The Biz Dev 100: Ed Walker, business development director, Foolproof

Welcome to The Biz Dev 100, powered by The BD 100, which aims to recognize and celebrate important role played in the media and marketing industry by those who source and bring in new customers and keep the fortunes of businesses on track.

Ed Walker

Below is Ed Walker, one of those at the top of their field who work in the UK biz dev sector.

Name: Ed Walker

Job Title: Business development director

Agency: Foolproof

What were your highlights of last year?

Exceeding target and winning work from emerging FinTechs in Europe. Expanding our team with recruitment from within. Winning pitches against Management Consultancies as well as Product and Service Design agencies we admire.

What has been your most memorable win - and why?

In my second job, I worked in a new business consultancy undertaking outbound new business prospecting on behalf of agencies. One of my clients had a new integrated offer (it was 2004/5) and I'd recently implemented an idea about contacting recently appointed CEOS, which I wanted to test out. I read of one CEO in the FT, working in a FTSE100 business and quickly put together an email to contact him. I got a meeting which led to a £20m account win, securing work above and below the line. It was even more memorable as the news made the front page of Marketing Magazine and Campaign.

How would you describe your approach to business development?

Outwardly it’s relaxed but with a strong attention to detail. Outwardly a good listener, but sure to get my point across at the right time. Softly, softly - so no hard sell. Foolproof's approach to design requires a deep understanding of the people we are designing for. This too applies in an RFP and pitch situation. We have to understand the clients, their motivations and their vision for what good looks like. This means that we insist on face time with a client and so often turn down opportunities that keep us at arm’s length. I listen a lot and try to ask questions that reveal the information that sits behind the RFP. When we do pitch, we really go for it, spending time getting to know the company's customers to understand how they really feel when using their products or services. And sometimes, we build on this by working up a visionary prototype for the future customer experience. Importantly it’s a team effort, so while I might be the main point of contact with the client during the pitch process, I’m working with a team of people including experience strategists, UX consultants, designers, project managers and the business founders. It’s a big responsibility to ensure that everything is being done to deliver a great pitch. But I enjoy the frantic nature of this part of the process, it’s the waiting for the answer I find hard.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“You’ve got two ears and one mouth Ed. Use them in that ratio”.

What would be your number one tip to anyone starting in business development?

It’s never personal when you lose, so try not to take it as such. If you get a ‘No’, it’s not a rejection of you. So try and learn how to switch off everything when you get the chance to. Business development is very exciting, it’s the lifeblood of any agency and the thrill of the chase, understanding people and how to persuade them is fascinating but takes a lot of craft and energy. With the effort and excitement comes stress. Different people experience stress in different ways and therefore everyone needs to find their own way to cope with it. Win or lose, we always regroup as a team for a beer afterward to get closure. For me, after we’ve pitched I always have a sense of anti-climax. The time after a pitch and hearing the result is always the hardest. To unwind, I like to swim, ride my bike or cook.

What is your new business soundtrack?

It all depends on what stage we’re at. If I’m reading a brief, I need to focus, so it’s something calm, probably a bit folky, Nerina Pallot, Vance Joy, Jack Savoretti, Fleetwood Mac or Steely Dan. If I’m writing a proposal I need something that I can switch on and just start to write – normally house music.

As we prep for the pitch, it’s teamwork, so there is less music involved, but I always listen to music on my way into work, whether I’m preparing for a pitch or not. If I am, it’s always positive and loud, most likely disco (a mix by Bill Brewster or Greg Wilson) or indie; something that makes me walk faster.

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