“Do or Die” is a dramatic statement, right? But there was a time when families and entire tribes relied on their hunters to venture out and find food for survival. Without food, they would die. I suggest that without brand new clients, an organization risks death as well.
The profession of selling or business development is often viewed through three lenses: Hunting; Farming; and Trapping.
TRAPPING works on inbound inquiries where interest is expressed by an interested potential buyer and requires follow-up.
FARMING pursues new business from within existing satisfied clients, where a relationship exists between the buyer and the company.
REFLECTION 1: Both Trappers and Farmers have the advantage of an interested party, a friendly bridge to welcome you and your story. Hunting on the other hand does not.
HUNTING is all about finding and securing new clients for the firm and while may appear at first blush as intimidating and uncomfortable holds the promise of introducing your products and services to yet untapped customers.
REFLECTION 2: Companies rely on their hunters to survive. New clients or customers are not nice to have every year but a MUST have!
The expert hunter knows how to spend their time, and what time of day (or night) they need to be in place ready, waiting, and alert. They recognize the unique scent and physical movements of their target - they have knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses, they are experts in their approach, and they have a plan.
The hunter carefully sizes up the opportunity to be certain of the risks involved. They are patient and careful about their movements. They are fully in-the-moment and undistracted. They are in control of themselves. Each movement is calculated, calm and focused.
What visual does this story conjure up in your mind? For most of us, the story of a hunt is exciting and thrilling. It is, in fact, no wonder why some find the “thrill of the hunt” so appealing.
Of course, our prospective partners are not our “prey”, but sometimes they flee when they see us coming thanks to badly behaving business development people that came before us. But I think you’ll agree that there are similarities in the description.
For all the excitement of the Hunt, the real work of a hunter is done long before he departs for the hunt itself. First and foremost is the search for a prospect as it’s called and then second to gather as much intel on the potential candidates as possible.
This requires the seller or hunter to “put themselves out there” and engage people they don’t know or have never met. This is where the age-old term “cold calling” originates from. The term causes many professional sellers to jump up from their chairs and sprint for the nearest hiding place.
To hunt is certainly not for the shy or those who lack self-confidence; it does require certain skills that are not necessarily needed when Farming or Trapping. Nonetheless, the qualities developed are vital and so useful in business and life in general. Essential for a hunter is to put aside their ego; to be vulnerable to rejection, and not to feel like “no” is a personal rebuff. This mental strength requires a high emotional (intelligence) quotient (EQ). Hunters are some of the strongest, most reliable, and most intuitive people you will ever meet.
I enjoy telling people about my first day on the job as in a business development capacity. After fifteen years as a multi-account manager, I was “asked” to take a sales position. I resisted, but took the position reluctantly. On the first day, I had no meeting to go to, and no appointment to keep. At the traffic light outside of my neighborhood, I didn’t know whether to turn right or left. I was literally starting from zero. I proceeded to do hundreds of cold visits trying to secure a meeting. I sent hundreds of follow-up letters (pre-email) to try and secure interest in having a meeting. It was admittedly drudgery, and depressing. I was also mostly unsuccessful, securing one meeting out of about 30.
REFLECTION 3: there is absolutely nothing wrong with cold calling, it was simply that I was lacking guidance and was bad at it. My goal for cold calling was wrong, which meant my approach was also wrong.
The good news is that I learned. I didn’t stop cold calling, as there were many benefits to doing this. I recognize that this is an arguable position but let’s save that debate for another conversation. I did learn other ways to prospect. I pursued introductions from colleagues. I learned how to plan for engaging prospects at industry association meetings. I learned how to research my prospects and develop messaging that would resonate with them. I learned how to engage in conversation with prospects to develop rapport and trust.
REFLECTION 4: The importance of prospecting cannot be understated. Do you know how many hours your team invests in prospecting each day? Is it enough?
Of course, with technological advances, today there are different avenues to attract and engage prospects. The internet makes research far easier to prepare you for prospecting. Your website and social media provides prospects with an opportunity to learn about your company and you before you even meet. Social media is powerful, along with email, texting, and direct messaging. But the need to prospect, to engage people in conversations is still a fundamental necessity of B2B selling.
Why Isn’t Your Team Creating More New Clients?
Business leaders often wonder why they are not creating more new clients as compared to “same store” sales. I suggest that there are four primary reasons.
1. Wrong People in the Wrong Seats on the Bus. Failure to carefully screen, interview and hire the right people to be on their business development team. Getting under the hood to see if the candidate has the right skills is essential. Are you using effective questions during interviews and requesting examples to support statements?
2. Obstacles & Distractions. Failure to minimize internal administrative work and meetings that takes them away from doing daily prospecting.
3. Enable with Resources. Failure to arm their business development team with the resources they need to prospect such as strong databases; funding association membership; funding a sales enablement team and marketing support.
4. Teach, Coach, and Hold Accountable. Failure to provide coaching and continuous training on how to effectively prospect. Sales leaders must regularly talk to their teams about their prospecting efforts and hold them accountable. Prospecting time is a leading indicator of success.
What Leaders Can Do?
This is where leadership plays a vital role in business development and achieving growth objectives. Ask yourself, are there internal organizational issues causing problems, or does it come down to individual skills and behaviors? (Or both). What is the appropriate action to take and whose help should you solicit?
