Is Your Business Development Failing?

Some people may be upset by what they are about to see.  Keep in mind the you that I’m talking about is your business so please don’t take this personally…unless you see yourself here, if you can honestly see what’s not working you are more equipped to fix it and create a structure by which your business development soars.

Top 10 Reasons your business development is failing

  1. You hired the wrong person
  2. You didn’t train them properly
  3. You didn’t lay out expectations
  4. No one is managing them
  5. You have a Ready, Fire, Aim approach to marketing
  6. You don’t have the tools to manage business development
  7. Your marketing stinks (technical term)
  8. You don’t know why people really buy you
  9. There is no follow up
  10. It’s all about you and not the prospect – square peg round hole, anything to close the sale
  11. Bonus – your expectations are impossible to meet
  12. Bonus #2 your compensation is flawed

Chances are if your business development isn’t as successful as you’d like it’s probably because of one of these reasons but did you notice the common denominator?

A person who shouldn’t be doing business development in the first place gets put in a job with no tools, no training, no understanding of expectations has nothing else to do but fail – but you feel guilty right, because you like them and you want it to work.  Of course you do.  The people who interview for this role love to talk to people but it doesn’t mean they are good at developing business.  You had an amazing interview, the conversation just flowed and you had fun learning about them and telling them about all the amazing things you’ve done with your company – again it was just a conversation.

Good conversation doesn’t equate to a good interview – it’s important absolutely but what’s most important in business development is developing and moving a pipeline forward and results and that is tough to determine in one interview.  If over time results have not improved and you have failed to address it, there still is time.  Not all is lost, it’s possible this person could improve if given the proper motivation, direction, tools, etc. but how do you know?

This isn’t something we advertise but we can certainly help, with a short assessment and better understanding of how you handle business development we can see the gaps and can give you easy and quick solutions to addressing those gaps in most cases.  In other cases, it’s simply the wrong person and you have a decision to make.  After 20+ years of business development we’ve pretty much seen everything and here are some of my all-time favorites:

  • Firing your top salesperson because your SVP of Sales feels threatened
  • Keeping your worst sales person because he’s puckered up (you get the image, right?)
  • Expecting your business development team to be able to sell a product that can’t lawfully be sold in the state
  • Trying to force a square peg into a round hole then being upset when the client fires you a few months later
  • Your BD person selling whatever they can then leaving it up to your customer service team to figure out how to deliver the services when they don’t currently offer some of the services
  • Purchasing an extremely expensive CRM that no one uses
  • Trying to be all things to all people
  • Failing to close a slam dunk deal because you never followed up

Now I’m going to assume you don’t do these things but if you did, it would be obvious that help is needed.  What we typically see is the company saying I am struggling to get business development right but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.  This happens in all size companies – sadly some of the situations above came from publicly traded, national companies who should know, right?  It’s just that business development is changing, it’s not about cold calling, it’s about being viewed as a resource, being the go-to for everything, creating that relationship – then you are viewed as a partner and not a vendor.

We’ve been asked to help with these types of scenarios many times and we welcome your call if you have concerns whether you have a business development team in place or looking to create one.  You don’t need to be local, as long as we can gain access to the documents, systems, people we need the analysis can be done.  For us this work is second nature so it typically isn’t too cumbersome.  Our typical fee ranges from $2000-5000 depending on the size of the business and how many BD/management staff we need to address.  Small changes can mean a drastic increase in revenue to an organization.   Email Karin at kschwartz@springboardbizdev.com if you have questions.

Why Government Contractors are failing in attempts to enter the commercial market

Government Contractors pursuing the Commercial Market in a sloppy manner

Contemplating a move into the commercial market?  Make sure you do it right, learn from these mistakes.  Sadly we’re seeing them over and over with wildly successful government contractors looking to counter the inevitable drop in government projects due to sequestration by entering the commercial market targeting large financials, pharma, healthcare, etc.  The issue is they just aren’t approaching the market correctly and here’s why –

Government contractors attempting to move into the commercial market expecting to have companies drop multi-million dollar projects in their laps due to their past government performance and attempting to manage the pipeline, presentation and proposal the same as they did with agency clients.  It’s not uncommon for these contractors to expect to have a thriving commercial practice within a year to 18 months and yet they are failing and can’t understand why.  Sadly the reason is arrogance.

