Cheat Sheet

Business Development For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Business Development For Dummies

By Anna Kennedy

Business growth sometimes seems like a mixture of luck and good connections. But that’s not the case. This Cheat Sheet gives you ideas on how to build your business-development strategy and a high-performing business-development engine.

Understanding Why You Need Business Development

Most small business owners start their businesses because someone promised them business if they did so. Even with quite a few supporters, however, early success can start to fade unless you’re proactive with business development. Here are a few reasons why you need to shake the trees:

  • ‘Build it and they will come’ is a risky strategy. Few businesses grow this way.

  • Your own network, even if large, is still limited.

  • Not everyone you know wants to buy what you’re offering. Sad, but true.

  • At some point, you have to go wider and reach out to the big, bad market for new customers.

  • Customers don’t care about you, no matter how good you are. They care about what’s keeping them awake at night and whether you can solve their pain.

  • Don’t forget the competition. Get to know your enemy.

  • You don’t grow if you focus on the work when you’re busy and on business development when you’re not.

  • You want the right kinds of customers, not just any customers.

  • You want your company to stand out from the crowd, so have something really valuable to offer.

Defining Business Development

People often equate business development with sales. Although business development certainly includes selling, it involves much more than that. When you’re practicing business development, you’re doing some of these things:

  • Keeping an eye on the market. Is there enough market for what you offer?

  • Watching what’s happening in your space. Is anything changing? If so, you may need to change too.

  • Monitoring competitors, who they are, how you’re different, how to outmaneuver them.

  • Defining who your customer really is – what size of business, what industry, which departments and people buy what you offer?

  • Maintaining a really consistent message about who you are – no matter who you’re talking to.

  • Finding out where your customers swarm. Do they go to certain conferences? Read specific blogs or periodicals? Belong to specific LinkedIn groups? You need to be where they are.

  • Tracking the journey of typical buyers. What do they want to know along the way? When will they be ready to talk to you?

  • Thinking about customer satisfaction – how can you ensure that your customers are happy throughout your relationship with them?

  • Using customers to get new business – with them, with their network.

  • Using partners to extend your reach way beyond what you can do alone.

  • Moving to a position of ‘best in breed’, and so becoming the go-to company for what you do.

Making the Customer Your Focus

Customers can be wonderful and they can be a pain in the butt. Whatever they’re like, you want to make them the center of your business’s thinking and attention. Here are some things to know about your prospects and customers:

  • Find out how they found you – it helps your marketing efforts.

  • Understand their business as fully as you can.

  • Analyze their business pain and map your services/solutions to it.

  • Talk to your customers often – they love the attention.

  • Ask how things are going – you need their feedback to improve your service.

  • They appreciate it when you provide value to their business – build trust by taking an interest in what their goals are and in what they’re trying to achieve. Think of their business as your business.

  • Their loyalty can be paper-thin so don’t step over issues. Be proactive with the relationship.

Growing Your Business Development Function

In a small business, people wear many hats (and not just at the holiday party!). Being ready for growth means knowing how you’re going to expand your business development function over time:

  • Have a business plan that shows how and where you expect to grow: new services, new geographies, new industries, new channels?

  • Picture your company in three years’ time. What people will you need to keep the money coming in?

  • Build an organization chart for your business development people: marketing, sales, customer management. Put names in those boxes and prioritize who you hire next.

  • Act as a team. Work out how to handle the customer from initial handshake through to completing the work.

  • Figure out where your revenue is going to come from for the next year. Existing customers? New ones? How many? What’s it going to take to achieve that?

  • Start to track the numbers – leads, opportunities, how many wins and losses.

  • Get tools. Manage your contact lists, create a pipeline of opportunities. Move from sticky notes to proper systems.

  • Get the right leadership. You eventually need specialists in marketing, sales and customer management.

Viewing Marketing and Sales as Two Sides of One Coin

The first experience your customer has of your company is through your marketing and sales efforts. Set these functions up for success. Here are a few things to work on:

  • Brainstorm how to help your customer find you. Get marketing working on a plan to attract more prospects.

  • Create a strong company identity – you need to stand out.

  • Get a great website – one that talks to your customers, not at them.

  • Get a LinkedIn presence – set up your company and personal profiles and ask your network to connect with you and follow your company.

  • Create good collateral (marketing material) that explains what you do and how you do it.

  • Work out how many new leads you need each month to drive your sales.

  • Make marketing responsible for getting leads. Ensure that your salespeople focus on converting leads into sales.

  • Give the salespeople what they need to be effective: good leads, good collateral.

  • Write a great contract and don’t start work until you and your customer have both signed.

Using Your Connections for More Business

Businesses don’t grow in isolation. The majority of successful businesses are great at partnerships. Would working with partners help your business? Consider these types of partnerships:

  • Referral partners – individuals or companies who are ‘out there’ in the marketplace and can introduce you to prospective customers. Pay them a percentage of the deal. Everyone’s happy.

  • A product company – you install or implement what it produces. The partner may give you leads.

  • A services company that offers strategy, where you offer execution, or vice versa. You can both grow by referring business to each other.

  • A services company where you can deliver a bigger service together than either company can separately. Go get some larger contracts together.

Noting 10 Things to Do and Not Do

Sometimes you make exactly the right moves and sometimes you misstep. The following are a selection of tips for doing the former and avoiding the latter:

  • DO call back when a prospect calls your company. You’d be amazed how often people don’t follow up.

  • DO keep your promises to your prospects and customers. When you do what you say you’ll do by the time you said you’d do it, they start to trust you – and that’s a rare quality.

  • DON’T over-promise and under-deliver. Customers hate that.

  • DO less of the talking and more of the listening in any meeting with a customer. You can find out a lot.

  • DON’T be heavy-handed with the selling. Customers buy services from people they like, not sleazy sales jerks.

  • DO price your services for a win-win. Know where to draw the line on discounting, otherwise you never make any money.

  • DO be willing to walk away from a customer. If this customer is not a fit for you, can’t afford you or may not pay, politely back off.

  • DO take care of your business reputation. Be clear about what you do and don’t do, who you’ll work with and won’t, what your values are and what you won’t tolerate. You’ll be surprised how quickly that positive, confident approach spreads.

  • DO thank people who helped you or gave you time to tell them about your business. Send small gifts or a thank-you card to people who introduce you to a new customer.

  • DO give away business that isn’t quite a fit for you. Find good referral partners and send leads to them. Whether you get a cut or not, what goes around comes around.