I was recently invited to submit an article for the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce blog. It was an honor to contribute to such a respected organization, and offer a few tips of what I have learned through years of Business Development. The article I wrote is below, and you can see its original posting at the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce blog here.
If you’re like me, the one thing that keeps you up at night is the perpetual question; where is my next sale going to come from? I’ve been in business for almost nine years and during that time I have made most of the classic business mistakes and some more than once. What I’ve learned many times over, is that business development is a full time job that has to be my number one priority.
I met with one of my contacts from Government Services Administration (GSA) this week to get new ideas on how best to market my business using my GSA Schedule. I’ve been unsure if I am choosing the right types and volume of business development activities. I went on the GSA schedule a year ago as a means to grow my company, diversify my revenue stream, and (based on market research) be among the few government contractors to offer my special area of expertise: developing coaching skills for Leaders. While we have had some success, I feel as though I’m never quite convinced that I couldn’t do it better, faster, or more efficiently. Maybe I want to believe that somewhere there is this magic answer, a fool-proof map, or a wee bit of pixie dust that will ensure my success.
Guess what I was reminded of yet again? There is no magic answer after all. My contact asked some great questions, listened to my business development approach, and patted me on the back for doing all the right things. Once more I discover that business development is one part science, one part art, and five parts consistent execution and hard work! Fundamentally I guess I knew that, but sometimes I doubt myself and need someone to remind me that closing deals is simultaneously that simple and that hard.
Here is what I have learned (the hard way!):
- Grow your connections. You can never have too many.
- Managing connections is a dance between relationship, activity, and time management.
- Know who your strategic relationships are and then create as much value as possible for them.
- Be clear about your activity management strategy (what are the few things that you must do no matter what to build relationships and generate new business opportunities?).
- Map your activity management strategy. Identify two or three high-impact business development activities; then determine the volume, frequency, and who to target to fill the pipeline and close the sale. If you don’t have enough business, one or more of these components is likely the culprit.
- The most important time to develop business is when you have an abundance of it.
- Invest in a CRM system so you can keep track of your prospect and customer information. This information is the heart beat of your business.
- Create a process that works, document it, and stick with it. .
- Always listen and create ways to help others be more successful.
Simply stated: Know what you should be doing, how much and how often you should be doing it, and whom you should be doing it with. Track what you did for future reference. And a word to the wise, once you find the right combination of what, when, how much, and who…don’t stop doing it no matter what!