Attempting to put an entire industry into your way of doing business and expecting them as your prospect to allow you to run the process as you see fit versus what works best for them is arrogant.  Expecting that your past performance in an environment that functions practically polar opposite of the commercial functionality of procurement and purchasing is arrogant.  Believing that you know how they work and what works best for them without due diligence and without analysis is arrogant.  Not accepting the trial programs the commercial prospects offer you to assess your capabilities because their too small and beneath you is arrogant.

Here’s the deal – the government market and the commercial market are two very different animals and if you don’t respect the nuances of business in both markets you will fail.  For the vast majority of businesses, you aren’t anything special; I know that’s hard to hear and it’s not meant as an insult.  There are hundreds if not thousands of companies who do what you do, really well and some are already in your desired target market winning and managing successful engagements.  You are the newbie and yet you act like you know it all.  The answer is to be humble, to understand you need to build trust the same as you did in the agencies so many years ago.  Be grateful when offered a pilot or trial program regardless of how small as it’s a win with that company and a chance to build performance in the new market.  Treat the market as it needs to be treated – it’s different than agencies – understand the process, respect the process and learn what’s important to each new buyer.  It’s best to have separate teams as it’s tough to transfer from one market to the other.  Most importantly expect a minimum of 3 years to gain consistent traction.  Treat this as an investment.  This market is a far cry from the market you entered in the government space 10 years ago, it’s not a free for all and you need to show your value and your expertise.  Arrogance will kill you in this market, if you plan to enter be strategic, be willing to learn, expect to fail and understand it’s an investment in amazing future growth – bring in experts who know the industry, who can talk the language and most importantly can bridge the gap that you’ve created by ignoring this market for so long.

Entering the market unprepared is like the business developer who claims his company’s people are smarter than those employed by the competition and their service is better.  You’ve done nothing to differentiate yourself and in fact you’ve told your prospect that you really don’t respect them.  I know it wasn’t your intention in face I’m sure it’s the exact opposite of your intention.  If you’re a software developer know why your clients use you and here’s a hint, it’s not service or smart people.  There are thousands of software developers in this country so what makes you special – is it the extensive knowledge of the industry you represent and the types of challenges you’ve been asked to tackle when others failed?  Is it how you hold your people accountable so jobs are finished on time and within budget?  Is it how you collaborate with the client to ensure ultimate business efficiency, effectiveness and results – results being the key here.  Maybe it’s that your practice is to proactively keep the client up to speed on the status of the project so you can address concerns in real time so as not to create unnecessary billable hours after the fact.  Do you think a prospect might find that appealing?

The fastest way to ensure you are viewed as a commodity and get into a cheapest price wins kind of deal is to associate yourself as the same as everyone else.  If you don’t know the answer to what makes you special this is your first task and I highly suggest you ask your current clients why they love you and if their answer is your price point – you have definite problems.  Before you enter a new market you need to know what is success to my new prospect, what makes them look like a hero so you can be their hero?  This is your business development angle, not that you’ve managed large successful programs for the feds because in the commercial market things get done faster, their systems are more up to date, they don’t look for butts in seats for an unlimited amount of time – this costs them shareholder value.  A company, nonprofit, hospital, regardless of size can’t just print money – you need to know what makes them tick before you enter the market.

We’d love to hear what you’ve done to differentiate yourself in the market and how it helped you to increase market share.

The Honest Economy by Marcus Sheridan

Below you’ll find an email from my friend Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion (www.thesaleslion.com – great website, download his e-book, it’s amazing).  Marcus is a fantastic speaker and was recently selected to speak at a TED event and has received rave reviews for his talk – you can click on the link below to see the video.  In his comments below he mentioned 5 things you can do today to Embrace the Honest Economy and Change Your Business Forever – what are you willing to do?

 

From Marcus:

At this point, you and I have a choice. Be it the way we live our life or run our business, we can walk to the beat of the way “it has always been done” as well as the way “the other guys do it” or we can make a divergence in the road and clear our own path from this point forward.

When it comes to marketing you and your business, this reality has never been so true. Please stick with me for a second so I can explain…

As some of you are already well aware, two weeks ago I spoke at a TED event near Washington DC. As one who speaks a lot, this 11-minute talk was the hardest thing I’ve ever done on stage. I literally poured my heart and soul into it because it’s a message I so firmly believe in. I also know, without a shadow of doubt, that any business or individual who embraces this approach will positively change their industry, build their brand, and create more paying customers in the process.

I’m calling this movement “The Honest Economy ,” and it’s my hope you’ll consider joining the movement today-and also hugely benefit in the process.

