Prospect Rant #5 – They said they had connections

Rant #5 – They TOLD ME they had great connections

It’s now 6 months later and we have no meetings scheduled.  I have to admit I love this one because it can happen across the board.  It can be your $225k hire, the retired military leader, the retired Agency head, the “commercial expert” or the newbie, etc.  You’re paying for action not cards in a rolodex.  How many former executives do you know that actually handled the sales process?  Not too many – so why would you expect them to do it for you?  You hired them for one reason and one reason only – to make introductions for you and now in order to see your investment flourish you need to pair them with someone who can communicate the opportunity and move the opportunity forward.

It can also happen with your in-house Business Development person, anyone can say they know people and how many CRM’s are filled with names and numbers that represent a person they met once at an event 5 years ago?  Again Business Development is about connections, strategy and execution.  You’re looking for someone who can figure out the puzzle, methodically go about meeting and meeting with your desired prospects, communicate in the most effective way the value that prospect would receive in working with you and moving that prospect along the pipeline IF they are the right fit.  The last thing you want is someone trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.  You want right fit clients and you need the person who is willing to walk away from a deal if in the short or long run they know it’s not going to work.  The frustration and potential damage to your reputation just isn’t worth a few months of revenue.

Let’s be honest, sales is a crap shoot.  There really is no way to tell if someone you interview really has strong connections or not (unless of course you’ve seen this person in action over a long period of time).  There’s also no way you can identify their strategic capabilities or their desire to execute.  What does work is communication and accountability.  This in no way implies you should be a micro-manager however there does need to be a standard for how information is delivered to you and vice versa.

Rant #4 What’s with all these expenses?

As you know from reading out last couple of blog posts we’re listing all of our prospect rants – what brings them to us initially.  Today’s is all about expenses and unfortunately most business owners don’t take into account the expenses associated with business development which ultimately leads to a much higher budget item then originally planned.  Keep reading to get a greater understanding of the full budget challenges:

 

Rant #4 – what’s with all these expenses?

 

What’s with all this expense reimbursement?  So Business Development is not just salary, commission, benefits and taxes…it’s also expense reimbursement and you should plan for a minimum of $30,000 if you hire someone full time.  Here’s what we typically see:

  • Mileage – at or near the IRS reimbursement rate, you should expect 800-1500 miles on average per month
  • Memberships – some groups are $35 a year while others are $30,000, you’ll need to determine a budget and which groups fit your target profile
  • Event fees – typically range from $30-400, including fees for appropriate trade shows which could be upwards of $2500
  • Phone reimbursement – typically capped at a monthly number or fully paid for by the company and may be company equipment
  • Parking and tolls
  • Taking clients/prospects/partners out to breakfast/lunch/dinner/drinks

 

When I was employed in a BD role years ago, my monthly expenses averaged $1200-2000 and that didn’t include the memberships…this was also over 5 years ago.  If you decide to hire full time you should plan for expenses and budget, be sure to discuss this budget with your BD staff.  I’ve had corporate credit cards and I’ve had to deliver expense reports biweekly.  For those that travel outside of the region you should expect flights, trains, rental cars, hotels, per diem as well.  This would also be the case if you need to attend a conference out of the area.

I’ve found that most BD outsourcing firms cover their expenses in house with the exception of out of the area travel which is typically only if requested and approved by the client ahead of time.  So typically if you use an outsourcing firm for business development its one flat rate monthly plus commissions.  We have seen some outsourced firms bill for expenses so if you’re in conversations it’s important that you know what you will and will not be responsible for and for how long.

 

Prospect Rant #3 – Cheap Labor

Continuation of the Bob London of London, Ink “Customer Rant”  posts, see previous posts for more information.

 

Rant #3  I should be able to hire someone for $30k right?  If they’re really good they’ll make it up in commissions

Here’s the issue, the good ones know their value and $30k is an insult.  You are essentially asking someone with 15+ years of experience with amazing connections that they are essentially going to drop in your lap, someone with a strategic mindset who can build and manage long term relationships and make you look like a genius to accept the equivalent of $15 per hour.  Here’s what $30k will get you – $30k will get you someone extremely junior who requires a lot of training and mentoring – aka no commissions coming in any time soon.  I’m certainly not saying this is a bad idea – for some it’s a perfect fit – you want to look for a real go getter, someone with a lot of energy but just know they will require a lot of time and energy on your part for training and eventually will leave you at some point for more money.  My friend Andy Miller of Big Swift Kick just loves when prospects ask him to work on a success fee only structure.  His answer is simply perfect, he says “sure, I’d love to.  We’ll just have to make sure the contract is buttoned up and I’ll need 3 references of people who have worked on a success fee with you before where you’ve actually written the big check”.  Look this isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve all been asked to do this before and we’ve all said yes and we’ve all been screwed.  There are a couple of issues at play here:

  • We don’t necessarily have access to all your systems so we have to trust that the numbers we see in the end are correct and you actually have to abide by your word and write the check
  • There’s a difference between an increase in sales revenue and an increase in profit.  If you add to the expenses at the same time sales are increasing your profit may actually shrink and it wouldn’t be the first time someone has tried to hold us accountable to their inability to manage expenses.
  • You need to give us free reign and most CEO’s aren’t willing to let us control all aspects of their sales environment including terminating those who may be a hindrance.
  • More so than any of the others, you aren’t taking this seriously.  The CEO who is serious about growing their business understands investment.

