What should you be considering when writing a business development strategy? We’re here to help you with that.
Inbound & Organic 80%, outbound 20%
Why? Inbound & organic opportunities are usually much easier to win. The client often knows you or has had a recommendation so there’s less of a trust issue. They may have found and read your website then chosen to call you. But you can’t control them. However, relying on inbound business means your business grows like an untended rose bush.
That’s why there’s always a place for a proactive business development strategy. It allows you to go after the type of clients and the type of work you want. When you’ve reached the size where you don’t have enough incoming leads then it’s a necessity for growth.
Many small businesses underestimate just how much investment is needed, as it is expensive. There are substantial costs in sales resource, data, tools, content production and everything else you will need. There’s also the time spent on 70% of leads that don’t go anywhere and the lost pitches. It’s tempting to mitigate that by spending time only leads where there’s an immediate opportunity but like anything in this life you get out of it what you put in. Those who invest the time in building relationships with prospects yield the benefits, but it takes a lot of time, commitment and energy. So be realistic and if you’re not willing or able to invest what’s required, spend your money elsewhere.
Writing out the needs of the different decision maker types in your target sectors will help give you direction. It’s not enough to decide you want to target ecommerce, or digital, or HR. There will be implementers, decision makers/budget holders, stakeholders and their pain points will vary from department to department and industry to industry.
By laying out the different buyers and mapping your services to them, you’ll crystallise your thinking. By involving the people who do your sales you’ll accelerate your learning curve and arm them better with the right tools. You’ll probably find that this will inform some of your content and your communication activity will increase its effectiveness.
People often ask, “What is it that people want?” or “What is it that we can do to make ourselves really compelling?”
That’s a really hard question to answer. You only need to look at any new and quickly rising brand – Missguided, Uber, EasyJet – to see that there are many ingredients in a really compelling proposition. Not only that though, for B2B propositions, it’s different things at different stages of the sales process. If you’re trying to set a meeting or get people to an event then it’s really about selling the value they will get by giving up that time.
A good proposition has to tick enough boxes and be in the right mix. Differentiation is a big thing, something new. It helps if it’s simple and quick to communicate. Social proof – awards, testimonials and industry case studies with stats to back it up. Clear benefits directed at your sales personas. But there are other, softer things too such as the brand, a strong brand story, a consistent message across your comms. These aspects are all factors.
Redefining your proposition is really an exercise in itself. From a business development strategy perspective, what’s important is to realise that if your proposition and communication are right, then you will see it in the results.
New Business v Business Development
In an idea world you win new clients this year and then develop them into big accounts next year. If that’s the way your business works then great. It’s an idea to have a business development plan and a new business plan, each with objectives and owned by somebody in your team. This post is really about new business, but if you haven’t actively tasked someone with winning more business from existing clients then you could be missing a trick. The big companies tend to have many divisions, and if you’re an approved supplier, then you have an “in”. So map your current clients and task somebody with contacting those you’re not in touch with.
Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, PR, events, aggregators, exhibitions, email marketing, intermediaries, direct mail, PPC, SEO, Affiliates, Instagram, Facebook, networking, referrals, personal contacts.
There are a lot of things you could do! If you don’t have the resources to do everything then it’s a good idea to understand why you’re using the channels you are. Focus on the mix that gives the biggest returns.
The thing to remember is that you need opportunities and wins out of this, otherwise there’s no ROI. A lot depends on your internal skill set and those of your partners and/or suppliers. For example, awareness activities are great but you need a way to activate that awareness. Going to exhibitions will get some exposure but a focused plan is needed to turn that into business.
If you’re doing any sort of outreach at all, you’ll need data and tools. It still amazes me to come across businesses that have no CRM system and strategy, which is crazy because 1 – 2 days of forethought, planning & set-up saves vast hours in efficiency further down the line. We always advise to spend a few hours planning what data you will need to capture in order to deliver your new business plans. That includes planning what fields you need to create and populate so that you can segment.
Data is always a challenge and whether you plan to find it yourself or buy it, it’s going to cost you. If you buy it, be very clear on how you want to segment: Business size, decision maker function and level, geographical location, and be very clear about the sectors. If you don’t do this, it will guarantee some unexpected results. Validation will also be needed after purchasing.
There are literally hundreds of tools out there that automate huge swathes of repetitive tasks. Most CRM systems have process automation rules that can be set up to trigger automated actions. For example, sending an email, creating an event or updating a field.
CRM’s can often be integrated with external systems like Mailchimp. Even if they can’t there are 3rd party integration tools like Zapier and Webhooks that you can use. There are data scrapers like EmailHunter & Data Miner that can bring data into your CRM (make sure you’re legally compliant). There are tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, Hubspot Sales, Datanyze and Wappalyzer that can do tracking or give other valuable information to help targeting. You just have get creative about how you use them!
A final thought – volume. Make sure your target markets are big enough. Yes, quality of contact can increase conversion and allow you to win from a smaller pool of prospects but there is no getting away from the conversion factor in sales. You need a big enough prospect pool to catch an opportunity.
The Feedback Loop
Best laid plans and all that.
Sales strategies never go entirely as to plan. Some things work. Some things won’t.
A big part of sales is the salesperson’s ability to put together the responses they hear from prospects and pick up on hot zones. Good sales people can see it form well in advance, and change their tactics to suit.
Ensure your feedback loop is set up to inform and re-evaluate your business development strategy. Otherwise, you may as well have no strategy in place.