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The New New Business: Megan Leigh Wright on Loving What You Sell

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Birth UK's head of new business on taking advice with a pinch of salt, growing solidarity between reps and the importance of knowing your audience

The New New Business: Megan Leigh Wright on Loving What You Sell

Earlier this year Megan Leigh Wright joined BIRTH UK as their head of new business. Megan did not come into the role blind - she was previously at Darling Films - Ridley Scott Creative Group for almost four years representing a roster of 20 directors and prior to that she was a Production Assistant at Another Film Company working on some of the UK’s top campaigns.

Following a hugely successful 2021 under the stewardship of BIRTH UK EP Kate Elson, Leigh Wright is instrumental in building BIRTH UK’s already impressive directors’ roster, championing their work and creating ongoing opportunities for them. 


LBB> What was your first sale or new business win? (Was it a big or small job? How difficult or scary was it? What do you remember about how you felt? What lessons did you learn?)

Megan> It was a Kettle Chips commercial film with a good friend of mine from Joint, an agency which later went on to be a repeat client of ours. Reflecting on it now I am proud to have achieved that on my first win. I don’t remember feeling scared, but I do remember feeling anxious to win it. The pressure of sales never eases but you do become more confident in what you do and how you do it. I learnt the importance of knowing your director, not just their work, but how they work, who they are, little scraps of information that help the agency get the essence and understanding of who they are and what they can bring to the piece. It’s not as straightforward as selling ‘a director’, we are selling a person, sharing their talent and what separates them from anyone else.


LBB> What was the best piece of advice you got early on? 

Megan> You need to love what you sell.

You have to be passionate about the talent and company you choose to represent, you could be a fantastic salesperson but to be the best you need to believe in the talent you are sharing. 


LBB> And the worst?

Megan> I have learnt to take people's advice with a pinch of salt. This is an industry that is marvellously full of opinions. Feedback is really valuable but you have to have the confidence to filter it and not take everything on board. Only the individual will know what does and doesn't work for them.  


LBB> How has the business of ‘selling’ in the creative industry changed since you started?

Megan> The great news is that reps have increasingly been seen as an invaluable resource for agencies. The pressure on agency producers and creatives is immense and the number of directors is equally huge. The best reps are hugely trusted and relied upon as problem solvers. It is important for that reason to not just sell for selling's sake, creative integrity has to be your primary objective. Winning a job is great but for ongoing relationships, it has to be for the right reasons for both director and agency. 

I’ve also noticed the growing solidarity between reps. These relationships for me have grown over the years, we are a very supportive group and for such a competitive role, I think that it is a testament to us all that we have built it that way.


LBB> Can anyone be taught to sell or do new business or do you think it suits a certain kind of personality?

Megan> I don’t think sales is for everyone, you have to be a people person and in my opinion, that is not something you can teach. You also have to be extremely self-motivated, if you are not self-motivated in sales you will struggle to see results. That being said, there is no doubt a lot to learn when it comes to New Business and the landscape is constantly changing so you have to constantly be on your toes!


LBB> What are your thoughts about the process of pitching that the industry largely runs on? (e.g. How can it be improved - or does it need to be done away with completely? Should businesses be paid to pitch? What are your thoughts about businesses completely refusing to engage in pitching? How can businesses perform well without ‘giving ideas away for free?)

Megan> I don’t think pitching is something to be abolished, it gives directors a fair shot and allows opportunities for new directors to rise. The treatment process is not only a vehicle to win the job, it is part of the job. Some form of pitching is helpful as it provides both the production company and agency with a template to budget as well as explains how the film will unfold and how it will be told.

However, I feel the 70 pager is both too time/cost-intensive for the production company to prepare and for agencies and clients to read. A cap on the length of treatment, and a commitment to not accept treatments over a certain length, I believe, would help go part way to solving the pitch conundrum. We manage well to fit a lot of information into a 30-second film, so we should be able to apply a similar discipline to a shorter treatment!

Creatives on the whole say they can usually tell from the first few pages if the director has or has not got it, sometimes even by the pitch call. In recent discussions with agencies, there does seem to be an appetite to streamline treatments and I think it is something the whole production industry would welcome.


LBB> How do you go about tailoring your selling approach according to the kind of person or business you’re approaching?

Megan> It’s hugely important to know your audience and show work that is relevant to the brands the agency works with. It’s good to surprise and always great to make someone laugh!  So, I tweak here and there but I always show our best work and I’ve always been the sort of person that can adjust to different personalities. It’s an important part of selling to be able to judge the room and those around you and to move on if for any reason you’re not getting the expected reaction. Some days something works, other days, however great the work is, it can still fall flat. 


LBB> How important is cultural understanding when it comes to selling internationally? (And if you have particular experience on this front, what advice do you have?)

