One of the questions I get most often is, “How do I get more customers?”. Whether it’s the clients I’m working with, entrepreneurs I meet at networking events or even family members thinking about finally starting their own thing it’s always the same. As soon as someone hears that I’m a management consultant or that it’s my job to help businesses grow the barrage of how-to questions starts. Most of the time I love talking to people about what they are up to in their businesses - especially my clients. But sometimes it can be a little trying because regardless of what I have to say some entrepreneurs aren’t interested in the “it takes work or patience” prescription. Those people are interested in the silver bullet. They are looking for me to share that one super-secret piece of advice that will launch them ahead of their competition.
And I hate to say it but that kind of advice doesn’t exist. Or, if it does it’s probably coming from someone trying to sell you something that you probably don’t need.
Sure there are strategies, tactics or tricks that may work in the short run to help you collect based on taking advantage of some short term market trend or technology but that’s not sustainable. I’m interested in helping people see sustainable growth and developing the tools to help them be successful in the long term. Not just working on a piece of copy for example that designed to motivate a buyer to buy in the next email you’re sending out.
So, in this post I’m going to share a quick and dirty business development process that will help you identify opportunities and give you a system to measure your business growing efforts against. Let’s call it Business Development 101. Oh, and of course I’ll share some of the tools I recommend to help you get started on a zero/small budget.
Let’s start with the process!
1. Identify your target prospects.
Depending on your business you might be looking to sell to end consumers directly, get in front of influencers, identify business or enterprise customers or to connect with a specific role within a company. You can’t start the business development process until you know exactly who you are trying connect with.
2. Why should your prospects care?
Once you have an idea of who you are trying to connect with it’s important to try to get a handle on why they should care. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a business or an individual if you don’t have a compelling reason for someone to care about what you’re offering you will not get any kind of response. How are you going to add value to the things they are working on? How are you adding value to the things they care about most? If you can’t clearly articulate how your prospect’s life will be better after having engaged with you then you shouldn’t reach out.
3. Is your prospect going to respond?
You may have identified the VP of Marketing at a company you’re looking to connect with but are they going to respond if you shoot an email to them? Maybe?! If you have a strong enough ask, a warm introduction or some extra social proof juice of your own you may have a chance at getting a response. Most of the time you may not though. So digging a little deeper you may have to try to identify people that would be more likely to respond to you. Are there others working in that Marketing Department that would look like a hero if they forwarded your idea up to the VP? Can you offer your products or services a resource for that team to make their lives easier? You won’t be able to succeed if you can’t find people that are going to be most likely to respond to you.
4. Mine for contact information.
I like trying to start off with an email if I’m trying to get ahold of someone for the first time. It’s not as intrusive as a call and it allows you an opportunity to try to capture their interest. The trick is that finding someone’s email address isn’t always easy. Sometimes you may get lucky and find some contact info on a social or professional profile but those are far and few between. Later on in this post I’ll share one of the tools I use to get the naming conventions for emails from parent domains in an attempt to reach someone specifically. If you have the time my recommendation would be to find them on social and attempt to build the relationship there first. It’s very much a long-play but your chance of success is way higher when someone gets to know, like and trust you.
5. Craft and send your initial pitch.
Less is more with for first emails. Instead of explaining what should and shouldn’t be in your emails here’s a template I’ve used in the past. WARNING: Spamming the same pitch to lots of people IS NOT BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT. Doing this goes against everything we’ve already talked about when it comes to offering real value to the people you’re trying to connect with.
My name is YOUR NAME and I'm from YOUR BUSINESS. REASON WHY YOU'RE REACHING OUT. REASON WHY THEY SHOULD CARE OR BE INTERESTED IN A FOLLOW UP CONVERSATION. FOLLOW UP BY REFERENCING SOMETHING OF RELEVANCE TO YOUR PROSPECTS JOB/CAMPAIGN/NEED.
To give a quick snapshot of what some of our work has looked like in the past here are few links with view counts as well. There’s also a link directly to our website.
If you think we can add value to the work you're already doing let's set up a time to chat in the next week or so.
That’s it! Short, sweet and personalized to make a connection to something that they value.
6. Follow up.
For every 100 emails you send you may get between zero and a few responses. That doesn’t mean you give up. Remember you’re trying to develop a relationship where there was probably none before. So, it’s ok to follow up with additional information from a position of you giving value first.
Sending a few emails, getting no response and quitting doesn’t mean you’re business development process failed. It just means you didn’t give it enough time and/or your heart really wasn’t in trying to develop actual relationships with people. This is the part where there’s no magic bullet that most people hate to hear - it takes real work, more time than you think and lots of patience to give any business development plan a chance at success.
Ok, that’s the process!
So from this process you are already probably gleaning how to track success. My recommendation would be to either use a CRM that you like or just a spreadsheet to track things like contacts, dates of emails sent, whether or not they were responded to, how many emails were exchanged and what kind of business resulted from those communications. Tracking your reach and engagement over time will help you hone your message in a way that respects the time and interests of those you’re trying to get a hold of and supports your business growing efforts.
On to the tools.
Here is a list of tools that I think are worth checking out. Most of them are free or have a very usable free option for those that are just starting out or are looking to keep their budget as lean as possible. These are NOT referral or affiliate links, I’m recommending these tools because I’ve used them myself and think they are solid resources.
1. Hubspot. http://www.hubspot.com Here’s you’ll find a really good CRM and Sales Management platform. What I like most is that with the free version of Sales you get to see the opens and behavior for 250 emails you send out. The CRM is really robust as well. It might take a little time to set everything up the way you like it but once you get rolling it’s an awesome source to store and analyze the data your business development spits back at you.
2. LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com Regardless the size of your personal network LinkedIn is an awesome professional person search engine. If you’re looking to connect with anyone that works in a business or that owns a business odds are you’ll be able to find them on LinkedIn. Depending on their profile settings you’ll also be able to get a sense of who they are as professionals, interests, accomplishments, etc. All great things for trying to find common ground in which to connect.
3. Email Hunter. http://www.hunter.io After you’ve identified the people and businesses you are trying to get in front of you’ll need an email address. This is where Email Hunter comes in. You get access to a handful of searches free and then if you register (also free) it goes to 100. Here you’ll type in the domain and this site will do its best to give you the naming conventions of the email addresses used on the site. From there you just match it to your prospects name and you’ll have a pretty good chance of sending an email off that actually lands in someone’s inbox. Whether they open it or not is a whole other story.
So there you have it! That’s a quick and dirty Business Development 101. Are there other tools or approaches you can use to grow your business? Absolutely. But this post is designed to help you stop stalling, stop evaluating CRMs, stop playing in Excel in an attempt to build the perfect sales tracker and just start doing. One of the biggest reasons that you’re not finding the business development results you want is because you’re not spending enough time doing the actual development work.
Stop thinking, start building new relationships and building a sustainable business.