Fear of Failure in Agency New Business

fear of failure in agency new business

Is there a fear of failure in agency new business departments? Many new business teams seem to be scared of sending their MD or CEO in to meet with someone who isn’t the perfect prospect, with a budget, ready to buy; the whole purpose of the role is forgotten and very few meetings are set because everyone agrees that ‘quality is better than quantity’. Poppycock. You can and must have both.

In the book ‘Art & Fear’ by David Bayes and Ted Orland there is a wonderful story that can be a parable for our agency new business teams and their masters.

There was a ceramics teacher who, on the first day of term, divided his class into two groups. Half the students were told they would be graded on the quality of their work; by the end of term they were to have designed and made one, perfect, pot. The other half were to be graded on quantity. On the last day of term they would get an A for 50lb of pots, a B for 40lb, and so on.

The results were counterintuitive but revealing. The works of highest quality were all produced by the group graded for quantity. Why? Because they were trying, failing, learning. Those being graded for the perfect pot never took any risks which is why they didn’t grow.

This is ‘the curse of perfectionism’ and many MDs and CEOs should take note. Allow your new business teams the discretion and bravery to try new things. To fail. Don’t over estimate the value of ‘opportunity cost’. We had a client once whose new business department was charged by the hour for the time he spent attending the meetings they set up for him. So only if he came out winning the business did they ever have any chance of getting bonuses.That is why there may be a fear of failure in agency new business.