Here's 3 Key Ways Ketchum UK's Business Development Director Wins New Clients.

Jason Papp
December 26, 2023

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With past and present clients including Samsung, Philips and Mastercard, we spoke with Janita Lakhanpal and find out her perspective and approach to winning new business.

You began your business development career in the winter of 2009. Tell us about that starting point. What were your assumptions about the profession?

I started my career as an unpaid intern for three months at a PR agency. It was known for its cultural and campaigning work with clients such as World Book Day and The Booker Prize. I loved the pace of agency life and daily challenges from the outset, which kept me on an uphill learning curve. As the internship ended, I was certain that comms was the sector for me, and I just hadn't discovered my niche.

It wasn't until a few years (and agencies) later that I moved from being client-facing to business development. I was working for a boutique agency, and the CEO and I discussed expanding my remit to include growing the business. With no formal training or business development network to fall back on, I rolled up my sleeves and began attending trade shows across the UK.

It didn't take long to perfect my sales pitch and to be able to gauge within the first 30 seconds if a conversation would lead to a meaningful opportunity.

You could say my assumptions about the comms industry back then were naïve. My working life was very much through the lens of being a junior account executive who worked hard and played harder (I still have fond memories of T3 magazine parties!).

I wasn't privy to and hadn't grasped the business acumen of what it takes to run an agency profitably and the management and infrastructure that goes along with it.

As I look back on the people and the agencies I was a part of, one thing remained constant: a passion for the craft of public relations and a desire to make a difference.

How important is it for a business development professional to create systems for inbound leads? What does keeping tabs on industry intelligence look like for your team?

It's imperative. You cannot underestimate the importance of a robust marketing strategy. Showcasing client work, thought leadership, awards, partnerships, progression in diversity and inclusion, and having an active voice/opinion are vital metrics for cultivating leads.

Industry intelligence, for me, is all about being and staying connected. I constantly discuss trade news with my team and peers, read articles on LinkedIn, share podcasts and book recommendations, and connect with the broader network on the latest local and global trends and topics.

Clichéd as it sounds, you need to have your finger on the pulse at all times.

In a previous role with Ketchum, you acted as a 'pitch doctor'. What do you think is the biggest challenge when it comes to pitching right now?

The hybrid way of working is here to stay. As such, building real and tangible chemistry in a virtual setting continues to be a challenge. There's nothing quite like being in a room with ideas freely flowing and clients and agencies harnessing the power to co-create, co-collaborate, and get to know each other. Similarly, challenges are preparing and rehearsing for a pitch virtually, which adds pressure for our work to perform that much harder.

What advice would you give to a junior business development professional tasked with pulling together a creds deck?

Ask yourself three things.

1) What will the client remember from these credentials, and what feelings have I evoked as a result?

2) If I switched the title or logo on the front, could I reuse these credentials for another prospect? (If so, it's too generic, and you need to start again.)

3) Have I meaningfully answered and gone beyond the brief/request?

Speaking of juniors, when it comes to business development training, what was available to you when you started, and what would you encourage those starting out to embrace now?

I relied on my line manager and senior leaders to counsel and challenge me to gain experience and learn. As a new business manager, I was presenting at company meetings and joining global network calls. Yes, it was daunting, but their faith and the sense of belonging at the agency gave me the confidence to believe in myself.

If you changed your career tomorrow, what would you likely be doing? What are your two biggest learnings from your career so far?

I would be an advocate for greater representation, diversity and inclusion in the comms industry. This would include benchmarking where agencies fall short, championing best practices and providing a network for ethnic minorities seeking a career or progression in PR to create equal opportunities.

My two biggest learnings from my career are this. First, a team that you can collaborate with, be yourself around, learn from, be honest with and share a laugh or tear with is priceless.

Second, as intense as pitching and pitch processes can be, always take time out for yourself. Rest, reflect and re-energise.

The last question: we're in London it's 3 pm, we're feeling peckish: where do you suggest we go for a) afternoon tea or b) a good coffee and pastry?

Taj 51 hotel in Central London has a mouth-watering afternoon tea selection – a must-try! As for the second, Black Sheep Coffeemine's a medium black americano with a cinnamon bun or waffle ;)

Jason Papp
Founder & Editor-in-chief