The business development (BD) process has changed for many companies the past year and a half. Just think, it was not that long ago (although it seems like years) that business developers used to go to conferences and trade shows; visit with prospects and customers, even touring their facilities and plants; network with others at coffee shops; and just “see” people in person as a part of the BD process. Those days have been replaced with webinars and endless video calls. Even old standbys like phone calls and emails have become increasingly more challenging because business developers struggle to connect with people or get a response. Only recently have companies allowed BD professionals to start coming into their offices … and that could change again at any time with new strains of COVID-19 emerging. So what are BD professionals supposed to do?
Many companies have made few changes at all. They continue to follow the same processes that they have used for years, simply substituting a Zoom or Microsoft Teams call in place of the occasional in-person meeting. Not surprising, the results are not what they once were. However, the most successful companies are the ones that have adapted to the new reality by adapting their processes.
Now is the time for you to change your processes, mix things up and use more video. Here are a few ideas on how you might do that:
It’s true that there are far fewer opportunities to go to a chamber of commerce meeting or luncheon and meet new people. And yes, many people—even the most successful business developers—dread the “cold call” and have to force themselves to make them. Instead, try using video. Many videos today are not fully produced, professionally created videos. Instead, they are short, authentic videos of you being you. Tools such as Drift or Vidyard allow anybody to create a personal, relevant message that stands out to get people’s attention. Imagine a potential client sorting through dozens of emails and then finding one with a personal message that includes a link to YOU just talking to them. Research shows that it has been effective in standing out from the crowd.
A well-placed LinkedIn or Facebook post can help create awareness. If you’re thinking “YUCK,” it doesn’t have to be that way. This is a great way to show thought leadership. A short 2- to 3-minute video talking about a common challenge or issue that companies face, along with a tip or two on how others are addressing those areas, is not only valuable to the viewer but creates engagement. When viewers start commenting, it instantly gets spread to hundreds of other people who you may have not had exposure to. And, it costs NOTHING.
Coffee meetings still happen, although they have become fewer as people work from home. However, today’s video conferencing age has provided a cool benefit. Networking groups have become more prominent. I’m not talking about large disconnected professional networking groups, but a handful of individuals you have personally selected to be referral partners. Using video conferences to share and track referrals has brought more intention and purpose to referral partners. For added benefit, share a worksheet that shows all the referrals that have been made, progress on those referrals, feedback, etc.
If you can present in person, that is typically the preferred method. But if you can’t, don’t just fire things out over email. When you want to present your firm or your services, make use of video conferencing. Watch for facial expressions and body language. Use visuals to support whatever you are taking about. Remember that many people are visual learners. They want to see the proposal, the model outlining your process or approach, or anything else you have to show them.
Evolve Your Business Development Skills
A main part of the sales process has always been getting the attention of your prospect. The challenges of face-to-face meetings today are unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean you sit back and wait until you can rely on your tried-and-true methods again. It’s time to evolve what you’ve always done and find new ways to “see” your prospects. Start with rethinking how, what, and where to use video.
The world has changed. If you don’t change with it, you could get left behind. However, if you experiment and find the formula that works, you could be the firm leading the pack.
About Gary Braun
Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. In his role at Pivotal, Gary is primarily responsible for business development but, he’ll gladly take on few clients in a consulting role. Gary speaks with and partners with other firms that help drive top-line growth.
Gary, helps organizations define where growth is coming from, helps them hire and/or develop the sales team, identify ideal clients and markets, and leverage true differentiators (even in commodity markets). He also implements sales processes, targets specific KPIs, increases activity, creates and applies sales compensation plans, and develops sales leadership skills.