Every so often, The Advertist’s The Hub will be interviewing leading lights in the world of British new business development, to give readers a back-channel viewpoint of the business and a whiff of the heady aroma of success.

This time around, Mr Henry Oliver steps into the limelight to share some of his observations, feelings and opinions in a segment we like to call Q10, because it’s a bunch of questions and there are ten of them. Take it away, Henry..

Name: Henry Oliver

Job title: Business Analyst at Lansons Public Relations and Communications

What inspires you to go to work every day?

The best thing about working in a new business role is the variety of projects you find yourself working on across a wide spectrum of industries. It’s really exciting to constantly be able to stretch yourself and better understand potential clients’ needs and what matters to their businesses.

What has been the most pleasant surprise you found once you started working at Lansons?

Lansons is an incredible company that is hugely supportive of its staff which in turn creates a wonderful culture to work within. I was surprised at just how accommodating the company was when it came to giving me fantastic opportunities to grow here. Initially, I started on reception and was given the chance to move up and gather new skills within the organisation at every stage of my five years here.

How does your ideal day at work go?

New business is a fast-paced role in any industry but when combined with the fast-paced industry of communications no day tends to be the same so it’s a tough question. However, ideally I like to start the day by reading up on what’s gone on in the financial markets and any regulatory updates from the morning. I then check the Advertist for any tenders, people moves and industry updates that are relevant.

A good day from then on would involve a nice mix of briefing meetings with prospective clients, helping pitch teams create proposals and ensuring the process as a whole for our staff runs as smoothly as possible.

What channels do you really love working in and why?

I’m a fan of the media as I think journalists are genuinely fascinating people who are highly informed and having the opportunity to interact with them on a regular basis is a great way to learn more about particular subjects.

This is not to say other channels aren’t interesting. We’ve rapidly grown our content marketing offering which has been a great learning experience. Direct advertising has always been interesting to me as well, particularly the planning stage.   

If you had one piece of advice to give someone thinking of getting into the world of new business, what would it be?

Asking subtle and thoughtful questions at the right time can be just as impressive to a prospective client as a massive deck with a load of creative pitch ideas in it.

What do you to do switch off from work?

I’m a big cricket fan and honestly sometimes feel that the only time I truly switch off is when I’m either playing or watching it. The number of variables that can happen with each ball and the strategic thinking that goes into the game is fascinating. I’ve always described it as the physical version of chess.

Who inspires you?

My background is in politics, in particular working for the Lib Dems, and Paddy Ashdown was a big inspiration of mine. He was incredibly charismatic both in person and in the media. He made Liberal politics a force to be reckoned with again and is sorely missed.  

You’ve got to take a brand new prospect to lunch anywhere in the UK. Where would you go and why?

If I could completely get away with it? Probably Little Nan’s Fitzrovia Kitchen & Bar. It’s a Pat Butcher themed restaurant/bar that is brilliant entertainment and the people that run it are very friendly.

On a more serious note, we’re lucky enough to have loads of nice restaurants near our office in Farringdon.

What has been your proudest moment so far working at Lansons?

We recently won an industry award for our strong ethical work within the agency which was inspirational to many staff and personally reinforced my views on why I’ve been at Lansons for so long.

Where do you want to be in ten years time?

Never been an ‘in XX years time’ type of person as have always taken things day by day. If I’m in a job with the variety I have now that would great. Suppose a dog would be nice too.

If you would like to be the subject of an intense grilling of these proportions and you think you can stand up to the scrutiny, then please let us know by emailing us and submitting your details. We’ll be in touch soon.

New Business has nothing to do with advertising.  New Business is about the chase.

New Business is like chasing a new romance and advertising is like being married.

New Business people love the pursuit.

The appeal of working on New Business is the stimulation it provides.  You are hunting.

This doesn’t appeal to all.  Some people are outside people and some people are inside people.

Some people are finders and some people are grinders.

Both are valuable to organizations but a New Business person is an outside person.  They are finders not grinders.