 

 

It Really Is YOU not ME

I’m sure at some point in your dating life someone said “it’s not you, it’s me” and you believed them.  It doesn’t mean that it was a bad thing that your relationship didn’t work out although at the time you were probably devastated.  The same happens every day in business and whether it’s you or me is irrelevant; we’re just not the right fit.

A few blogs ago we talked about our Client Acceptance Protocol and the changes we had to make to ensure we are focused on working with the right clients.  We find that there are certain business owner traits that coincide with a certain size and type of client and we’ve learned over almost 5 years where we can and cannot be successful.

Here’s what we look for in a client:

  • A unique offering, product or service
  • A CEO who knows how to delegate and outsource
  • A CEO who understands their sales cycle
  • A client who is looking to build long term happy client relationships and not just transactions
  • A respectful leadership team and corporate culture
  • A leadership team who truly understands their people are their greatest asset
  • A leadership team who regularly, consistently communicates and receives feedback with grace

What we know doesn’t work:

  • A CEO that’s a micro-manager
  • A CEO without a vision of the future of the company
  • The CEO who believes that their people are the smartest and their service is better than anyone else – this is usually the person who is not living in reality
  • A CEO or corporate culture build on disrespect
  • A CEO or leadership team that cannot accept feedback or places blame on everyone else
  • A CEO who thinks their team is disposable

As you can see it’s not easy to tell one from the other in a meeting or two.  Everyone puts their best foot forward in an interview and no one will tell you they are a passive aggressive nutcase or they micromanage everyone and everything.   People have asked why in our Client Acceptance Protocol have we instituted meetings with other members of the company and with clients along with attending new prospect meetings…this is why.  You can learn a lot from seeing someone in action, how they respond to questions, how they handle adversity.  These meetings allow us to learn more about the company, its process, its unique capabilities, and most importantly it allows us to see who we’re really partnering with.  Every day we put our relationships and our reputations on the line for our clients and one bad client can ruin years of work, we look to ensure that never happens.  Outsourced business development is a team  approach; we rely on each other to close deals and if we can’t trust the behavior of our client, we can’t in good consciousness represent them

 

Where have you been?

I’ve been AWOL, definitely MIA from this blog – a huge No-No.  I know this and yet the business required so much of my time these past few months that I neglected the one thing I know people look for – information.  Yes I was busy, new and existing clients, a pipeline to die for, and most importantly recreating our structure.  2012 taught me a few things – like having policies in my head was probably not a good idea, sure I communicated them (or so I thought) but how was anyone to really know what I expected if it wasn’t on paper?  So it’s now on paper.

We changed how we “on-board” a client.  We found that most clients had a ready, fire, aim approach to new business development and for many the idea of target markets was anyone that breathes.  We revamped our Client Acceptance Protocol and it made sense to create one for each new client so our consultants could more easily stay on task.  Our government contractors say,” it’s easy we just focus on this agency and that agency” and yet each of these agencies has multiple silos with separate decision makers so how do you know where to go in each agency?  We’ve found that a more in-depth market review and analysis in the beginning leading to a Client Acceptance Protocol for each new client prior to pipeline development led to a stronger understanding of the client’s unique capabilities, an easier transition for the consultant to communicate most effectively with prospects and it gave the client a better understanding of our strategy.

We did a billing and invoicing policy for our clients so there are no longer any questions regarding pay structures, how it’s handled and more importantly for me who handles it (and guess what …it’s no longer me)(side question – what are the things taking up your  valuable time that could easily and cost effectively be outsourced?).   We updated our Client Acceptance Protocol and it’s in the hands of everyone in the office so we all stay on task when it comes to marketing and new client engagement.  No longer can we choose to bring on a client if they don’t fit the mold (we call this rescuing puppies).  If they don’t fit, they don’t fit and we’ll be glad to introduce them to someone else who may be able to help.  In fact over the past several months I’ve given 5 opportunities to my competition – they were just a better fit.

Rescuing Puppies is the phrase my husband chose one night about 4 years ago as we were talking about a client that just wasn’t the right fit but I knew we could help them if they would just let us do our work and stop the self -sabotage.  Of course all of our pets are rescues and there is definitely something in my core about helping and taking care of others, but sometimes, in business, I want to help them more then they want to really help themselves.  As it turns out this particular client really wasn’t ready or willing to make the changes necessary for them to thrive.  This is something we see every day with smaller companies.  Almost 5 years into the business we can now spot a “puppy” a mile away and while we may have a personal relationship with the owner and we may want to see them thrive, we know the total costs will outweigh the benefits.  How often do you take on a client that isn’t the right fit?  What have you done to ensure your clients truly fit within your target?  Where are your policies?  If you’re like me you communicated, or at least thought you had communicated the policies and yet for some reason the same issues kept popping up.  Many thanks to Susan Katz, the Growth Coach for helping me to realize that it was easier to get the policies out of my head and on paper then it was to expect everyone to be mind-readers.

So while I’ve been missing, it was time well spent.  Look for our next blog on Prospect Rants.