Once, when working at a large, global, networked agency, I had the conviction that ‘new business is the lifeblood of any company’ drummed into me. Now, as client and customer plans are being locked down for delivery in 2011, our attention inevitably turns to the gap in the Excel sheet that needs to be made up by new business.
Business forecasting can be an inexact science, with most companies typically needing to secure anywhere between 20-50% of their target sales from new business, whether from new or existing clients.
Some will be smart. They will network themselves to existing customers and their contacts, encourage warm contact through various inbound marketing methods, acquire leads for database marketing and from trade shows and maybe even advertise and do a little PR.
Others will spam, email, call, doorstep and harrass would-be customers in the misguided belief that casting the net wide or cracking a few eggs is the best way to land new contracts.
Whichever way you do it, avoid these top five business development faux pas.
1. Maintain focus by ensuring you are talking to companies (and individuals within them) that you want to work with. Sounds simple but how often do we invest time chasing down every possible lead on the list, even though we know deep down some of them aren’t quite right for us? Avoid this be carefully selecting the ones with the greatest opportunity, most common ground or the ones where you can really add value. And often businesses adopt a risky strategy of diversification into new sectors, when being consistently excellent in active sectors might be a better approach.
2. Maintain relevance. Ensure your communications remain targeted and personalised, responding to challenges and problems your prospect might be encountering. Generic, systems generated communications can be quickly seen through and dealt with appropriately. Show some empathy for their situation and have some pride in your own reputation.
3. Be respectful and follow the process your prospect has set down. If there isn’t one, create one. Agree next steps, seek permission, handle obstacles, encourage discussion.
4. Keep talking, follow up and always ask for input and feedback. You are at the embryonic stages of making a relationship here, and even if it might like feel like it, you are figuring each other out, looking for chemistry and both have a vested interest in making it work.
5. Ultimately, deliver: Do what you said you do, when you said you’d do it.
Image: My Own Business