Time to grow? insider insights in business development
Georgina Swain considers the need for planning your firm’s future progression
In a business which makes much of its money selling time, making time for business development can be extremely difficult. Our focus is usually on maximising billable hours – and if you trained or spent time during your career in a large firm, that is how you will have been managed – and how your success was measured.
Recording every minute of your time, so you can charge it to a client or a job – and at the same time delivering a great service to your clients – piles on the pressure. It’s no wonder that, for many professionals, creating time for business development is a real challenge.
However, we all know that sales mean survival – and in today’s competitive environment prospective clients don’t just come knocking at your door. They need a bunch of positive reasons before they will spend their money with you – and providing those reasons takes time.
Insider insights: 10 top tips:
As the world moves slowly back to a semblance of normal, how do you make time for business development? These suggestions are gleaned from working with professionals for more than 20 years and witnessing how the business development rainmakers make time for it:
- Sounds simple, but start with setting weekly, monthly and annual business development objectives. Write these down, share them with colleagues and make sure you review them regularly. As with any objective setting – ensure they are SMART (Specific Measureable Achievable Realistic and Time-related). The action of reviewing objectives regularly makes it more likely that you will focus on making them happen.
- Write task lists and book time in your calendar to ‘do business development’ – whether that be contacting prospective clients, responding to quotes or pitches, following up on leads following an event or researching a prospect. Booking time out, in short, one-hour, blocks, can make you more disciplined and more likely to do it.
- Focus on what you enjoy – for most of us doing no business development at all is not an option, so making it fun means you are more likely to do it. Some enjoy public speaking, others prefer writing articles, for others it’s networking – whatever you are most comfortable with do that!
- Make the most of social media – LinkedIn is a hugely powerful database of business professionals – and it takes seconds to comment or send a congratulations message to a contact. Your phone is a powerful business development tool for sharing articles and sending messages to your network.
- Lavish corporate entertaining, long lunches and days on the golf course are not really commonplace these days – catching up over coffee seems to have replaced these, so why not kill several birds with one stone? Pick a coffee shop which is convenient for several of your clients or contacts – and arrange to meet them at certain times during the day (obviously appropriately spaced out). In the meantime, you can catch up on work.
- Connect people – arrange lunches or dinner appointments with more than one client or prospect. Make sure they have things in common and would benefit from meeting each other.
- Get rid of time wasters – look at how you spend your days and think about what time wasting activities you should avoid, or identify behaviours which might free up more time for business development – for example, look at emails in batches, rather than allowing each new one to interrupt you – and avoid being side-tracked by colleagues chatting by the coffee machine as you return to the office.
- Avoid procrastination – a lot of professionals put off doing business development because they don’t like it or don’t feel comfortable, or can’t see a tangible result from the time invested. If this is you, then remember you have to get over the hump before it starts to be fun. You will make mistakes, get knockbacks, or feel like you are no good at ‘selling’ – but doing something is better than nothing and, like anything else, the more you do the better you get at it. Identify a mentor who can help keep you motivated!
- Make the most of travelling time – use your commute or travelling to a meeting or event as an opportunity to do business development research, or to think about how you can give something of value to your prospects or contacts.
- Involve other team members – making business development a team effort makes it more fun and can save time. Sharing tasks such as researching targets or preparing pitches or quotes can cut down the time you need to spend, and it also gives team members great development opportunities.
Apply the 80/20 rule – focus your efforts on the prospects which have the most likely chance of conversion. Devote 80 per cent of your available business development time and effort to the top 20 per cent of your targets.
Persistence pays – ‘no’ really means ‘not yet’ in business development. Most professionals give up after three attempts to make a sale, most buyers say ‘no’ at least five times before the magic ‘yes’ – so the sales end up going to those professionals who are tenacious and keep trying. The more you do, the better you’ll become!
Georgina Swain is CEO of Bridge Cape, a respected marketing, brand and communications specialist with a wealth of experience in advising professional services and firms: bridgecape.com