This here episode sees Jody Sutter, of The Sutter Company, discuss how routines and rituals lead to new business revenue! Jody has worked with dozens of agency owners who have the best of intentions to improve how they win new business but are, sadly, stuck in an endless, unfulfilling cycle of all planning and no doing.
Jody knows agencies can only see results from concrete action. So, let her help you form the foundation of a sustainable approach to business development success.
Owner of consultancy agency, The Sutter Company, Jody advises agencies – both big and small – on how best to organize and operationalize their growth strategy. This has led to more than two decades running business development teams for various agencies, spanning a diverse list of disciplines and including such high-profile names as R/GA, OMD, Havas Media, and The VIA Agency.
Jody frequently speaks at leading global industry events, including INBOUND, the ICA’s Agency Transformation Summit, The Drum’s Pitch Perfect new business conference, and is a featured instructor in the 4As Learning & Development Program. Her book, A Small Agency’s Guide to Winning New Business: 8 Steps to Winning More of the Right Kinds of Clients, is now available on Amazon.com.
After chucking in ‘city life’, moving from Manhattan to the Hamptons, Jody can be found engaging in her other passions. These including sailing and open-water swimming, alongside her partner, Rudy.
Points of Interest…
- Keys to a successful new business strategy 3:09
- Tailoring a bespoke business strategy 5:13
- Defining the correct cadence for your New Business Ecosystem 10:36
- New business plan accountability 15:05
- Avoid the ‘Sexy Unicorn Sales Person’ 22:30
Keys to a Successful New Business Strategy
“Aw shucks, that’s about the nicest intro I’ve ever gotten – thank you!” My patented intro dispensed, Jody and I dive into how she operationalizes “small” agencies, which typically consist of between five and 55 people.
To put it in the simplest of terms; if a CEO (a term which Jody uses as “a proxy for a partner, founder, owner, co-founder, and so on”) isn’t at the races from the offset, things are more inclined to career off the track sooner rather than later.
The key to all of it? Ultimately knowing – and playing to – one’s strengths.
“I try not to encourage people to do things they think they should do – but they don’t like – and aren’t good at. Instead, we look at what they are good at, and the types of personalities that they have. Then, I prescribe the right program for that.”
Jody breaks her keys down thusly…
- The CEO must set the pace and goals, and accept accountability
- This CEO should define and play to their concrete strengths
- Consistency over time is consistent execution; this is only attainable by analysis and measurement
While the latter may not sound sexy (to some); devoting the correct amount of time for analysis is a very necessary component to obtaining the holy grail in any agency – consistent data.
Tailoring a Bespoke Business Strategy
Let’s assume you’re an agency that doesn’t have a formal process in place. You are, however, trying to get things a tad tighter around new business. How should you define the correct strategy for your agency, and what might the thought process behind that be?
In Jody’s experience, you need to consider the following…
- Understand what you do best – including what makes you different plus what your clients value most about you
- Have a clear focus on your target audience, including an ideal client profile
- Define your messaging strategy
“Based on that strategic positioning – the stuff that you’re best known for doing – you must then translate that into a messaging strategy your ideal clients will react to.”
When you have those foundational pieces in place, then you can start talking about execution. When discussing implementation, Jody addresses a tool she uses entitled her ‘New Business Ecosystem’. It helps CEOs define what they should be doing, instead of what they think they should be doing.
“I like to start out by asking; ‘What is the one thing that you and your team are best suited to?’ and ‘What is going to get you to your goals fastest and most effectively?’ Then, I usually add ‘Well, what’s one more thing?’… So, I called it an ecosystem. Like a natural ecosystem – you want to add things to your ecosystem that are right for that environment, things that are going to promote growth.”
For example, Jody wouldn’t ask a naturally introverted CEO, who doesn’t relish shooting the breeze with strangers, to go nail an outbound prospecting program straight away. Perhaps this CEO would be better suited to coordinating thought leadership? For example, by penning a book that could be leveraged towards generating new business leads.
To put it another way; if you pick something you dread, the mere prospect of which creates a pit of fear in your belly – the chances of you being consistent at it will be pretty low. The reality is, you might be missing out by trying to do too much/things that aren’t a good fit.
The Correct Cadence for Your New Business Ecosystem
You’ve commenced with this new activity/business plan, tailored to your strengths/personality. Great. Now, how do you start defining the right cadence for you and your team?
According to Jody, you need to check in with your team (understandably) on a regular basis. Usually, specific items require addressing on a weekly, quarterly and annual basis.
- It’s imperative to have an Annual roadmap, stating “this is what we’re doing” and “this is why we’re doing it.”
- Quarterly is a solid period of time whereby you feel you have enough of it to accomplish a goal, or – as Jody calls it, an “always improving project” – yet not quite enough time to put things off.
