Sole proprietors and very small A/E firms spend their early years struggling to stabilize cash flow while prospecting to win new business, facilitate output and invoice the client. It’s an endless cycle, with the same person or a few people wearing multiple hats. And when they are busy “doing” usually the “selling” process suffers, and vice versa.
No matter how much your business has grown, and how many layers of infrastructure you’ve developed, generating and maintaining revenue stream is what it’s all about.
All businesses get “stuck” on a plateau of input, throughout, output and client mix: the formula that got them to where they are today but may not be enough to sustain them in the future. How can you build out your current successful business development platform so you remain nimble in the marketplace and poised to take your company to the next level?
1. Incorporate relevant trigger events into prospecting.
A/E firms are already tuned in to reporting sites listing news about building expansion, property development and municipal funding, to name a few areas of opportunity. These traditional areas of prospecting can be supplemented by gaining greater proficiency in Web search. Using alternative search engines, search methods, and terms can help your company identify “trigger events” or additional, relevant information about your industry and clientele. Sam Richter’s book, “Take The Cold Out of Cold Calling – Web Search Secrets” (www.samrichter.com) is an indispensable resource for sales and business development professionals seeking to differentiate their deliverables. Why prospect using the same information as your competition?
2. Help your clients build their businesses.
Your clients use the Internet to research your company, as well. Often sellers aren’t invited to sit down with prospective clients until the client creates their shortlist of potential vendors. So your business development person may enter the scene after your prospect has made decisions about the project. How can your company differentiate itself from the other “problem-solvers” or “consultative sellers” who are out there competing in your space? Is your website a billboard or “informational?” Do you offer White Papers or Press Releases which are up to date? Are you using social media? Prospects may not all be technical, don’t want to read your website from cover to cover, and need to understand the relevance of unlabeled photo portfolios. Website and media content should establish an initial – and valuable – dialogue with your customers that goes beyond problem solving. Help them understand how doing business with your company makes their company more robust.
3. Look at yourself from your clients’ perspective.
Connect yourself to your company’s revenue stream. Many companies develop a great workflow infrastructure for handling won business. However, that infrastructure would be non-existent if it weren’t for the BD folks identifying these opportunities and the clients funding your output. Look at yourself from the outside looking in, as your potential clients see you, rather than from the inside looking out. While you are responsible for the A to Z of your job description, your clients have a bigger context into which they place your company. They only are interested in how your company’s A to Z impacts their company’s A to Z. How are you, and your company, helping your clients answer the question: What’s In It For Me?
4. Treat internal colleagues like they are prospects, because they are.
Make your vertical structure more horizontal; poke holes in departmental silos. Depending on where we sit around the table, we see the same things differently. Just as vendors have Lunch and Learn sessions to inform companies about new products and services, start a Lunch and Learn group at your company. These sessions place everyone’s role into the broadest possible cross-functional context. It literally pays to have everyone on the same page. What insights can your business development folks provide for your project engineers on the types of issues and questions they hear from current and prospective clients? How might your business development folks benefit from listening to how their inaccessibility impedes workflow and profitability? Everyone’s communicating this company-wide A to Z, and not just the one defined by the scope of their job description, may become the competitive differentiator your company is looking for.
Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Ten Haken
Author, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Strategies and Toolkit for the Sales-Engineering Interface
Connect With Babette On Linkedin
Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog