Where the rubber hits the road.…
The life of a business development executive or sales manager is one filled with goals, targets, demands and the constant deterrent to success - distractions.
Ponder, if you will, the average week of a professional B2B Business Development Executive (BDE)? Consider how many hours a BDE engages in conversation with a prospective client. Let’s say they have five meetings during a week, each for one hour.
In a forty-hour work week this translates to five hours or 12.5% of your time devoted to making a connection, having influence, and perhaps forming a partnership. Layer on top of this a close ratio of 35% and it quickly becomes apparent just how important having a successful meeting is.
In short, the more effective meetings you have with prospects, the better your chances of finding a good fit and creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
For B2B Business Development networking and prospecting are the essential ingredients to success because they are the pathway to securing meetings and interactions. This cannot be overstated. Be it making phone calls, approaching people at industry associations; researching relevant market information; sending emails; connecting on social media; marketing, it is dogged consistency, discipline, and perseverance that results in getting a meeting on the calendar.
Despite the wonder of our virtual world, to ultimately develop a partnership, you must have face time; you must build relationships. When you finally secure a time and a place you must be ready to ‘show-up, ready, willing and able’ - “winging-it” is not an option.
Let’s get you ready or perhaps just refresh your memory on the cornerstones that will help you reach your goals.
4 Overarching Objectives for the Initial Meeting:
Evaluate if mutual “fit” is evident.
Lay the groundwork for rapport and trust.
Gain knowledge through meaningful conversation.
Agreement to meet again (if “fit” is evident).
Professionals prepare, full stop. To honor your client or prospect, to show up at a meeting with specific intent, you must be prepared and rehearsed. There is no excuse for not researching the prospect, the organization, and the latest industry trends. Be it in electronic or written note form, document what you learn and refer to it before the meeting. That good ole’ cheat sheet worked when we were students at college, and it works now. List the questions you want to ask. Be ready.
The sheer act of preparedness gives confidence and speaks volumes to the prospect as your demeanor shows you have taken the time to get to know ‘them’. Leaders and prospects need to know you care enough to do your homework, to arrive prepared, to honor the time they afford you and respect their time constraints. If you don’t prepare and waste their time, you won’t get any more of it.
As an aside, having a plan for how you want the meeting to unfold is also a good idea to have in your back pocket so to speak, but remember that the unexpected will happen – be flexible and nimble enough to go with the flow when it does. Being fully prepared means that the unexpected will not throw you off your game. Lean on your instincts and emotional intelligence to ensure a successful interaction.
Finally, take a moment to reflect on your own organizations mission, vision, and values. Know thyself is a profound statement and in this context ensures you know how to recognize a good fit versus just business for your organization and for you as an BDE.
UNDERSTAND YOUR CLIENT’S POINT OF VIEW
As you prepare for your meeting, invest time reflecting on the role, title, responsibilities, significance and even the demands of the prospect and how they fit within their organization structure. Consider the day in the life of your prospect, their day-to-day priorities, and how you might be able to support them. This enables you to get a start on how you can connect and build rapport.
Most people want to know you’re interested in their role and that you are empathetic with their day-to-day challenges. This is human nature, and part of how we interact. It is smart to understand your prospective client’s point of view; try to meet them initially where they live. Always remember, the prospect is the Star of this screenplay, not you.
Some of the things top of mind with your prospect maybe strategic, tactical, and a balance of focus and priorities:
My department has 20% turnover, how do I lower this?
I’m over budget by $250,000 YTD. How can I turn this around?
My division needs to reduce costs by 10% in 3 months.
Who should lead my division diversity team?
Where do we move the accounting department during construction?
How is the brand of my organization perceived in the marketplace?
Where is my industry headed and how should we adapt?
What will we look like as an organization in 5 years?
Being prepared helps lessen anxiety and elevates confidence for most of us. Be natural and authentic. Use emotional intelligence to read the situation and empathize with the other person. Avoid coming across as overly anxious, or too eager to talk about your company. Most importantly, relax and enjoy interacting with another person. Remember, you are here to ‘listen’ first and ‘speak’ second.
