[IMGCAP(1)]How many times have you placed an ad, sent out direct mail pieces, or delivered a newsletter without receiving your desired response?
Assuming you have fabulous marketing collateral, the only answer for not getting the results you had hoped for is timing. You need to stop trying to get the prospects to buy when you want them to buy, and make sure you are there when they are ready to buy.
So what is the answer? A business development survival kit. Like any other adventurous undertaking, you need to make sure you are completely prepared. Having a clearly defined map and all the necessary tools will help you ensure your success. So lets get started planning our business development adventure.
Are We Shooting Bear, or Going Fishing?
We need to decide what our target is going to be. If we are shooting bear, we will need to be equipped differently than if we are going fishing. Looking at your firms best clients is a great way to start narrowing down the possibilities.
What demographic criteria do these clients have in common? Are they within a certain revenue range? Are the majority of your best clients within a certain industry group? You will also want to look at the most profitable services your firm provides. Determine who uses those services and then find more companies that need those services.
You may very well be tempted to try to catch fish and shoot bear at the same time. Avoid this temptation at all costs. Make sure you are being as targeted as possible with your prospect set. Every prospect should be a perfect fit for your firm. Dont waste your efforts on the ones too big to fit in your boat, or the ones you will end up throwing back.
Fish Dont Bite Because You Drop a Line
So you have decided to go fishing. Unless you are at the trout farm, the fish are not going to bite just because you drop a line. Business development is a lot like fishing in that you need to be in the right place, at the right time.
Buying professional services is not an impulse buy, so establishing yourself as a resource and consistently demonstrating your interest in earning the prospects business is very important. Building trust, sharing knowledge and establishing reliability with a prospect over time can make the difference when they are ready to buy.
Begin by introducing yourself and your firm with a series
of mailers or letters, and then follow up in a timely manner with phone calls. By making follow-up phone calls, you are demonstrating two very important steps in the business development process. You are appealing to the prospects basic human need by letting the prospect know they are important to you. The phone call also demonstrates your human side and begins the process of building trust.
Often the process will seem to stop right there, when in reality this is just the beginning. You need to build trust and respect with the prospect over time before they will consider working with you.
Do You Have The Right Bait?
Unless you know everything about the fish you are trying to catch, you might not have the right bait. To be truly successful in business development, you need to know about your prospects and whats important to them. Do your homework. Get to know the issues and concerns of your target audience. Then you will be able to help them overcome their issues. This is not about you. It is all about the prospects.
You have done your homework and you know how you can help your prospects. Now you need to start doing it. In order to build trust and establish yourself as a reliable resource, you need to start sharing your knowledge. Some ideas for doing this are:
Send information of value to the prospect.
Demonstrate your expertise in their field by sharing articles or blog posts.
Give the prospects tools that they are able to use immediately.
Send timely information to your prospects as quickly as you send it to your clients.
By sharing information, tools and expertise, you will establish yourself as a thought leader in their industry and build trust with them on a personal level. By doing these types of activities consistently, the prospects will eventually begin to question the level of service they are getting from their current firm.
When they are making a change, you will have already established yourself as a trusted resource and will have significantly increased your chance to win their business. Paying attention and showing a sincere interest in a persons business will always be positively perceived.
Youve Got a Bite. What Now?
When a child gets a bite on their fishing line, their first instinct is to use all their strength to set the hook and reel in the catch. As an adult, you know you cant go meet with a prospect and expect to come back to the office with a new client immediately. You are not the only one fishing for that new business and you need to be prepared to demonstrate why you are a better choice than your competitor. You need to ask questions to:
Learn about what they do.
Ask questions about their business and their experiences.
Find out their issues and needs.
Learn about their goals and future plans.
Check that you understand everything they told you.
An initial meeting with a prospect should be a fact-finding mission. You dont want to start prescribing a solution before you have diagnosed their needs. Once you have a good basic understanding of their business and their needs, you can go back for a follow-up meeting with ideas about how you and your firm can help.
What Does It Weigh?
When a fish is caught, its always weighed and measured. You also need to measure all of your business development activities from the expenses incurred, to the time involved, to the success achieved. Keep track of:
Number of prospects launched into your business development initiative;
Number of prospects contacted;
Number of face-to-face meetings scheduled;
Number of proposal opportunities;
Number of new clients;
First-year revenue associated with a new client; and,
Annuity revenue associated with new clients.
Make sure you are measuring along the way so you can make changes if you are not seeing the results you want.
Whats on Your Stringer?
Just like fishing, some days are better than others in business development. To fill your stringer with new clients, your business development initiatives need to be done consistently. Remember to:
Choose your prospects wisely.
Reach out to prospects, introduce yourself and your firm, and then follow up, providing information of value to the prospect.
Be consistent. Demonstrate to the prospect they will have a better experience with you than they are having now.
When you meet with a prospect, make sure the meeting is about them. Listen and learn everything you can about their business, their issues and their concerns. The prospect should talk at least 70 percent of the time.
Measure all of your activities and your results so you know when to make changes. If something isnt working, try something different. If it is working, stick with it
Have realistic expectations. It takes time to build trust and respect with your prospects
If you follow the map and use the tools provided in this business development survival kit your adventure will surely be successful.
As a shareholder at The Growth Partnership, Lisa Benson guides the strategy and operations of the Lead Generation Services Division. Using a sophisticated nurture-marketing model, she and her team of experienced marketing and business development professionals help accounting firms achieve a delicate balance between short-term results and long-term relationships.
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