9 Ways to Improve Your Business Development Strategy
1. Know your competition.
It may not be enough to know the names of your competitors. Evaluate what they offer so you can help differentiate yourself from the pack. As the adage goes, don’t define yourself by your competition. Analyze what makes you stand out in a crowd. You should obsessively work on this differentiation. This may be your most powerful business development tool.
2. Add value and build trust.
Rather than going after people’s wallets, consider going after their hearts. Business growth can come from adding value to every relationship, with prospective customers and existing customers. We can add value by providing information and knowledge, by being an advisor, by obsessing over treating customers right, both before and after the sale, and by having a reputation for great execution and white glove service.
This mindset and approach builds trust and goodwill, which are your calling card for business development. But building trust takes time. As Seth Godin writes in his 2008 business leadership classic Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us, “People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. [. ] They always believe what they tell themselves.” It’s your public persona and your actions over time that will likely influence what people tell themselves about you.
3. Use testimonials wisely.
Testimonials can be a crucial part of establishing credibility in the initial stages when you court a new prospect. It can help to know a few tips in this area. For example, it may not be effective to use “one-size-fits-all” testimonials. Rather, you should tailor your testimonials to your prospective target. If you’re dealing with a mid-sized company, for example, you should use testimonials from other mid-sized companies you’ve done business with, rather than from your largest customer. This taps into a fundamental principle of human behavior referred to as the Consensus Principle or Social Proof: We feel more comfortable in making a decision when the source of the information comes from people similar to us.
Also, beware of inundating your prospects with a large number of testimonials. It could look as though you’re protesting too much. Only use testimonials that are authentic and have the ring of truth. Sometimes, when asking for a testimonial, the person writing it does so reluctantly to please you, but their heart is not in it. You can end up with a perfunctory, factory-style testimonial that savvy clients will quickly see through.
4. Keep an eye on online reviews.
Consumers often turn to online reviews to decide whether or not to do business with a local company. A 2021 survey by BrightLocal (based on the views of a representative sample of 1,124 U.S.-based consumers) shows that when browsing for local businesses, 77% of people ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read online reviews.
Use Google Alerts or content monitoring services to track and respond to these reviews when necessary. It can help show that you care about your business and about the people who use your services or products. A caring attitude may engender goodwill and attract new business.
5. Ask for the business.
After you’ve met with your prospect, submitted the proposal, done all the due diligence, and followed up, consider closing that phase by unabashedly asking for the business. Try a simple: “I would very much like to provide this service for your company. What will it take to get started?” This “let’s do business together” approach is direct and honest, and can signal your confidence in the value of your service or product. It’s refreshing. What’s more, it can give your prospective client the opportunity to decline. It may be better to know this so you can refocus your energy and attention on the next potential customer.
6. Pay attention to your website.
Have you let your website slip? Does it look like it was designed a decade ago? In this visual world, design matters. It’s fair to say that most of your customers may start with your website. A tired looking site will almost certainly result in missed opportunities. At a minimum, you can add a video to showcase what you do.
As for your content, your website may not thrive if it just provides information about who you are and lists your products and services. Consider rewarding visitors who land on your site with ample free resources, information, knowledge, and tools to help them succeed. Make it easy for them to share the resources with others without having to fill out forms or deal with constant pop up windows and other annoying interruptions. This is passive business development that will possibly pay dividends and doesn’t cost you anything.
7. Don’t let relationships go cold.
Many business sales gurus emphasize the importance of repeat customers. It may pay to focus the bulk of your business development efforts on strengthening relationships with existing customers. Value the relationships and keep your loyal customers engaged.
How To Create a Business Development Strategy for Your Business
The objective of a biz dev team should be to find prospects, nurture that relationship, and escort leads towards sales teams to close the deal. For each of those three steps, there are many ways to achieve business development goals.
There are plenty of services that promise qualified leads. But don’t overlook the power of your own network. Mapping your business’s established network through social platforms or using tools to scrape emails and connect names to company org charts can be an initial data-led approach. You can also use manual search to identify needs across your industry’s landscape to discover new leads. Comment marketing—the practice of responding with helpful answers in active online communities—can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise to potential customers.
Nurturing leads means keeping in regular communication, whether in person, over the phone, or through emails. Whatever your strategy, keep it personalized to the leads’ preference, including how often you reach out. Be sure to track the amount of contact you make, so you don’t risk forgetting a lead or exhausting them with your sales pitch. Consider setting up regular calls simply to discuss their current challenges and needs at work, and be prepared to provide guidance beyond your company’s core competencies. After all, an effective business development leader isn’t just selling, but is working to build trust and authority that the lead can rely upon. When that level of trust is reached, you’ll have a higher chance to bring your lead into the sales funnel, where your relationship will serve as the foundational element.
Connecting Leads to Your Sales Team
The final step in the business development cycle should poise your sales team for an easy win. Your understanding of the client’s need will shape the pitch, where even your personal understanding of your target can help set the tone and pace of the proposal. While your goal is to advance a lead to sales, your work with the client should mean only qualified leads—those matching client need with your business’s products and services. Staying abreast of the industry in parallel with your lead’s conversations about their needs supports the idea of a full business development cycle. And once the lead earns a sale, your relationship with the lead continues—especially when they move roles to different parts of their business or find a new job. Your personal connection to the lead will push them back into your business development strategy.
14. Keep details in one centralized place
“Log as much information as possible into your event notes,” advises Ryan. “If you tend to do a lot of business over the phone, switch to a system like Tripleseat as your main source of communication so that you have a well-defined paper trail outlining expectations for all parties involved.”
If you’re not taking part in your city’s annual Restaurant Week events, now’s the time. Not only does this give your space extra exposure, but it’s an effective way how to get more customers in your restaurant.
Restaurant Weeks are a great opportunity to show off signature dishes, and even experiment with new ones. You can also leverage them to get the word out about your private event offerings. Include details about your program in check presenters, and consider offering a special deal if someone books an event within a certain time frame.
Be Persistent Until You Get a Response
Sales are all about definitive answers. If you have a couple of promising sales calls with a prospect only to let them disappear into the ether will spell doom for your sales strategy. When selling, you need to keep following up until you get a definitive answer. Otherwise, you will be left with a perpetual maybe, which will distract you from pursuing other prospects. Then, if you run into one too many maybe, your entire sales strategy will start to collapse.
To avoid this outcome, Steli Efti recommends pursuing your prospects relentlessly until you get a definitive answer. You should follow up as many times as necessary until you get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This may require multiple reschedules, but as long as the prospect is willing to communicate, there is a sale to be made. Stop only if the prospect stops all communication, or if they explicitly say they’re not interested.