It’s time to put business development back on the menu

As we come out of months of uncertainty and the pace of business steps up once more, the next few months will prove crucial. 

You might have taken your foot off the pedal, focusing on survival rather than new business. But with the end of the UK lockdown in sight (we hope), it’s time to up the effort. If we’re going to – as the government says – ‘build back better’, we need to keep active. 

Let’s get talking, put business development back on the menu, move forward, and negotiate our way into a more prosperous future.

Refocus and redeploy

Step one is bringing your business development teams back into play. While we’re not out of the woods entirely, resources aren’t nearly as limited as they were in the spring. It’s time to re-balance being cost-efficient and productive with investing in the future.

Sales is a skill. It’s not something just anyone can do. And it’s not the same as marketing. Get your experts back in to take a more active role in your business’s recovery.

Business development will look different for a while. After an extended hiatus, it might take a while for people to get back into the swing of things and reawaken the skills and expertise that have remained dormant since March. But the sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you’ll be back to top form.

Claire Leaman at Bee2Bee Consultants points out that, “There’s lots of work to be had. Plenty of people are issuing tenders, writing proposals and getting projects moving. Investing in your business development teams again is a worthwhile expense. It’s just about approaching this in the most efficient and effective way from what’s still a relatively volatile position.”

Be strategic

One of the main ways business development will look different is that it’ll require a much more targeted, intentional approach. Think sniper, not scattergun.

Under normal circumstances, you might have a 1:2 win rate. But coming out of a global pandemic or a recession, we aren’t blessed with the time or resources to allow 50% of our sales effort to go nowhere.

Sales strategies need to become about quality, not quantity. Rather than playing the numbers game and looking for lots of opportunities, try seeking better qualified leads in a particular area. Nurture your current client base, revisit satisfied clients from previous years, choose a few promising avenues and stick to them for a while. We can’t do everything all at once. But we can focus on something for six months to a year, measure the results, and then move on to a different area of focus.

Aim to convert quickly and efficiently. And, like above, this means being more realistic and intentional in your approach. Avoid unrealistic prospects or those that are unlikely to come to fruition. Use your business development resources carefully. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise.

It might also be time for some fresh sales material. Your brand, your ambitions and the market have changed and so have your clients’. It’s important your sales materials reflect this. And please, design your sales material for digital use – very little is printed out these days.

An integrated effort

Now more than ever, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of an integrated approach. Sales and marketing should be embedded in your company culture. Without a recognisable brand and business coming through the door, there is no business.

57% of a purchase decision is made before contact with a supplier. Good marketing creates a great impression long before a prospect encounters a sales person. Marketing and business development are intertwined, symbiotic. Both teams are focusing on the same audience. And only together can you be confident that the messages are correct.

Business development is closest to your clients and well-versed in their needs and expectations. Marketing is on the frontline of business news, updates, and industry developments – keeping you relevant and up to date. Together, you’ll have a successful, profitable, and effective business development process that wins the right business and the right clients. 

Properly integrated sales and marketing will make your business lean, differentiated and competitive.

A strong recovery is contingent on effective and targeted business development. After all, how else will you regain your market position? Now’s the perfect time to bring your much-loved business development teams back, and switch on the sales engines once more.

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