Tell us about yourself and what you do in your current position.
As a seasoned agency new business development specialist, I’ve been fueling the growth of The Brandon Agency for 18 years, seeing us grow from one office with 35 employees to now six offices and over 85 employees. After receiving my MBA degree in Marketing from The University of South Carolina, I started my career on the client-side as a brand/marketing manager for Titleist and Footjoy Worldwide. From there, I entered the world of sponsorship sales for the Senior PGA Tour. Eventually, my path lead me into the agency realm back in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I was actually hired to sell the South Carolina Tourism Partnership Marketing Program for the agency’s largest client. Having sold through my inventory, I was then promoted to a dual role of sales and Account Management. Today, I lead the new business development activities for The Brandon Agency. My primary role is connecting with qualified prospects via a multitude of ways—inbound/outbound marketing, generating new leads, responding to inbound leads, being the external ambassador of the agency, and “fishing where the fish are” via face-to-face connections with the industries in which we operate and prospects within those categories.
How would you define the business development role?
My job is to cost-efficiently (and time-efficiently, as well) generate a steady stream of new business opportunities, leveraging my sales gifts and supporting team, and then converting these to agency wins. I open doors, seek out new opportunities, network to the fullest degree and generally find a way to rapidly establish connections with client-side professionals who will eventually hire TBA. A key factor to our new business success is establishing a strong relationship from the first interaction, winning their confidence early in the process, and uncovering the key nuances that will allow our agency to win against the competition.
What’s your background and how/why did you move into business development?
I am hyper-competitive from a lifetime spent playing sports and an extrovert. I wake up everyday, ready to tackle this very difficult job because I LOVE TO WIN. It keeps me going, gets me over the “no’s” and drives me to go above and beyond to generate new business. My prior career experience makes the perfect recipe for a successful new business person. I have been on the client side, in direct sales and a senior level account manager on the agency side. This allows me to have the perspective of both the client and agency, combined with a highly aggressive sales mentality.
How has the role in general (not just your own) evolved over the past few years?
Although technology and the internet/digital age have profoundly impacted the way we do business, the core essence of agency new business development has not changed. Yes, we have a myriad of digital tools to streamline the process, connect and dazzle, but at the end of the day we are still “hunters” seeking a strong personal and agency connection. The biggest difference is the “inventory” that we have to sell (ie. agency services) in that we have to understand a much more complex myriad of agency deliverables.
Do you have a most memorable account win? Why?
I would have to say the Daytona Beach CVB/Tourism account. We had zero presence in the state of Florida despite being destination marketing experts in the Carolinas. After attending the Florida Tourism Conference for several years and building relationships, we finally got a chance to pitch only to finish second, missing out by a single (Board Member) vote. We stayed in touch, kept the relationship strong, and sharpened our sword for the next opportunity which we won last October with our best pitch ever. I think losing the first time around was a blessing in disguise as it made us better. In the first six months, our results are through the roof, so I see good things ahead.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in maintaining a successful client relationship
I would have to say staying involved in the business to keep the relationship strong, but at the same time, being able to hand off the day to day to your account team. Relationships are easy if you can invest the time and know what makes the client tick. That is probably both the biggest challenge and most rewarding component of the client-agency dynamic.
What advice would you give to somebody entering the industry who might be interested in a new business role?
Sell something first. It is imperative that you develop the instinctive nature of selling, knowing what to say and when to say it. And most importantly, you absolutely must have negotiating skills in this business or you will make bad deals for the agency. And that only comes by knowing how to sell something. I would also say, it is a blast to be in this seat—no two days are alike and you get to see the most interesting places and people. Life is too short to stay in the office. Get out there and you will be amazed by what happens.