If you like cold calling that’s good. If every struck-through contact number challenges you to learn and improve next time, that’s even better.
Question: What role did you play in helping to win a new client?
Why you ask it: Whether the candidate was the first outreach call, set the appointment, gave the presentation or closed the business, it’s vital that they can recognize the value of their contribution—without over-valuing it. New business acquisition is often a team sport; if your interviewee doesn’t have the confidence to recognize their own good work, or fails to recognize the hard work of the rest of the team, that might be a problem down the line.
Question: Were you involved in face to face meetings with clients or teeing up initial conversations? What has been your involvement with client new business presentations?
Why you ask it: While closers and prospectors are both important, they’re two different skill sets. Cold-calling appointment setters need to be highly organized, diligent with their follow up and able to handle rejection. Closers must be able to take a prospect’s initial interest and turn it into a desire to make the deal.
Question: How do you go about building strong relationships?
Why you ask it: New business development is all about maintaining and improving relationships. Transparency, honesty, mutual respect and shared interests are as vital in a sales engagement as they are in any other relationship, and sales professionals who excel at managing their relationships are more likely to be viewed as trustworthy by their clients.
Question: What would clients you closed say about you?
Why you ask it: No candidate is going to lead with a negative, but the reason you ask this question is to gauge their willingness to be candid and honest about their weaknesses. Every candidate has clients who would say less than flattering things about them, but if the person sitting opposite you doesn’t believe there’s anything they could have done to improve a relationship—if they don’t own their failures—they’re probably not going to be receptive to your coaching.
Finally, if your reaction to a candidate isn’t an emphatic “yes,” it’s a “no.” If they can’t win you over in an interview, they’re unlikely to get a better response from prospects.