With busy season winding down and summer right around the corner, now is the time to turn our attention to increased business development activities. While you should be developing business year-round, summer is a good time to ramp up your efforts and establish new relationships.
As mentioned before, business development should be a weekly, or even daily, activity. You should be building your referral network, researching new potential clients and setting up sales calls every day of the year. If that seems like a daunting task for you, I’ve provided a few tips to help make business development simpler.
1. Spend time on the types of clients you want and don’t waste time going after those you don’t want.
Spend some time identifying the characteristics of your ideal client. Be specific about the industry where you have expertise, be concise about the size and revenue of your ideal client and focus on the ideal location of a potential client. By focusing on the industries, organizations, and geography that makes sense you can more easily ignore the prospects that don’t fit your profile. Learning to say no is tough but necessary for your firm to grow.
2. Make sure you know who the decision maker is.
Establishing relationships and selling to the right person is critical. Do you sell to the CFO, CEO or HR Director or do you sell to someone else? Is there more than one decision maker and do you have a chance to get time with him or her as well? The last thing you want to do is devote time and energy to the wrong type of buyer or a non-decision maker. It is imperative that early in the process you discover who makes the decisions and don’t waste your time with those who aren’t able to make purchasing decisions.
3. Learn to listen more and talk less.
Ask insightful questions of your clients and listen carefully. Be sure you are listening to understand and not just listening to respond. If you are talking more than 50 percent of the time you are talking way too much. Your job is to probe and dive deep into the prospect’s situation to make sure you understand their problems and challenges. You can’t help them if you don’t know what help they need. Becoming a good listener and a good problem solver leads to long-lasting and productive relationships.
4. It’s all about what the client is trying to achieve, not your top or bottom line.
It starts and ends with the client. You’re not there to sell something to a prospective client. You’re there to provide a solution they need to overcome an obstacle or challenge. By listening carefully to their requirements you will be able to refine your pitch and your service offering(s) to make sure you are addressing their needs. The best new business developers engage the prospect and understand their challenges in order to provide solutions that are tailored to each organization’s needs.
5. Be sure you are proactive in your efforts to develop new business.
Fortune favors the bold! Very rarely do new business opportunities just fall in your lap. You need to be proactive, creative and consistent in your efforts to find new business. You should know by now that business development is not a passive activity. You can rest assured that your competition is out there looking for new business, talking to your clients and actively looking to help them solve their challenges. You need to be out there too.
6. Be active in your community and be where your prospects are.
As mentioned before, business development is not a spectator sport. Get active in your business community, do not sit on the sidelines. Join industry or other associations that are in line with your top prospects’ interests. Get active on committees of these organizations and on non-profit boards. Being active in organizations and associations is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, and the greater visibility leads to better top of mind awareness.
7. Business development doesn’t always end when the sale is made.
Depending on how your organization’s business development process is set up, business development doesn’t always end once the client signs on the dotted line. Once you have secured the new client you need to make sure your service is more than you promised them. Deadlines need to be met (or exceeded), channels of communication need to be wide open and there should be no surprises when it comes to your fees. Remember, happy clients are the best referral source for new opportunities and you never know when they may need additional services.
Following these simple principles will lead to greater success in your business development and sales efforts. If you need help or additional resources, contact me and I would be happy to help you.