A great CEO makes the complex simple. But oversimplifying new-business often leaves agencies treating the symptom not the cause.

Einstein said ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. And it was the U.S. Navy that came up with K.I.S.S. – i.e. ‘keep it simple, stupid’ – as a design principle in 1960. Then Bill Clinton famously focused on ‘the economy, stupid’ in 1992.

Simple is good. Focus works.

But given that every new-business challenge eventually boils down to ‘win more clients’, the path to newbiz clarity is beset with oversimplification.

Simple problems, many causes

Even drilling down a little, common complaints around awareness, an empty pipeline or pitch conversion are still broad symptoms, not specific ailments.

Take pitching. From a lack of polish or iffy team dynamics on the day, right back to a failure to say no or a misaligned proposition, a poorly pitch has many causes. Thankfully, once you know which ones, they’re easily cured.

Similarly, agencies often struggle to find newbiz people. The nuances of the task do make hiring a gamble (although you can shorten your odds). But if you’ve kissed a lot of frogs with no joy, are you looking in the wrong pond or – to strangle the metaphor – searching for the wrong amphibian?

Physician, diagnose thyself

Unpicking the hiring example, if there’s no-one good, you’re probably being unrealistic – hunting a superhuman panacea for dozens of contrasting newbiz tasks, from Board responsibility to licking envelopes. Unicorn, anyone?

And if top people are steering clear, remember they’re probing your perception of new-business. From archaic cold-calling engine to enlightened advance party for the rest of the agency, a one-man band or conductor of the orchestra. This tends to uncover some difficult truths…

So if you’re not clear on the problem, how can anyone convince you they’re the right solution?

Find the cause, solve the problem

New-business woes have multiple causes, symptoms and cures. No wonder so-called ’best practice’ only produces average results.

But in such a dynamic, competitive world, newbiz is now an all-encompassing customer experience challenge, evolving from hackneyed tactics to bespoke models fuelled by agency-wide passion and informed by the voice of the client.

This raises the bar, for sure. But let’s face it, you don’t really have a choice.

Break things down, prioritise outcomes over symptoms and deliver change in bite-sized chunks.

And if you’re suffering the persistent headache of an empty pipeline or a run of pitch defeats, take a moment to ask yourself – will necking a Nurofen cure the pain, or should you get a full medical?

Image: Livingwelldementia.org
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