We’re operating in a new client economy, and most, if not all, of the industries that we serve are experiencing rapid change. This rapid change is coming from evolving business dynamics, technology, and cultural shifts.
Sellers need to evolve too. Here are three of many trends we’re seeing:
- Innovations, like data analytics and artificial intelligence impact the services that we provide.
- Because our clients’ businesses are becoming more complex, our expertise needs to meet them where they are, and stay ahead of those complexities.
- We’re being challenged to innovate new and higher-value products and services that meet the demands of our prospects and clients.
Strategies and approaches that created sales success in the past may not dictate future success. One important shift you can make within your sales team is to introduce a business development framework. The vision for this framework is a professional, repeatable process that will help you differentiate in highly competitive environments.
Think about your organization’s product or service offerings. There’s likely a discipline around how you scope and deliver them. Putting that same level of discipline and focus into sales will elevate your sales. Using a business development framework will support those efforts, and it’s strategic to organizational growth.
The Business Development Framework consists of four elements: Intelligence, Relationships, Propose, and Commit.
Prospects and clients prefer to do their own research, well in advance of contacting you. There are times that they’re significantly through their internal vetting processes before we’re even aware there’s a business problem to be solved. To differentiate yourself, you need intelligence.
Intelligence is having relevant data points about your clients’ strategic vision and biggest challenges. From there it becomes your role to offer insights and ways to improve their business.
Identifying the right clients, knowing their biggest challenges and initiatives, and matching those to your unique value, is often overlooked in sales.
Strategy: With a prospect or current client, outline their key business goals over the next 12-24 months, the biggest challenges they’re facing over the next 12-24 months, and any major initiatives they’re pursuing.
When you work across their business and not only a single area, you can better differentiate your organization.
A growing number of decisions are made by consensus and committee. The risk is that you may be missing a key relationship that could impact a prospect’s or client’s decision to do business with you.
In this element, work on identifying and creating relationships with the right decision makers and influencers. Remember, potential decision makers and influencers may be in other parts of the organization, or even external.
Strategy: build a relationship ecosystem map. It helps to focus on a specific prospect or client opportunity. You’ll identify the key groups that could have influence over a decision to work with you.
For each of those groups, identify two people that would be important for you to have a strong relationship with. Then rank the strength of that relationship. This will help you see where you might have gaps, and where you have strong, strategic relationships.
This element is your set of proactive strategies to create positive change and earn a prospect or client’s business. Because you’ve developed an understanding for the client’s industry, for their specific challenges, and the key relationships you need – you’re best positioned to be that strategic partner.
Strategy: co-create the solution with your prospect or client. It’s becoming more common for prospects and clients to want an active role in co-creating a solution. When a prospect or client has a role in crafting the solution, they can see themselves working with you, and you increase your odds of earning their business.
This element is about earning the commitments that help you to close the business AND serve the client. For example, 62 percent of business developers fail to ask for a commitment, and that’s because those commitments haven’t been built in throughout the sales process.
This is part mindset shift as well. Commitments and closing aren’t about manipulation. They’re about helping your prospect or client make strategic decisions that will positively impact their business. In this element you’ll learn to identify which commitments you need along the way, and then earn them in a way that strengthens the relationship.
Strategy: identify where your prospect or client may raise concerns. Concerns are a constructive part of business development. It usually means the prospect is actively thinking through how you can work together.
You’ll instill more confidence and trust if you seek concerns out upfront. For example, you might ask:
- What are some challenges that might surface down the road that we should be aware of?
- Or, what potential barriers do you think I need to address to earn the business?
The goal is to earn trust and accelerate closing the business.
As a call to action for today, choose one of the above strategies, and apply it to a prospect or client opportunity. Each element of the framework will help you move opportunities forward more efficiently and effectively.