When agencies talk about their new business needs, they often say they need someone with a ‘big rolodex’. Even though no one actually uses rolodexes anymore, we all know what they mean. They want someone who already has relationships with their top prospects - who comes walking in with a list of friends in high places he can easily put in front of the agency. While it’s true that the quickest way to an introduction is through a trusted friend or colleague, the myth is that one person can have the contacts that are right for your agency. I’ll give you an example, which would be laughable if it weren't so heartbreaking. One very large and well-known ad agency had a struggling office that it wanted to help. Senior executives knew a guy with a ‘big rolodex’ who committed to getting the agency into some top level meetings right away. All he needed was $60k for three months of introductions (up front). Done. But when he actually met with the business development team in this office, he discovered that the companies they wanted to talk to (based on their experience, cases and capabilities) were not companies where he had friends. He couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to meet with his friends who admittedly worked at great places. After three months, he wasn’t able to set up a single meeting with the companies they wanted, so he walked away $60k richer, and the struggling agency got stuck with the bill. The lesson here is two-fold. One: A good new business person doesn’t need a rolodex. She just needs an ability to talk to your top prospects about the problems you solve in a way that will make them care. Two: Be very leery of a person who promotes his or her ‘rolodex’. In my experience they are mercenaries who have no formal sales training and no real process beyond taking their buddies out to lunch (on your tab). Good new business people don’t sell their relationships. They make them.

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