So here we are…week 3 of 2016 and the plans, resolutions & commitments for the New Year are already being challenged (and in some cases purposely forgotten about).
A new year is often seen as a ‘blank canvas’ when it comes to business development and client acquisition. Goals are set, targets agreed and past performance is evaluated.
After a 2 week break, like many, I return to my business straight into what is traditionally one of our busiest periods. Clients are setting budgets and business plans for the new calendar or financial year and as a business we are looking to educate and align ourselves to work with them for shared success.
So…..how? The opportunities in the current market are out there. The economy is performing and the environment seems to be one of investment & growth. For those tasked with growing their business and revenue, the key questions are about how best to differentiate your offering, understand what a ‘good’ client looks like and how best to make contact.
I’m very keen for this post not to be simply a regurgitation of a text book. What follows are simply the basic principles that I personally use as the foundation of my business/coverage plan. They keep me ‘on the rails’ and enable me to achieve, repeat good habits and stay on track to fulfil our shared ambitions and targets for the year.
Evaluating What Works
What are the lessons from 2015? What worked well & why? Conversely, what can be learnt from the blockers and missed opportunities? Learning where to ‘point the compass’ and what your pitch or USP is to that audience is key.
Segmenting the Market
There is a lot to go at – especially if like ourselves you are a growth business with clients (and targets) across multiple sectors and across the UK. Prioritising your time and having an effective coverage model that targets those clients with the likeliest return on investment and path of least resistance is essential.
Keep a keen eye on existing clients – Cross Selling
The “easiest” business to win is additional business with existing clients. Take time to evaluate your relationships with your clients. Look after them, get in front of them and broaden your network to make sure that all key contacts are aware of all your companies’ full offering.
Success stories are compelling business development tools. Proof of concept and delivery to a certain market, sector, client size or geography patch is hard to ignore and can be a key differentiator (especially if it can demonstrate an obvious commercial advantage to a new client). Map out your clients competitors and approach them (not withstanding any contractual clauses
Multi-channel Touch Points
Modern client acquisition and engagement is all about touch points. Email marketing, events, social media, blogs, whitepapers, speaking engagements and so on are all needed to keep your brand (& yourself) front of mind and perceived as a thought leader in your field. Marketing is Business Development and having a clearly integrated strategy across all available channels is key.
Know Your Points of Difference
What do your clients actually want you to do and how will they evaluate you? Your business offering will adapt and change as will your clients demands and requirements. How are your competition positioning themselves and what can you learn from this? A clear pitch that demonstrates value and a shared ‘win’ is key.
Ultimately you have to want to do it. Consistent and effective business development isn’t easy and requires a robust personality. Genuine motivators (not text book sound bites) are key to sales success and driving the commitment to go ‘above & beyond’. One phrase I do actually keep front of mind at all times is;
“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in, day out”
I’m fully aware that the above is nothing revolutionary. However, even writing this blog has reminded me of some of my own structure and that really is the point I wanted to achieve in the post. Select 4 or 5 foundation stones for your plan and stick to them. Operational simplicity is key and by working SMART & consistently evaluating performance and the sales message, it will enable you to stick to a plan rather than spinning plates and being a busy fool.
Final point. Our business makes no apology for being very thorough when it comes to budget and target planning. Motivation and appetite will only dwindle if you feel like you’re pushing up hill from week 4 onwards. Make your sales targets meaningful, educated and aspirational in equally measure so that the plan you spend 5 hours on in Jan means as much in December.
What are the foundation stones for your plan this year?