Most sales leaders would agree that no two sales people are the same, but the same key factors will affect their performance in the role of new business development. Even when precious time is available for focussed hunting effort, a number of barriers raise their heads, creating obstacles to performance.
Taking the six steps below will ensure that your business development team get in front of more new prospects and secure more genuine new business opportunities.
1. Build Knowledge
Part of finding new business involves a considerable amount of knowledge. It means understanding which types of business are likely to be most winnable, which sorts of contacts are likely to be influential, and what might motivate them to support purchase from you.
Knowing where to find suitable prospect information is another key element of the expertise which few new business development teams are equipped with. When they attend an industry show and pick up a delegate list, they may initially be excited at the thought of pursuit. However delegate lists often give you names and company data without providing details like phone numbers or email addresses. What seemed easy then becomes tedious.
Get great data for your team to use. Understanding how to find a good prospect on LinkedIn, or how to engage them using powerful email messaging will help your team succeed. Identify where the knowledge gaps are, and invest in training or information to bridge them.
2. Enhance Skill
Most sales training covers listening and questioning skills, as these are key to every part of the sales process. And the truth is no-one gets these right all the time. But asking the right questions is critical to getting the right information – and getting in the right door.
Consider the difference between the responses you might expect from the following:
“Are you the decision maker?”
“Are you the only decision maker?”
“What’s your role in the decision?”
“Who else has to sign off on any decision you make here?”
Make enough time, take away all the opportunities for distraction, enable enough supported practice and – watch the results roll in. Anyone can do anything they set their mind to. It’s just a case of learning the skills and doing the behaviours until practice makes perfect. This is why focus works.
“The meaning of your communication is the response you get” – Gregory Bateson.
3. Develop Focus
Focus is a universal must for becoming great at anything. If tasked with other activities, from account management to internal strategy or planning activities, individuals will have little time to focus on what is one of the most challenging aspects of selling; finding new – that’s genuinely new – potential customers.
People who’ve spent a lot of recent time in late process roles like bid preparation, service handover or account management will be stuck in their ways and find a switch to early process activities like lead generation very tough, since they will fall outside their comfort zone. Where this is the only problem, time and focus will create new habits and fix the issue.
Winning a new customer is a highly intensive and time-hungry task which can eat 100% of a salesperson’s time for weeks, creating a very bumpy workflow. When one re-emerges and returns to new business development activity once more, any ‘flow’ has been lost, and more time will be needed to regain focus and skill. In an ideal world, you will probably do best if you have a team devoted to finding and nurturing new prospects and a further team dedicated to their cultivation and conversion.
4. Challenge Unhelpful Beliefs
Lack of persistence and follow through are common causes of poor performance and may be caused by distraction or displacement activities (see above). Yet there is another more common cause which is often at the root of these symptoms -a lack of belief.
If a new business development manager believes that a prospect has been too unresponsive to be seriously interested, they’ll give up pursuit.
Yet experience shows that responsiveness (or lack of it) is not solely to do with their interest in your offer. Many other things are going on in the prospect’s world, and it’s easy to assume the worst. A more likely explanation of their radio silence is that other things are troubling them. The prospect may simply feel too surrounded by crocodiles to progress with your common agenda.
You can monitor the pre-sales process step by step and query why a prospect has not been contacted to reveal this type of issue, and then gently challenge it. To help your team further, you may be able to use coaching to make them aware of different choices so that they respond differently when they next come across a prospect who seems to have withdrawn. With luck, a change in your team member’s behaviour will trigger a different outcome, and a new, more helpful belief will be born.
5. Recognise Preferences
Some people like cold calling, most don’t. Some people like desk research, some don’t. Some like working with others face to face, others prefer the anonymity of the phone. And so on. Whilst to a degree, we all like the things we’re good at, some tasks we just don’t want to get good at. Worse still, there are some activities we don’t believe we can ever get proficient at.
“Whether you believe you can, or you can’t – you’re probably right” – Henry T Ford.
Recognise this risk and deal with it. Preferences, like beliefs, are slow to move and movement depends on motivation. You may want to focus your investment on developing skills and aptitudes in folk whose beliefs and preferences present less of a barrier.
6. Boost Motivation
We only do the things that get us what we want. If you don’t need to scour the internet, make cold calls and get creative on the email, you probably won’t do it. Unless you love it.
Make the most of your incentive scheme. Reward the behaviours you know you need and watch your pipeline grow and deliver.