Whether you’re working on your first sale or creeping up on your first billion-dollar year, your business development strategy isn’t perfect. (It’s just not.)
Good thing architecting an effective business development strategy isn’t rocket science. Here’s how to do it without going nuts.
Identify and Segment Your Target Audience
Your target audience is not monolithic. Your business development strategy shouldn’t be either.
Your first step needs to be a thorough market analysis. Who are your buyers, both first-timers and repeats? What do they have in common? What sets them apart? Slot them into “ideal buyer” silos—groups of demographically and psychographically consistent customers who respond to messaging and incentives the same way.
These profiles prevent duplication of effort and increase conversions. Needless to say, they’re invaluable for lean business development staffs.
“Resource-limited organizations’ business development efforts tend to be weighed down by duplicative work: hitting the same prospects with different messages, for example,” says Nashville-based venture capital executive William Michael Keever, whose Castle Venture Group provides prospecting and business development assistance for its portfolio companies.
Identify Their Pain Points – How Can Your Solution Help Them?
This post from Salesforce Australia & NZ makes an incisive point—and a brutal one, for veteran salespeople:
“Prospects’ expectations are higher than ever, and if you can’t educate them, challenge their thinking, and show them a pathway for improving their situation, all you are really giving them is a price.”
And if your prospects are price-sensitive enough to go for the lowest price every time, why bother selling at all? Your products should sell themselves.
The uncomfortable truth: You need to understand and speak to your prospects’ concerns every time. If you’ve put in the time to identify and segment your ideal buyers, sussing out their pain points won’t be an overwhelming task. But it’s up to you to devise story-driving messaging that ties these pain points back to your products and puts a button on the “How can they help me?” question.
(Unless your prospects’ top pain point is that they’re paying too much for a functionally identical product, in which case you might not need a business development strategy at all.)
Identify Who’s Calling the Shots
This is a big one for B2B business development. No matter how compelling your message, it’s going to go precisely nowhere if it’s not delivered to the right person. That person isn’t always the head honcho. Even in smaller companies, lower-level employees often make final buying decisions.
If you’ve been around the sales block, you know this already. The trick is creating a replicable strategy for quickly and efficiently identifying the folks who actually matter and honing your messaging (with help from your ideal buyer matrix) accordingly.
Identify and Pursue Retention Opportunities
Business development doesn’t stop at the point of sale. If you don’t keep your customers happy, they’re likely to leave you for a company that will. Before you dot the i’s on your business development strategy, make sure it includes an actionable, realistic retention plan.
The shape of your customer retention plan depends on your industry, the types of products or services you’re selling, and your customers’ needs. But one common denominator is superior customer service. Whether you’re servicing million-dollar pieces of industrial machinery or cultivating a thousands-strong roster of small businesses paying $9.99 per month for your cloud software, you need to be responsive to—and cheerful in addressing—your customers’ concerns.
In a 2015 Harvard Business Review piece, Juan Pablo Vazquez Sampere describes Zappos’ approach to retention. At the time, it was a bold, seemingly anachronistic gambit: insourcing customer care to overstaffed company-owned call centers, then throwing out all the traditional call performance metrics (time on call, time to resolution, follow-ups, you name it) and letting reps loose to build trust with inbound callers.
According to Sampere, the strategy worked beautifully because it solved a fundamental problem posed by Zappos’ online-only business model: With no way to try shoes before buying, early customers struggled to connect with the brand. (They found lots of things to complain about in their shipments too.) Though expensive, the decision to establish that human connection probably secured Zappos’ future.
Revisit, Rework and Reap the Rewards
Hardwire a self-correcting mechanism into your strategy from the outset. Set trigger conditions for a thorough strategy revamp—for instance, “if sales fall by x percent for y consecutive weeks/months/quarters.
Don’t be afraid to embrace iterative change either. Deploy A/B tests as resources allow—shoot for one per month, two per month, whatever you can handle. Use these opportunities to try out new development and retention tactics. Keep what works, dispassionately discard what doesn’t, and keep plugging away.