I recently had a coaching client who remarked on his supervisor's success in drawing on his old school alumni network to bring in work. This got me thinking...how much can you rely on the networks from your old school being useful in a business context?
How often do you need to be out having BD meetings? What is enough? And what is important? I get asked this a lot and provide some guidance here to help you get it right including an offer to access a simple tool to assist.
I've posted ideas you could implement at the end of a week to keep your BD pipeline fresh. Here's some tips to kick off the week on the right note. The actions to set things going should take no more than 10 minutes
The all time easiest way to win work has been for someone else to give it to you....willingly, frequently and happily. And I'm not only talking about repeat clients here. I'm thinking of internal referrers.
The biggest concern I have heard raised by people over the years is ‘I struggle to ask for the business.’ Most people seem to have enough going on, seem to have enough meetings, but really struggle to get down to the underlying purpose of the interaction, i.e., meeting an identified need with a valuable service. They talk about feelings of embarrassment, of sensitivity, when reaching the point of the commercial end of the conversation.
In my coaching, I always ask if people value the advice they give, and on almost 100% of the occasions professionals do indeed see value in what they deliver. In fact, they’re proud of their work. So why be embarrassed .....
What are the best questions to ask a client or prospective client that can lead to client intimacy? What questions gradually deepen the mutual understanding between relative strangers in a business context? What questions make you think more deeply and share more fully? What takes the conversation from a chat about the weekend's sporting or family pursuits, to a genuine exchange about business-related important matters?
Being 'liked' is not anywhere near the same as being 'valued'. Not in the same universe, actually. On a very personal level, think about how many people in your life 'like' you, versus the number that truly 'value' you. It's inner circle stuff, right? In your personal life knowing who values you gives you deep roots, doesn't it?
So if you are a card-carrying professional, if a choice was to be made, which would you rather be - liked or valued? And how do you make it so?
Numerous, university qualified, battle hardened Business Development and Marketing resources are put under the microscope by people without EITHER of these skills when it comes to BD or Marketing. A trait common among rainmakers is that they do NOT make that mistake.
I have previously spoken about the most common concern raised in my training and coaching over the years – how to ask for the business. The second most common concern I hear is ‘how do I go from being a friend to being a provider?’ I colloquially call this turning caffeine into cash. And I don’t mean that in a cynical, one-way, sense. I think it goes both ways. How do the two people at the coffee meeting make sense of their needs in order to derive a fee for the provider, and a commercial, profit generating/risk mitigating outcome for the client?
Many professionals seem to get caught in the trap of an endless series of ‘rapport building’ over coffee without getting to the real underlying reason people are at work – to provide a service to meet a need.
How much do you charge per hour? $300? $500? $800 or more? Now look at your calendar for the last 10 weeks and identify the number of meetings you had that would be called 'business development' meetings. You know the ones - a coffee catch-up, a lunch with an existing client, a networking breakfast or maybe a lunch with a referrer. I encourage people to have at least 1 meeting per week that could legitimately be referred to as a BD meeting. Now if we add up the time invested in each of these interactions over the 10 weeks, including preparation time and time getting there and back, let's assume you've spent, conservatively, 20 hours on BD.
Have you recently changed a habit? We all have them – good and bad ones. To encourage people to improve their business development outcomes, I’m often asking people to self-assess the good and the bad habits they currently have. Take a piece of paper out now and take two minutes to list them, if you are that way inclined.
If you really, honestly, clearly reviewed what habits you have that either help or hinder your success when it comes to keeping your pipeline flowing, what would they be?
Recently I suggested you set up meetings in the New Year with your key clients. I suggested investing up to 2-3 hours with each one. Now, given most professionals are on a time writing KPI of some sort – is it worth it?
What's the inherent value of a performance review (also sometimes called 'client listening') in the professions? They provide an opportunity to seek feedback on both underperformance and what has worked in order to rectify standards and/or replicate standards. However people often stop there. The single biggest flaw is that they often only measure PAST performance.
Hands up if you wasted a business development opportunity last week.
(Counting) one, two three, four, five.....that's about 50% of you. Or at least it is in my experience.
I recently posted an article regarding getting a second meeting. I talked about the types of questions you need to ask to get past the wasteful ‘it was nice to meet you, we should do this again sometime’ close and uncover a viable reason for both parties to meet again soon and meaningfully progress the conversation.
How many ‘first’ meetings have you had? You know the ones. Meetings secured with prospects or new contacts that are the result of either good networking or good intentions on your part. Now, have you ever contemplated the ‘ratio’ of first meetings to second meetings?
Far too much time and money is wasted on first meetings that don’t turn into something concrete – either a clear understanding there is nothing realistically to pursue, or that there is a clear understanding that a second meeting would be justified on the basis that matters were raised worthy of a follow up conversation.
An engineering client of mine has a safety briefing (called a ‘safety moment) at the start of every meeting, regardless of the meeting's actual agenda. They take 2-3 minutes each meeting to discuss something they’d learned on a job recently, or highlight an incident they’d heard about elsewhere, or pose a quick hypothetical safety incident and ask for solutions. It is a cornerstone habit around which their business runs, and for very good reason. It reduces accidents, creates a culture of openness, increases awareness and trains everyone from the ground up about the expectations of management and employees to adhere to, and importantly, to improve safety standards.
I’ve seen many CVs and proposals and I can’t imagine the word count I’d have seen on the word ‘commercial’. It seems that every second person lays claim to being commercial. I ask you – what does that mean? Does it mean you’re decisive? No. Does it mean you’re timely? No. Does it mean you’re technically strong? No.
It means you understand the CLIENT’S economics (including their risk appetite) and are flexible enough with the way you interpret legal or accounting or regulatory impediments to enable the deal in front of you. If you can provide examples of that, as a buyer, I’m all yours!
As you contemplate your summer holidays (perhaps jumping on a plane to go somewhere exciting), when the crew say, “Please take notice of your nearest emergency exit, because all planes are not the same” – do you ever really take notice? Have you ever had to 'assume the brace position'? Do you know what that is? Or do you know that an emergency exit will be nearby in the unlikely event of a problem and trust you’ll be able to get there in time and in good health?
It’s the same with dealing with unknown or unanticipated objections.Many people are caught unprepared, or in the vernacular of this post, crash and burn, at the hint of an objection.