How does the term “business development” make you feel? Anxious? Hopeful? Determined? Ideally, we think business development is all of the above—and some. How your business thinks about sales, relationships, and development is what will make or break you. Either you will continue to grow and evolve as a business, or decline until you run out of money and ideas. Or, a third option is to remain stagnant and content with where your business is at, which we think is sometimes as bad as declining.
We want to address a few best practices when it comes to business development for your business. Yes, there is an emphasis on the proposal side of things because it is the peanut butter to our jam on whole wheat. But you should walk away from this post with a fresh perspective on biz-dev (for short) and something to share with a friend!
A Common Misconception
Two of our last posts focused on “myths” of the formal and informal proposal process. In those posts we talked a lot about the proposal timeline and adhering to a prompt, thorough response for your prospective client. In business development, timeliness is just as important.
Nothing is an overnight success, and your business will not prosper without putting in the time and effort. And when we say time, we mean sometimes months or even years. For instance, there is no way you can merely Google “proposal opportunities,” submit a response, and seal the deal. You might get lucky every once in a while, but to build a business you have to form relationships.
Relationships, of course, take time—how is your team when it comes to quality follow-up? Where do you meet most of your prospective customers? How do you engage them on a regular basis? Before you jump the gun on items two through six in the graph below (which is an awesome Shipley Associates resource we hope to address in the future), consider two integral, preceding steps.
Strategic Planning and Positioning
Two Ps in a pod. That’s how you can remember crucial words in biz-dev. You should always build upon your relationships and ask how you can help others—more on that later. But how does your team function when it comes to business development strategy? In other words, how does your team PLAN and POSITION itself to win an RFP or new opportunity at hand.
An example. If you’re wanting to do work for the city of Kansas City, and specialize in offering leadership training courses, how can you engage and suggest to city officials that there is a need for said services? Easier said than done, right? Well . . . yes and no. It takes the planning and positioning, yes, but also another “P” you can add to the mix: patience. From the time you define a strategy and enact next steps, you could endure months before an opportunity to send in a statement of work.
Patience is key, which ultimately leads to (you guessed it) another “P”: persistence. A practical take on business development is often seen in and through your company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Unfamiliar with CRM or how it works? Shoot us an email and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction! It’s a great first step toward tackling all these P words.
As for Biz-Dev at Theme . . .
The way we see it, clients don’t need us until they need us. That’s why we are so passionate about everything said in this article thus far. We might make a connection with someone this month—January 2021—and not sign a deal with them until October 2021. The REAL test is the months in between. You might hear that real business doesn’t happen until a quality seven or eight interactions take place. But consider the following quote from Brendan Filbert at SalesWorks:
“Sales cycles are shifting. The buyer journey is now 8-22 interactions with a solution prior to feeling confident and moving forward with a decision to hire you.”
If you take anything from that quote, consider ways you can move forward with a greater level of intentionality in your business relationships. Here are a few “quick wins” we recommend:
- Overall, consider how you can provide value to them.
- Send emails that contain value: referrals, event invitations, articles and even detailed meeting agendas all offer value.
- Ask individuals if there’s anyway you can genuinely help them in the days ahead.
- Focus on their goals.
- Take notes after you meet with people—write down little things about them so that . . .
- When you follow up in the weeks/months ahead, you can surprise them with little details they probably thought you’d forget. (Ex. “How did they remember my wife and I had an anniversary in June?”)
To round things out, we are firm believers in digging the well before you get thirsty. That, in essence, is business development. It’s a long game. But when winning new business is on the line, we promise all the planning and positioning will have been worth it. Remember: patience and persistence 🙂