Agency Quotes: “We don’t do Business Development”

I pretty much spat my coffee across the room when I heard the immortal words, “We don’t do Bus Dev”.

I knew I was in front of one of two types of agency:

Either they were so brilliant that their work, track record, results and testimonials acted like an amazing client magnet.

Or they were living in a car crash in slow motion.

I am afraid that 90% of people who say they don’t do bus dev mean that they are petrified of asking for business in any form and therefore their agency will be suffering severely. The remaining 10% who say they don’t do bus dev just think they don’t do it because they don’t have an official sales or marketing or business development director. But actually, everything they say, write or do oozes big, sophisticated, signals like “you are safe if you buy from us” – their brand and what they stand for is what does the selling (or bus dev) for them!

Let’s talk about the 90% who say they don’t do bus dev. Here is a shortened list of their excuses (or reasons):

  • You can’t measure the ROI or attribution
  • You don’t know what will and what won’t work
  • We don’t need to; our work speaks for itself
  • You spend time writing proposals that people will never read
  • Fed up of going to pitch fests we never win
  • It makes more sense to focus on doing the work; something always turns up eventually
  • None of our big contracts came from our bus dev efforts.


Pathetic really. These are agency people who have forgotten what they sell themselves. They have no faith in the very process that they sell to clients. More importantly, they seem to have forgotten what they learnt in Sales and Marketing 101 course they attended way back when.

Sorry to get a bit preachy. A systematic process of identifying and engaging a specific psychographic profile with highly-targeted messages will generate a cost-effective stream of leads. Sales and marketing is all about segmentation and differentiation, messaging and engaging in a compelling way. Making sure that cost of customer acquisition is less than lifetime net profit. Having a clear, quantifiable value proposition and consistently working your system will generate the leads you are looking for.

Unless your offer is pants. Or your reputation is pants. Or you offer no overt business benefit. Or you offer no real reason for customers to believe that you can deliver. Or you can’t demonstrate a dramatic difference between you and the competition. Or your ability to write a proposal and deliver it on time is pants. Or your ability to close is pants.

If having a great sales system generates leads for the high-performing agencies, then why do you think it wouldn’t work for you?


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