Business Development: A 5-Step Plan

businessdevelopment300Do you have an annualized business development plan?

If not, please read on… because having such a plan can make the difference between success and failure, or possibly between a good year and a great one!

First let’s define the terms. An annualized plan is simply a schedule of which activities will be done and at what time. Plotting this information by month allows you to take advantage of any seasonal opportunities, and also to determine overall time and cost commitments. Business development is a multi-faceted practice that keeps your business moving ahead. It consists of various components, including:

  • Promoting your organization to develop a presence in your marketplace
  • Identifying new business opportunities with known and unknown prospects
  • Generating new business from referral sources and prospects
  • Generating new or incremental business from clients
  • Business retention

A close review of this list reveals three very important facts.

First is the fact that our customers and clients are also prospects for new or incremental business.

Second, there is a big difference between “identifying” business opportunities and “generating” them. While the former might, at times, be easier to accomplish, both activities are essential. Successful business development, therefore, requires a combination of marketing and selling skills. Other requirements include time management, organizational skills and a positive attitude.

The third key fact, simply stated, is “one easy way to get business is to not lose business!” Customer retention is an important element of every business development plan, because any lost business must be made-up if we are to achieve our overall goal.

Simple 5-Step Approach
Here’s a simple and proven approach that might help you to make the most of your business development effort this year:

  1. Identify an annual total revenue goal that encompasses desired growth. Your business development effort is the means by which this growth will be achieved – it’s best to break it down into dollars as well as the approximate number of new customers required.
  2. Identify an annual budget – note that you don’t have to spend a lot. You can plan to make the biggest impact via word-of-mouth, much of which comes from networking, selling and asking for referrals.
  3. Identify the components of your plan based on the budget and goals – these might consist of:
    • Advertising or sponsorship
    • Networking
    • Social Media
    • E-marketing (e-mail campaigns, web-site optimization, etc)
    • Telemarketing (not cold-calls, but strategic follow-up to networking encounters, mail, email, etc.)
    • Entertaining (lunch meetings, client events, etc.)
    • Business development meetings/selling appointments
    • Business retention
  4. Create a annualized plan [get sample template: free download]
  5. Work the plan; measure progress and achievement for ongoing improvement

Planning and persistence are the critical elements of success
The plan must be well-organized, and your approach to implementing the plan equally well-organized and persistent. The plan won’t work if you quit or if you only execute a portion of it. As John Wanamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is a waste. The problem is I don’t know which half!”

It is also true that developing new business requires the development of new business relationships. This is a process rather than a one-time-event, and it takes time – some experts have even identified the “rule of seven,” which states you will, on average, need to interact with a prospect seven times before getting serious consideration; others say it happens between the fifth and twelfth contact. Whatever the actual number might be, only those who persistently maintain their effort will achieve optimum success.

The final consideration involves the regular measurement of achievement and ongoing improvement. Each “contact” must be planned and, based on your success or failure, these plans must be evaluated and continually enhanced. Each contact must be value-added and fresh – so there’s plenty of work ahead. But it will be worth it when you tally the numbers at the end of the year!

Sales Management & the Rear-view Mirror…

rearviewIn a recent LinkedIn Pulse article, sales behavior and productivity expert Robert Roseberry shared data indicating that over 40% of all sales people fail to hit their annual goal.

The three primary reasons given:

  1. Ineffective use of CRM systems
  2. Poorly trained sales managers
  3. Too much focus on trailing indicators

Balancing the Rear View Mirror
While we regularly encounter all three of the root causes, it is the third culprit that is the most prevalent.

Given the proliferation of “data” it is easy for managers and business leaders to focus on metrics. But managers who place all or too much focus on analyzing past performance and then initiating improvement plans after-the-fact miss the opportunity to salvage what otherwise might be a sub-standard month, quarter or year!

Circumstances and competitive offerings within the marketplace are constantly changing. While the practice of reviewing past performance and using the data as part of a performance improvement plan is necessary, this “rear-view-mirror” approach can be costly in terms of lost opportunities if it encompasses ones entire sales management approach.

Instead, sales leaders can be much more effective if the develop and implement a managerial process that incorporates real-time awareness of performance and a systematic means of impacting that performance “before” its’ too late!

