By Dick Grove
As CEO of a small public relations firm I spend much of my time on new business…accounts
that will be both interesting and challenging to our army of pros as well as profitable to the
back office staff. And as many of you in this industry know, the two are not always
compatible. Even if rainmaking has become more of sifting through referrals than cold
calling, it’s still requires a skill set and mental discipline developed through experience and
over time. Plus, finding that rare new client that is both fun to work on and produces solid
revenue is often as difficult as hitting an inside curveball or as daunting as driving the lane
clogged by an NBA center.
Sure, there are actually specialists these days that rent themselves out as rainmakers-for-
hire; and most of the larger PR firms have at least a designated new businessperson or even
a whole department dedicated to seeing the pipeline is always full. More often than not,
these new biz pros know more about sales technique than PR, or how a new client might or
might not fit the culture or business sense of the firm. They might win a game or two, but
not sure they have the consistency for a whole season.
I remember a very successful ad exec and mentor of mine telling me when asked who
handled new business for his global firm…”Me”, he emphatically stated. “I’m the guy with
the passion and the name on the door…and most importantly, know the people behind it.”
I’ve followed a similar philosophy for my firm over the years, and while it may not work for
some larger more anonymous PR institutions, it’s worked for us in welcoming the kinds of
clients that best fit us. We’re fortunate that referrals from current and past clients along
with internet and social media inquiries make up the bulk of our prospects today, but each
still has to be researched and carefully followed up with to determine whether the story is
there, the compatibility exists, and it can be a profitable relationship for both us. I happen to
enjoy this and prefer not to delegate something I believe is this important to our survival
No matter the new business methodology employed however, the metrics of success are as
clear as a ball game…you either win or you lose. Yes, you may go to extra innings or
overtime, but there are no “kissing your sister” ties, only winning or losing. You land the
account or you don’t. And when you do, it’s exhilarating and heady stuff. When you don’t, it
sucks. Sound familiar? The big difference from this sports analogy of course, is that when
the new business game is over and the celebrating has ceased, then the real work begins.
And, of course, there’s no Hall of Fame.