Expectation Setting: Have you created an expectation around prospecting? If not, be sure to do so.
Internal and Administrative: How much time does your CRM suck up from the average day of your salespeople? Invest in some basic training to speed up data input and save time to divert to prospecting. Consider dedicating two hours daily as “off limits for internal meetings”. Maybe from 8:30AM until 10:30 AM?
Skills Training: How much do you invest in providing practical professional sales training and skill development?
Internal Support: Is marketing and sales enablement providing effective insight material and publishing regular awareness information on social media?
Industry Associations: Do you have pre and post meetings to critique their engagement success at industry association conferences? This is an essential practice to justify the investment in the event.
Coaching: Do you have regularly planned coaching sessions where you ask challenging questions about their target list and prospecting activities?
REFLECTION 5: If you don’t expect your team to prospect, they probably won’t. And the problem will not resolve itself.
A Word About the Request for Proposal (RFP)
So many industries rely on the RFP to “solicit bids” for business services, a highly ineffective approach for finding the best partner for the organization. The “arms-length” process attempts to level the playing field with respect to service scope to measure capabilities, while paying little attention (if any) to compatibility, a vital element for long term success.
The RFP is costly for all involved and fraught with inefficiency. By nature, the RFP process positions the bidders in a leveraged and subservient position. In the end, they will be likely be squeezed for a lower price. This is not the basis for a fruitful partnership. My point is that bidding for pencils is not the same as bidding for professional business services. I will say, some companies conduct very good RFP processes and do search for a strong partner, balancing compatibility with pricing. But they are the anomaly in my experience.
Most service companies do little to evaluate the RFP and whether (or not) to invest in delivering a response. They actually fear offending the company soliciting the bid should they decide not to participate. If they do decide to participate, little consideration is given to who on their team should respond, the hunter or the farmer or the trapper?
REFLECTION 6: Will the RFP be primarily an exercise in writing skills, or will there actually be an opportunity to collaborate, or professionally engage with and influence the buyers from your point of view?
In my experience, there are three critical questions to consider when it comes to receiving an RFP:
1. RFP Qualifying – use an evaluation tool to determine if the prospect fits your “ideal client profile (ICP)”, and aides in determining the odds of your winning. The tool should take into consideration topics such as the geographic location; the incumbent position; the motivation for the RFP; whether you have pre-established relationships at the bidder organization; to name just a few areas of evaluation. Someone will win the bid; will it be you? What are your odds? Create an effective tool for your company and live by it.
2. Response Leader – Hunters work with their ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and predetermined target list to establish professional relationships before an RFP is released. If there is no pre-established relationship, and little opportunity to establish one, then the Hunter in the geography may not be the right person to respond. One of the competitors may already have a professional relationship which may create an advantage for them. Is there a “trapper” or “farmer” on the team that is better suited to generate the response?
REFLECTION 7: If your company has more than 50% of its opportunities coming in by RFP, consider having people dedicated to this type of sale.
REFLECTION 8: What percentage of the RFP’s that you receive do you respond to? What percentage do you win? Do they result in strong win-win partnerships built to last?
3. Response Efficiency – Sales Enablement and/or Marketing should have created standard categorized text responses to use when answering routinely included RFP questions. The prewritten text response should offer specific responses that speak directly to outcomes and be appropriate for “cut and paste” into the response and then customized if necessary. The prewritten responses should include proof statements where possible and should be routinely updated. The goal should be responding with high efficiency and minimal customization when there is no pre-established relationship, particularly if the Qualifying Tool resulted in a weak “go” outcome.
REFLECTION 9: All that said, when you do have the right connections, relationships, and levels of engagement, a more tailored approach that meets the exact needs of the client will win every time.
If new clients are just coming your way without expending effort, this is awesome! But for many companies, this is not the case – not even close. Especially if you’re new to the market segment.
So, my friends, you’ll need to ensure your team invests time to prospect new clients. It is the leader who has the responsibility to ensure there is adequate time and effort being given to this part of business development for the organization to reap the benefit of putting food on the table and creating new clients.
To learn more about 4xi, strategic account management, and TRUE NORTH© you can contact Ed directly at email@example.com or visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we inspire a brighter future, together: www.4xiconsulting.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ED SNOWDEN Strategic Business Consultant
Sales Growth and Client Retention Ed has over 45 years of progressive growth in leadership responsibility at two Fortune 500 management services and hospitality companies: ServiceMaster and Aramark.
At both organizations he was regularly promoted based on his performance and was awarded several awards in both sales and operational roles.
As Vice President of Operations, Ed provided leadership for a hospitality team of over 500 people and an operating budget of over $60MM which he successfully renewed for five years. He has extensive experience in a multitude of business capacities including strategic account management, sales, and growth leadership.
As Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Ed was responsible for cultivating professional relationships for the company’s largest healthcare clients in North America valued at over $350MM annually. In that role he assisted in the writing of a living Strategic Account Management Playbook.
At 4xiGlobal Consulting, Ed co-authored the TRUE NORTH© Strategic Learning Academy centered on creating a new mindset for developing and retaining the best business partners, winning better, retaining better business.
4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side, impacting the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.
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