Read more…

Are You Interested?

interested3Whether you are a sales professional, sales manager, business executive or business owner, becoming “interested” is an important component of driving your organization’s sales and business development effort.

While great amounts of emphasis are more commonly placed on striving to become “interesting” in our interaction with others — that is, we focus on our “speaking points” and things we might say.

Instead, consider the concept of becoming more “interested” and how it might influence the various people involved.

Read the full article…

How to Close More Sales

salesWhile there are multiple objectives associated with the various steps of the selling process, closing the sale is the ultimate goal.

Sales people of all experience levels often talk about closing techniques. We’ve determined five key activities that enable sales professionals to close more sales and to to so with more confidence.

  1. Sell yourself first! Then sell the organization… then sell products and services. By building strong customer relationships we can conduct more comprehensive situational analyses (because customers and prospects will tell us more…), which provide us with important insights into what each customer or prospect is trying to accomplish and how we might best help.
  2. Objectively qualify sales opportunities; this promotes process efficiency and can also result in greater levels of mutual respect between seller and buyer.
  3. Conduct comprehensive need analyses; the most effective sales people seek to optimize each situation in a fashion that delivers maximum benefits to their customers; this means our assessment must go beyond the business-at-hand, and must go beyond what customers “think they need.” We must understand needs as well as implications, and seek multiple opportunities to deliver value.
  4. Incorporate trial closing questions into selling conversations – frequently! As summarized in a recent article, trial closing questions seek opinions rather than decisions. They enable sales people to not confirm a mutual understanding of priorities, but also (and more importantly) to confirm buyers’ receptivity. When we receive positive responses to these questions it also builds confidence so we can more comfortably seek commitments.
  5. Focus on customer benefits. It’s not about what we do or what we offer… it’s about what they get! To maximize relationships as well as opportunities, we must understand and focus on what’s best for the customer; on the “benefits” that each customer will receive as a result of the sale. However, be warned, distinguishing between “features” and “benefits” is not as easy as one might think!

The Winner?

cards_on_the_table_400_clr_14651“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” W.W. Ziege

Selling is a people business. People buy from people, and most often, from people that they like. But what makes one sales rep more likable than the next? Surely all, or at least most sellers try to be likable!

Attitude makes the difference.

A positive attitude is not only easily recognizable, but it’s catchy. Sellers who possess truly positive attitudes honestly expect the best from customers and prospects, and they offer their personal best as well. They tend to react to things in an upbeat way and, more importantly, tend to bring about positive return reactions.

Every sales person and every sales manager should recognize the importance of developing and maintaining such an attitude within themselves and within their organizations.

A final testimonial to this discipline is a poem, author unknown, entitled The Winner. The final verse:

Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man;
but sooner or later the man who wins
is the fellow who thinks he can.

Glue X 2…?

Selling is a process, not a one-time event, and it is best to adopt the proper long-term perspective if we’d like to achieve long-term success.

Using the sample circular visual below as a guide, there are two important yet often over-looked fundamentals to consider:

  1. The selling process never ends; once we meet a prospect and go through the cycle once, our goal is to maintain an appropriate contact frequency based on a number of need-based variables, and to both retain the customer and identify a new need at some future point
  2. The ability to move at an optimal pace from one step to the next and to do so in unison with our customers is the key to success

Once we adopt the proper long-term view, the means by which we will move from step to step is follow-up. In fact, we often refer to effective follow-up as the “glue” that keeps the process together and moving forward. If we follow-up diligently, on a value-added basis and with the right frequency, we’ll be able to keep the process (and the customer) moving toward our ultimate goal.

But be advised! If we move too slowly, we run the risk of losing-out to a competitor or to shifting priorities; if we move too quickly, or skip steps, we’re likely to alienate or lose the customer.

Therefore it is imperative that we maintain a keen awareness of the process steps, establish goals for each, continually seek customer feedback, and master the art of value-added follow-up.

You can review a detailed summary of the activities and goals associated with each step on our website.

glueIn addition, and as noted in an earlier post, others have used the “GLUE” analogy with respect to managing customer relationships, and have suggested it is an acronym for Give Little Unexpected Extras!

Please note, these little “extras” need not be material in nature – the simple act of “thinking” of someone and sending or giving them information or recognition can go a long way…

Sixty Second Success Tip: Better Non-Verbal Communication

Did you know that over half of the criteria on which others interpret our communication is based on the non-verbal component of the way we interact?

