Synopsis: in about 1000 words, I address the notion of the “Magic Rolodex”, New Business Hunter, and their relevance in the New Normal. I even squeak a Ted Nugent reference in, for good measure.

Hunters and Prey…
Not all that long ago (1980’s – 1996), it was possible for a New Business person to generate, billable work by beating the bushes and hammering away at their contacts. Today, I cringe when I hear the word “Hunter”, but the word Hunter, is one that is still oft used, when describing New Business talent. “He’s a great Hunter”…bringing it home…” Oh yeah.

Business people became contacts, when you got their business card – an important talisman for the Hunter of yore. Business cards were stored, most often, in a cool device called a Rolodex, proudly displayed, an odd homage to Industrial Design, on a desk, in an office.

Presumably, the fatter the Rolodex, the more connected the owner. Through attending industry events, conferences, trade shows, and appointments, and over time, you could fatten up your Rolodex up to the point; maybe, where it had some Magic in it.

What is a Magic Rolodex? What is its value?
The Magic Rolodex had enough viable, current contacts and suppliers in it, that, if you “worked it hard enough”, you could drum up some billable work, when things got slow.

Given the reality, and this description, it becomes clear that the magic Rolodex had woefully little magic in it, and in fact, it was a lot of work to keep the damn thing current, and in a usable state. It’s a struggle to keep your contact file trimmed down, to contain only qualified, solid prospects. Do some “let’s get real”, hardcore filtering, and your Rolodex gets real thin, real quick. It’s a little disconcerting at first, and definitely scary.

I mean, who wants an empty Rolodex sitting on their desks, for all to see?

Not surprising, the bulky, dual rail Rolodex found favor during, what I call the PUSH Marketing era – as did many other bloaty, self-centered, clueless, talking-at-you tools and tactics. A New Business person was an in-bulk, broadcaster: wrote letters, made phone calls, created FileMaker databases on a Macintosh SE, spoke at conferences (if they were able) – and found/leveraged whatever was at their disposal, to find business opportunity for their company.

It was fun, travel had not quite achieved Greyhound Bus status and you got to meet a lot of smart people – and make a good living.

Snagging & Sniping, making the Magic Rolodex perform
In that day, prospects, even executive level prospects, took phone calls. Recall the 7am, “snag the CEO at his desk” tactic? Sadly, that only worked once. Believe it or not, some exec’s answered letters, and were open to meet people/subject matter experts who’d bring real knowledge (and not simply information), and maybe share some catered breakfast goodies.

The best New Business people didn’t try to sell, I thought of us as “on-boarders”, we facilitated prospects “transitioning” to becoming clients. We delivered our Company’s best work; to qualified prospects: presentations, proposals,case studies, thought leadership insights, etc.

At it’s very best, New Business was, and still is about matchmaking, developing relationships with folks you really don’t know, but with who you share an agenda.

It is not about slam dunking RFP’s and producing over the top pitches. Those types of things don’t bode well, because, honestly – you are simply not listening, you are … performing – and that’s an instant relationship killer – even at the Enterprise level.

If we are going to be successful in the long run, we have to make sure we bring the very best, most well-suited and aligned clients in-house. Think on it, if you want to prepare a chocolate lover for a good, long-term experience, don’t deliver vanilla.

Figure out: are you looking for Clients or Projects? There is a big difference, and that decision will affect your approach and behavior.

This whole line of thinking is counter to a “sales” mentality, in my opinion – and so incentivization needs to reflect it. Both employer and employee should be committed to the long run, and all of the challenges you KNOW you will face, including failure. One, must have the others back…

I like my New Business well done….
New Business is about matching your company’s capability, with a client company’s need, and making billable work happen over the “long run”. This activity includes the myriad of attendant details involved with making that happen, including being blessed by a crack in the window of opportunity.

So, yeah, that was then, days of glory – meh. I had to dig around in our storage bin to find my old Rolodex, no one, me included, cares about that stuff anymore. Seems a million light years ago. To a digital native, it IS a million years ago.

Everything is different today, except the need for revenue.

It’s a.. Free for All.. as per the Nuge
Bless the Internet; it has disrupted everything to the point where, as Ted Nugent opined, “it’s a free for all” . There are no clear rules, the landscape is perpetually alien, and only the crafty, fearless, attentive and smart survive.

You have to understand how to Pull qualified prospects towards you, because “hammering away” trying to set appointments, chasing folks on the phone (or email) will net you a sore ear, crappy mood and the need for a stiff drink by noon. You’ll probably tick a few folks off too….

The Magic Rolodex, if it was ever alive, is now officially dead. Ok?
Hunters, gah, that term, lets consider that passé and dead too, please?

In Summary:
So…What do you say, where is the Magic today How do you make it happen?
Well, there is no magic.

The hard cold, yet liberating fact is, New Business Development is not rocket science, there is only work to do – if you want to enjoy the trifecta of revenue, good clients and a sustainable pipeline of new business opportunities.

The body of work that results in that perfect state, those functions and activities: Outbound Messaging, Editorial Development, Content Creation, Thought Leadership, Event Participation and Attendance, Sales (yes, even Sales) and Public Relations, that in aggregate, help make it happen for a business?

All of that work and effort?

It’s falls under the umbrella of New Business Development.

stephenberner @ me.com