- Weekly goals are twofold. They include A) stuff you’ve already committed to (some form of business outreach either via the phone, or lead-generating content), and B) maintaining your Always Improving Projects. For example, it could be devising ways of subsidizing a lead-generating blog, or podcast, or webinars strategy.
New Business Plan Accountability
As things invariably get busier in your business, oftentimes – in the smaller agencies – the founder is going to get increasingly pulled into managing clients, work, this, that, and the other… Unfortunately, when this happens, regular cadences and consistent process implementation can take a back seat.
With that in mind, how can you stay accountable to your new business plan? How can you ensure that – even when there’s lots of work coming in – you can still cultivate those new work options?
Apart from the expected psychological factors that come to the fore (be it the fear that no one could possibly take over a facet of your existing workload and execute it nearly as well as you), there are also tactical hurdles to overcome.
“One of the simplest yet most effective – yet brutally objective – things I have my clients do is measure their success weekly. So, when we commit to certain weekly activities, whether those are recurring activities or always improving projects, we take note of our score. We commit to the activities we’re going to do, to get us to our goals. At the end of the week, we look at the results and we say, ‘Did we do everything we were supposed to do?'”
Then, over the course of time (again, “consistent execution”) you can see if your score stays nice and steady, preferably around 85%. If your score goes up, chances are the set goals are too achievable. Conversely, if your steady score starts slipping, you’ve either assigned yourself the wrong activities/goals, or too many of the aforementioned. You should adjust as needed.
To enforce accountability, Jody recommends a weekly or bi-weekly status meeting. So, if you’re finding it challenging to see progress, maybe try a biweekly meeting, as that may make you feel more positive about what you have achieved.
Regarding how best to be held accountable; if it’s not an outside resource – such as hiring Jody – you can alternatively nominate an internal accountability buddy you can rely on.
Avoid the ‘Sexy Unicorn Sales Person’…
Picture the scene. You’ve applied Jody’s New Business Ecosystem. You’ve executed this great process and you’re now six months down the road. What next?! The agency owner believes the sole to solve any new business qualms is to bring in the ‘Sexy Unicorn Sales Person.’ Who is this person of myth and legend?! Well, they usually boast a wealth of industry experience and have all the tools to fix almost anything. They’re going to bring a bunch of business with them, and create this magical process that works – and then none of it works out like anyone expected.
What is the optimum way to consider bringing someone in to take over parts of this new business strategy, in order to scale? In Jody’s vast experience, it simply doesn’t make sense to hire a charismatic new sales wizard, or biz dev brainiac, until you reach the next level of growth. We’re talking team expansion of a hundred plus people.
“For a lot of agencies that sell either strategic or creative products, hiring a salesperson also does not always work. This ‘magic salesperson’ is probably more used to selling things that are more tangible. They’re used to being supported by marketing, and they’re used to some operational infrastructure. Oftentimes, that’s why it doesn’t work out.”
It may be hard for owners to hear, but – if you’re selling a custom product on your strategic thinking, your personal creativity, or that of your team – often your existing/prospective clients will ONLY want to deal with the owner.
That can be a compelling position to be in, to go out to prospects and say, “Look, I know I’m the owner, and I’m responsible for the growth, the work we do, and the special ‘secret sauce’.” It’s very hard to replicate the power of that message via a junior, or even a senior BD person, in a smaller agency. It just doesn’t have the same sort of authenticity.
It doesn’t always have to be this way, of course. You simply need to embrace your ‘secret sauce’ responsibility, while sourcing ways to support you. This could be via your team, via outsourcing, or via other tools.
Often the answer/solution can be found internally rather than externally.
Every good sales org I’ve seen that successfully scales does so through consistent measuring. They measure the activity that they’re doing, then they measure the results of that. They use data to kind of help them understand what’s happening, and a clear cadence..
For example, they always have a cadence to check in with their sales team and review their sales calls – even if it’s reviewing sales calls of themselves and taking notes about what they can do to improve.
Simply put, they are consistently building their processes and playbooks. It is very much a living thing.
Want to see more from Jody? You can do that via…
- YouTube – ‘Just Ask Jody’
- The Sutter Company
- New Business Ecosystem guide
- [email protected]
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! Our next installment of #APP, on March 10th, will see us chat with Dan Englander. While our previous blog with Dev Basu is over here...
Marcel is an agency profitability optimization consultant, keynote speaker and the CEO of Parakeeto. He’s on a mission to help the average agency get the information they need to be more profitable. From sharing educational content and resources to creating tools at Parakeeto to make measuring the most important metrics easier – everything he does is aimed at making agency profitability more accessible.
Agency Profitability Tool Kit
If you’re looking for more resources to help you improve your agency’s profitability, check out the Agency Profitability Tool Kit. It’s full of the same templates and checklists we’ve used with consulting clients to help them improve profitability by over 100% – in under 60 days.
Download the Agency Profitability Toolkit!
Get the same templates & guides we use with consulting clients to get them results fast.