Megan> I think cultural understanding is important always, at Birth I have the pleasure of representing a wealth of talent from all over the world. Understanding how our cultures differ is the exciting part of sharing their work. What is it that they can offer that another can’t? What perspective do they have that could be integral to the campaign or what experiences have they had that will shape their take on a certain job? We are building a progressive, diverse world so these collaborations of cultures are more prevalent than ever, it’s exciting! Understanding the culture you are selling in is also very important.

For example, our two latest signings Rafa Damy (Brazilian) and Laëtitia Ramamonjisoa (French-Malagasy) bring unique takes on the world, their background and experience have an undeniable effect on how and why they create and It’s a privilege to get to represent them. As a company, we think it’s important to grow and adjust to each other's ways of working, challenging production in a good way, reinventing the wheel to allow us to be a platform for fresh, exciting and relevant content. 


LBB> New business and sales can often mean hearing ‘no’ a lot and quite a bit of rejection - how do you keep motivated?

Megan> I never hear the word No! It is much more layered than that. Our job is to introduce our directors to agencies and I think it’s important to remember that if the reel has been watched or better yet if you get the chance to pitch then that is a win in itself. It means the creatives have got a chance to see our director's reel, analyse it and understand their vision. It may not have worked on that job but it doesn’t mean it won’t work for the next. Getting to pitch is half the battle. That said I do still feel hugely disappointed, especially for our director, if we don’t win! But when you do win it’s an awesome feeling.   

I also think it’s the company you have around you that keeps you motivated. I’m not just talking about the company you work for and the talent you represent although that is by far the most important, but also the friends and people you meet along the way. I have a network of people in this industry I can talk to, share concerns with, get advice from and pump me up when I need, as I do for them in their time of need. This is the beauty of an industry and it’s the people who make it that. 


LBB> The advertising and marketing industry often blurs the line between personal and professional friendships and relationships… does this make selling easier or more difficult and delicate?

Megan> I think the beauty and success of our industry is because we CAN create those friendships.  The relationships we forge gain trust and we always want to work with those we respect and value. Yes, the relationship can sometimes get a bit blurred but like any relationship, it has to be treated with respect and care taken not to abuse it, stick to this and whatever happens on a job a friendship should neither become difficult nor delicate. 

So, no I don’t think it’s difficult, it is one of the pleasures of my job! 


LBB> In your view what’s the key to closing a deal?

Megan> The key to closing a deal is getting to the core of the idea from the beginning, understanding the creative's visions and ensuring you have got all the information possible for your director and ensuring your budget matches the creative intentions.

You can deliver the fanciest treatment ever but the content has to be pin sharp for agency and brand.

Our industry is a collaborative effort and this should be instrumental from start to finish. I’ve always said that I never want to restrict my director's thoughts or creativity during the pitch process, they have been selected for a reason and they need to have the freedom to make their stamp on the job. Communication throughout the process though is integral. 


LBB> How is technology and new platforms (from platforms like Salesforce and Hubspot to video calls to social media) changing sales and new business?

Megan> Technology is making the world so much more accessible. The ability to search and find talent these days is at your fingertips, from social media channels to organisations such as Free The Work or She Takes Over. It’s brilliant that our industry is so committed to pushing and sharing undiscovered and underrepresented talent and it’s very exciting that we are in a time that makes it so easy to do so. 

Birth was born eight years ago and Birth UK launched in 2019 and so we’ve certainly used these new platforms to our benefit and adapted the way we work. We have a huge pool of exciting, driven, fresh talent, a number of whom were initially found through social media platforms. 

Additionally, how we present ourselves over the internet and how we present our talent is an important driving focus. It says a lot about who we are as a company and the standards we strive to uphold. Whether it is across social media, our company website or industry publications we all work hard as a team to ensure we showcase our talent in a relevant way to attract the work appropriate to their style and ambition.

 That said these are all additional very helpful tools however I still think you can’t beat a face to face meeting!


LBB> There’s a lot of training for a lot of parts of the industry, but what’s your thoughts about the training and skills development when it comes to selling and new business? 

Megan> I think across our entire industry the best form of learning is on the job and the best form of knowledge is from other people. We are an industry that is so unique in the way it operates - we are a network of people that share information and we all grow together from it.

Specifically from a sales point of view, I think although courses like the APA are aimed at PA/PM’s it is also extremely useful for Sales representatives to gain a better understanding of budgets and productions.


LBB> What’s your advice for anyone who’s not necessarily come up as a salesperson who’s now expected to sell or win new business as part of their role?

Megan> I personally think it’s a mistake for a company to assume that a new business role can be part of an existing role or be handed over to someone who has no keen interest in selling. You wouldn’t ask a rep to produce, so why would you expect a producer or indeed any untrained employee to sell? 

Sales is a distinct role and are the window to your company and the directors you represent. The role needs consistent in-depth knowledge and tenacity to be effective. The individual must fully understand the vision of the company and its talent, you are not just a tool to their belt.

So in answer to that question I would say, say no unless it is something you feel you are passionate about, sales is not a magic wand to be waved about. 

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Birth UK, Tue, 05 Apr 2022 14:16:15 GMT