Business development can be one of the fastest ways to grow your business. It can also be one of the most time intensive. It typically requires focus, planning, stamina and doggedness. Doing it right may pay big dividends; doing it wrong can be demoralizing.
Here are a few tips for effective business development that can help you hit the ground running.
Know Your Competition
It may not be enough to know the names of your competitors. Evaluate what they offer so you can help differentiate yourself from the pack. As the old adage goes, don’t define yourself by your competition. Analyze what makes you stand out in a crowd. You should obsessively work on this differentiation. This may be your most powerful business development tool.
Add Value and Build Trust
Rather than going after people’s wallets, consider going after their hearts. Business growth can come from adding value to every relationship, with prospective customers and existing customers. We can add value by providing information and knowledge, by being an advisor, by obsessing over treating customers right, both before and after the sale, and by having a reputation for great execution and white glove service.
This mindset and approach build trust and goodwill which are your calling card for business development. But building trust takes time. As Seth Godin put it, “People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them … They always believe what they tell themselves.” It’s your public persona and your actions over time that will likely influence what people tell themselves about you.
Use Testimonials Wisely
Testimonials can be a crucial part of establishing credibility in the initial stages when you court a new prospect. It can help to know a few tips in this area. For example, it may not be effective to use “one-size-fits-all” testimonials. Rather, you should tailor your testimonials to your prospective target. If you’re dealing with a mid-sized company, for example, you should use testimonials from other mid-sized companies you’ve done business with, rather than from your largest customer. This taps into a fundamental principle of human behaviour referred to as the Consensus Principle or Social Proof: We feel more comfortable in making a decision when the source of the information comes from people similar to us.
Also, beware of inundating your prospects with a large number of testimonials. It could look as though you’re protesting too much. Only use testimonials that are authentic and have the ring of truth. Sometimes, when asking for a testimonial, the person writing it does so reluctantly to please you, but their heart is not in it. You can end up with a perfunctory, factory-style testimonial that savvy clients will quickly see through.
Keep an Eye on Online Reviews
Increasingly, consumers may turn to online reviews to decide whether or not to do business with a local company. A 2017 survey by BrightLocal shows that 97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day. 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.Set up a Google Alert for your company so you can monitor and respond to these reviews when necessary. It can help show that you care about your business and about the people who use your services or products. A caring attitude may engender goodwill and attract new business.
Ask for the Business
After you’ve met with your prospect, submitted the proposal, done all the due diligence and followed up, consider closing that phase by unabashedly asking for the business. Try a simple: “I would very much like to provide this service for your company. What will it take to get started?” This “let’s do business together” approach is direct and honest and can signal your confidence in the value of your service or product. It’s refreshing. What’s more, it can give your prospective client the opportunity to decline. It may be better to know this so you can refocus your energy and attention on the next potential customer.