Small Talk - It is fine to begin with non-business small talk but only if the prospect seems receptive. This is how you become “human”, friendly, approachable. It’s a fact that people do business with people they like and trust. However, if your prospect is not immediately receptive, adjust and ask one of your open-ended question to allow the prospect to begin sharing with you.
Ask Questions - Move to the professional by asking a question about their organization. Have these prepared in advance. This is all about honest curiosity. Such an approach conveyed with respect, sincerity and humility opens the other person up, and gives them the floor for a minute. It is the foundation for building rapport and trust.
Ask questions to help you to gain information that you don’t know about their organization, their challenges, how they behave, what they value, and what is their purpose and mission. This will help you assess if you will be a good “fit”. Good business is more important than a single sale because good business results in advocacy, repeat or growing business and retaining the client for the long term.
While the focus on this meeting is not to 'sell’ but to learn, you may be asked questions about your product/service. Responding with knowledge instills confidence - after all, the expert in your product.
Also keep in mind, if you don’t know your own organization’s purpose, mission, vision, and values – you’ll have a great deal of difficulty determining “fit”.
Listen & Ask More - Use your authentic curiosity to guide the conversation with follow-up questions. This is not an interrogation. Be genuinely interested or trust will not develop, and the meeting will end quickly. Listening actively is essential. Make eye contact, lean in, avoid distractions, ask for clarity. Takes notes – it shows how important what they say is to you!
Avoid Telling - without being asked. Telling tends to convey power positioning in a conversation. It implies the other person doesn’t know what you know. There are effective ways to make a point without telling – which comes down to how you verbalize what you know.
“It is proven that employees are more successful if their manager checks in on them daily during their first week of employment.”
“I recall reading an article where new employees were shown to be more successful when they were interacted with by their manager daily during their first week of employment. I’ll see if I can find it and send it to you if you would find it useful.”
Your choice of words and tone matters.
Fielding Questions – Hopefully, curiosity will compel them to ask you a question. This is a good sign. Don’t respond excitedly, pounce or oversell by launching into flowery answers. Focus your response on the solutions you deliver, not the features of your service or product.
Sharing your experiences can open the door for the other person to ask you questions.
Their time - Be respectful of the prospects time. Acknowledge when you’re coming to the end of the meeting. If it was productive, and you believe your organizations are a good fit, ask for another meeting. If not, thank them for their time and ask if they know someone else you should talk with.
Takeaway: Most people like to tell their story when asked. They want to be heard and understood. This is a natural human trait. Giving the other person this opportunity through asking genuine questions is a gift of sorts and helps begin a connection. The goal is to develop rapport and trust, the two most essential ingredients of a lasting win-win partnership.
Recap immediately – the best time to collect your thoughts, review your notes and recap the discussion in your mind is immediately following the meeting. Sit in a quiet place and think about what was said. Make a list of any follow-up items and act upon them. Jot notes about a follow-up email which is best to be delivered within 48 hours.
A meeting is an opportunity to learn about the prospect, their organization, and their situation. You may uncover areas where you can help, or you may not. Not all prospects are a fit, or ready for your solution. Provided you have developed an Ideal Client Profile, seeing the “fit” will be easier. The art of collaborative solutioning in a B2B environment is building rapport, trust, enjoying mutual discovery, filling challenge gaps, and creating a win-win partnership.
In short, people buy from people they like, who are authentic and credible. To be authentic and credible just means that you have taken the time to earn the respect of your prospect by exercising genuine curiosity and demonstrating current knowledge of their marketplace.
If you build relationships; if you attend meetings with openness and interest; if you don’t sell but offer insights that can help your prospect, you will create lasting partnerships with less stress or strain. In today’s world, B2B Business.
Development Executives behave as strategic consultants, and problem-solving partners. They are not hard driving “closers”. So, when you’re fortunate enough to secure a meeting, your behavior in the conversation should be one of curiosity, collaboration, listening and learning.
To learn more about 4xi, strategic account management, and TRUE NORTH© you can contact Ed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy. Whether client, employee, or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.
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