Practice Perspectives | Fall 2020
It’s Time to Rev Your Business Development Engine
Your business development practices may be metaphorically rusting on the side of the road, but now is the perfect time to bring the engine roaring back to life.
President, Kuesel Consulting
What happens if you park your car and don’t start it for several months? You might cross
your fingers when you eventually try to start it, right? It could have a dead battery, a flat tire,
a mouse living under the hood—any number of the maladies that come with a neglected
car. In the worst-case scenario, it could have parking tickets, a boot, or simply be gone!
The same thing can happen in business development: when it’s neglected, it can become
ineffective, broken, or could disappear altogether.
Listen, I get it. I have lived the same nightmare as you since March. I understand why
business development has fallen to the bottom of your to-do list, but it cannot be neglected
forever or you risk much more than a dead battery or flat tire. Anyone who has been active
at business development in the past has gone through a drought: several weeks without
networking, months without a referral, several proposals lost in a row. But when you
combine ongoing economic uncertainty with a lack of business development effort, you
risk a new kind of drought.
Forget about new business for a second. What about your current clients? What if your
largest client asks for a new bid in an effort to mitigate their costs? I’ve seen it happen with
some of my clients, and it will most certainly continue as the pandemic slows cash flow to
a trickle. If you ignore business development too long, these problems combined could
become the equivalent of a car thief—when you finally show up to go for a spin, you’ll find
your ride has evaporated into thin air.
So, how do you restart your business development engine? Here are some tried-and-true
recommendations that will get you up to speed:
Make Sure Your Clients Feel the Love
This is where your client goodwill efforts, like inviting them to a pertinent webinar or sharing
a helpful article, come into play. Schedule calls “just to check in” and see how their business
is doing given all the disruption in our world right now. Don’t fear bad news. You aren’t
expected to solve every problem, but you are expected to be empathetic and listen. Make
sure your clients know about some of the newer services your firm has launched in the
past few years—maybe your cross-selling efforts here can land a project or two. Finally, remember that approximately 50 percent
of all your business development time
should be spent with your existing clients.
Don't Neglect Relationships
Pull up a list of anyone who has sent you a
referral in the past few years and reach out
to check in. It’s been difficult to get the
scuttlebutt on the street without our usual
coffees, lunches, and networking events,
but I suspect you haven’t been trying
hard enough. Also, now is a great time to
help your referral sources make new
connections. Make introductions within
your network to fuel some activity.
Remember that approximately 25 percent
of your business development time should
be spent here, as non-client referral
sources influence a considerable amount
of your new business.
Commit to Writing and Speaking (via Webinar) to Your Target Audiences
No networking? No sponsorship events?
No seminars? No award ceremonies? Just
because we aren’t meeting in large groups
doesn’t mean there isn’t a desire for
valuable information. In fact, the thirst for
knowledge is high! It could be a great time
to build a strong personal brand around a
topic that serves as a magnet for new
business going forward. While rarely
instant, new business opportunities can
trickle in for years from something you
wrote or a webinar you presented.
Rethink Prospect Development
First, touch base with any prospective
client you didn’t win in the past few years.
Check in to see how they are doing and if
they need any help. If they chose the
low-cost provider, it’s possible they have
been neglected in the past several months.
Second, consider your ideal client. Create
a list of individuals and organizations that
you would like to do business with
and reach out to them, or utilize your
client and referral source network to open
doors for you.
Just like a car, allowing your business
development to lie dormant for too long can
cause serious problems. Now that you
recognize these potential risks, as well as
what you can do about them, it’s time for a
jump-start. Commit to spending up to
eight hours a week on a few of these
activities and before long your business
development engine will roar back to life.