Here’s one of our “Sixty Second Success Tips” that provides additional perspective and suggestions for better non-verbal communication:

What is the One Thing Your Organization Has That No One Else Has?

glueWe frequently ask sales teams to answer this simple question:

“What’s the one thing your company has that none of your competitors have, nor would they claim to have?”

At first people rack-their-brains to identify that illusive feature… “Ease of use!” or “Simple integration!” or “Exceptional support!” or “An extra whatever…”

But these answers are not correct… because competitors most likely have, or at least claim to have the same things.

The correct answer is always the same… YOU are the one thing that is truly unique… the one thing that can not ever be duplicated by anyone!

Our competitors will all claim to have similar or better things to offer; they will talk about “high quality products, excellent technical support, the latest technology, great customer service, return on investment, on-time delivery, guarantees, the best of the best…, and so on, and so on.”

In one of his daily sales tips, author Jack Falvey states, “If you’re part of the sale, there’s no such thing as a commodity!”

He goes on to explain that our product or service becomes a commodity purchase only if we declare it so; because if we are part of every sale, our product or service is automatically differentiated and becomes unique (and worth paying a premium for!).

So the real question is, what can YOU add to every transaction… to every proposal or quote?

Whatever it is, it does NOT need to be tangible. We’re not suggesting an extra discount or a “throw-in.” Rather, what can YOU add that is truly unique?

  • Better analysis?
  • Better advice?
  • Convenience?
  • Superior buying experience?
  • Honest interest?
  • Faster turnaround?
  • An extra set of eyes?
  • A conversation with a support expert?
  • A referral to solve an unrelated problem or satisfy a different need?
  • Preparation of documents…?

Obviously the answers will vary depending upon your buyer’s needs, interests and priorities . But if we consistently probe to determine what “little extra” they might value and make sure it is part of our value proposition, we will then differentiate ourselves and our offer from all others.

The Power of Passion!

passion1Several past posts have focused on the subject of “passion” because it is arguably the ultimate path to differentiation.

When a person is passionate about their work or an activity it has a profound impact on others – whether they are customers, prospects or colleagues.

Passion is powerful! It is contagious; it promotes credibility and buy-in. It shows that we care!

Passion sells!

In a recent article posted on salesnexus.com,  author Craig Klein asks, “What’s Your Passion?”

In the article Klein references a very inspiring book which we also recommend; it is entitled “The War of Art“ by Steven Pressfield, and it shares some excellent perspective on achieving goals and unleashing our passion.

In it Pressfield quotes W.H. Murray of The Scottish Himalayan Expedition: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.  Begin it now.”

As Klein points-out, the idea is not to fall victim to procrastination. “Start today.  Even if you’re not sure you’ve chosen the right path. The best way to know for sure is to begin the journey.”

Cory Treffiletti, President of California-based Catalyst S+F, seems to have had a similar perspective when he suggested adding a “fifth P” to the four basic principles of marketing, which are commonly referred to as the four “P’s” — Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.

The “fifth P,” Treffiletti suggests, is what unites a community and motivates individuals; the “fifth P” inspires desire and instills loyalty; it encourages word-of-mouth.

The “fifth P,” Treffiletti says, is passion!

While this final example may be a bit “over the top,” I’m thinking you will agree it’s hard to ignore the obvious passion exhibited by “the tambourine guy” in the video below.

videoicon

The reference was made in a LinkedIn article by Dana Therrien, at SiriusDecision, who suggests, “No matter what your part is, and whatever band you play in, be exceptional, be passionate and try to have some fun. Isn’t that what we all want to do? We all want to work somewhere where we can feel free to be expressive, where things are interesting, where people are creative, and where all the players bring out the best in one another by knowing and performing their parts.”

Sixty-Second Success Tip: Business Development

60secondsuccesstipsHere’s a short (approximately 1 minute) video that is part of our Sixty-Second Success Tips series.

This installment covers some business development fundamentals that might help you grow your sales territory or professional services practice.

As noted in the video, you can also download a free business development action plan from our website, which will help you to balance your approach and set a more strategic course for the year.

 

 

"Helping people sell more & communicate better"