And what is The Honest Economy? Simple, it’s one that’s not based on cheap sales tactics, poor financial practices, or slick ad copy. Rather, it’s fundamental core comes down to two essential elements: Great communication and teaching.

This is why content marketing is something I talk about so very much on The Sales Lion. When all is said and done, we’re just trying to be better teachers and communicators.

But to make this simple, I’m going to mention 5 things you could choose to do that not only are fundamentally based in truth and honesty, but will have an incredible impact on your business, brand, and bottom line. Here they are:

5 Ways You Can Embrace The Honest Economy and Change Your Business Forever

1. Answer every question-positive or negative-you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer. Turn each question into a blog post title, and then just answer it. Hold nothing back. Be real. Be consistent. Make this a culture.

2. Write a manifesto about something you seeing wrong in your industry, and then show it to the world. (Yes, this takes guts, but you’ll be amazed at the results.)

3. Make an offer to customers no one else in your industry is willing to offer. (Car Max did this with their 5-day money back guarantee in the used car industry and it worked out pretty well for them 😉

4. Make a section of your website called “Who we are not for.” (Believe it or not, it’s more important in your copy that you tell people who you’re NOT for (your product, service, etc.) than who you are for. I’m sure no one does this right now in your industry, but if you do, you’ll see the powerful psychological effect it has on customers and prospects.)

5.  Show your “secret sauce” by making a video explaining how you do what you do . As mentioned in the TED talk, if McDonalds showed the world how to make their secret sauce, don’t you think it’s time we showed ours?? Whether you offer a product, a service, are B2B or B2C-please consider showing the world how you make your secret sauce.

2 Requests that Could Change Your Life and Mine as Well 

I have two sincere requests on this day my friends.

1. Choose one of the above challenges . Tell me, by hitting “reply” to this email, which one you’re doing (or will do) and why. I ask this because I want to be a part of the journey with you.

2. I need your help spreading my TED talk. In order for the talk to be considered by TED.com (only 2% of all TED talks make it to the main TED.com website ) I really need to get the views above 10,000 by next week (currently it’s at 4,000 after the first two days). If everyone that receives this email just clicked on this link and watched the video once, we’d be way above that number. And if everyone shared that same video on Facebook or Twitter, the results would be astounding.

I’m not usually one to ask my readers and subscribers for favors, but today, I am. I do sincerely need your help and hope you’ll consider going to YouTube and at least watching the message-The Honest Economy.

As always, thanks everyone and I can’t wait to hear your responses to the 5 challenges above and see which you’ll choose.

Marcus Sheridan

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.

 

Springboard Prospect Rant #2 – I Can’t Keep a Sales Person

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

Springboard Prospect Rant #2– I can’t keep a SALES Person

Typically when a prospect finds us it’s because they’ve tried the traditional route and it just isn’t working for them.  They’ve hired 2-3 sales people over the last couple of years and they have either left or failed.  The issue may be the hire, or it may be in the process, the management of the sales person or in management altogether.   Here’s what we typically see:

 

  • They hire the person based off how they interview and their resume, not qualifications or references – interviews and resumes aren’t always 100% accurate
  • They hire the person who has spent their entire career doing something other than sales and yet expects them to be closing deals in 2 months – this is a person who requires training and mentoring
  • They hire family or friends where the challenge becomes accountability, how do you tell your child, your friend that they aren’t living up to expectations?  This can be an excellent idea but it can also have damaging consequences.
  • They hire without plans for tools, expenses or process of accountability.  Tools – tracking, Customer Relationship Management, communication.  Expenses:  mileage, phone, lunches, events, memberships, etc.  Accountability – who, what, when, how?
  • They want the professional who comes with a rolodex, who is on a first name basis with decision makers, who can shorten the time it takes to get in the door, who can frame them as experts in their field, who has a process for management and follow up and who can ask and have answered some challenging questions.   This can be an excellent hire and it can also backfire.   Former executive levels at times can fall into the trap of schmoozing with little follow up and execution – if you think about it, it makes perfect sense; they always had someone else to do it for them.  This would be a great person to partner with an in house program manager or business development manager.

 

Essentially what we end up seeing is the person who should be producing but isn’t getting a very long leash costing the company far more than it should or the newer professional who needs in depth training, mentoring and time expected to perform like a pro immediately.  Sometimes it’s the hire, sometimes it’s the training, sometimes it’s the expectations.