The buzz of working on New Business is that you are learning new things in new categories so you are constantly updating your knowledge base.  This provides more career satisfaction than what can be the day to day grind of agency work.

The accumulation of knowledge forms the fundamental basis of the sales process.  New Business is not about hype. It is fact based as you are trying to solve a client’s pain point and most marketing today is grounded in fact based decision making.

One of the key measure that wins New Business is sweat equity.  If a prospect walks into a room and sees the walls literally covered with category advertising, photos of store checks, prints outs of websites, newsletters or whatever it immediately communicates how much the agency wants the client without a word being said.

Every client that I have worked with loves to talk about their business.

To succeed in New Business you need to immerse yourself in the client’s business and walk in their shoes.  If they are retailers visit them and their competitors, if they are an automotive company test drive their products and competitors.  If they are a food brand eat their products.

I once conducted an agency search for a weight loss product.  The agency started their presentation by saying everyone in the room had gone on the prospect’s weigh loss program.  It stimulated an immediate dialogue and started to build chemistry.

The agencies that are best at New Business do not chase rejection and low probability opportunities because they are disciplined.

They have a list of criteria that they measure each prospect against.  If they are not a fit they don’t submit. Weak agencies play the quarter slots.

Successful New Business people are great at building and maintaining relationships.  They remember the little things. Often the personal things. They learn over time what is important to the client in their career and their lives.

New Business people are great networkers and networking comes easy to them. They know that networking leads to relationships and the majority of New Business comes through relationships.  The best New Business enjoy talking to people often strangers. Non New Business people often totally dislike networking.

New Business isn’t for everyone but a successful New Business loves the pursuit and the emotional benefits that it provides.

You can connect with Hank on LinkedIn:

Follow his updates on twitter: @Hankblank

Check out Blank and Associates on Facebook

Watch his Videos on New Business at https://www.youtube.com/user/MrHankblank

How to ensure you protect your agency by existing on more than just the odd referral

Referrals are by far and away the best and lowest-hanging fruits in terms of new business.

What better than using the warm glow of success from a previous job to attract the attention of another client?

A referral is an endorsement of quality and many agencies rely on leveraging the past for the future.

There are some downsides however.

If you only rely on referrals for your future, the biggest potential negative by far is the drag on creative innovation.

As a small business owner myself, I know that keeping all the plates spinning restricts your ability to devote time to developing new skills and products. As an agency, if you’re doing the same – or similar things – for one client after another, then you might be highly skilled in one direction but come up short in many others.

In short, you could be living in an echo chamber and not even realise it.

This is why it is essential to have two strings to your new business bow; one for referrals and one for exploration.

Probing new channels or markets is an essential skill in new business development. Many agency owners are hesitant to deploy this because it is viewed as resource-heavy. It’s not easy devoting time and money to courting new clients in new markets.

You have to prepare a whole new set of materials, for one thing.

Sometimes you have no track record or direct experience or credentials or (gasp!) referrals.

You have to get used to handling objections and answer a lot more questions than usual.

You need data, and lists, and insight and research.

But as you stand at the bottom of the mountain, looking at the summit, think about the view from the top, not the effort to get there.

Think about how a whole new sector of clients will stretch your agency’s skill set. Think about how many new and different referrals you will be able to sell from. Think about how many new and different awards you might be able to win.

But above all, think about how much more resilient you will make your agency against the winds of change.

Because a bit of new business NPD now will yield rich rewards further down the line – even if you’re able to identify what areas you DON’T want to target in future and why.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive process, but it is necessary in order to protect your agency from what you can’t see coming.

Speak to your friendly new business manager or new business development agency, or even invest some time yourself and get the right tools for the job.

Just don’t rely just on one form of new business and expect it to be never-ending.

Keith Smith is the Managing Director of The Advertist – the UK’s only unbiased, independent platform for agency new business intelligence.

The Advertist offers agencies of all sizes access to fresh, GDPR-compliant data and insight that enables productive and informed new business conversations.