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The Importance of Business Development

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During my experience of marketing and business development over the last 19 years, I have witnessed the usual peaks and troughs of work in the legal and accountancy sectors given the fluctuating economic factors, the nature of the work and market forces. None more so than during the recent recession.

Often the first resource to go during difficult times is the marketing department, often seen as the less vital support function. However without a consistent and steady flow of work, most businesses would soon find themselves either out of business or with a serious cash flow problem.

It is therefore vital to the lifeblood of the company that you  maintain this steady flow of work by keeping new business leads, or new leads from existing business running smoothly. So how do you do this?

There are 3 vital components to making this happen:

  • Use technology. A good CRM system (customer relationship management) is the difference between sophisticated pipeline management and a scattergun approach.
  • Have someone in your team that can ‘drive’ sales pipelines through CRM – multi-skill your marketing team to have ‘business development’ capabilities, or do it yourself.
  • Follow-up – 75% of business professionals fail to follow-up. Winning a new customer can take up to 8 touch points or more.

You may not have the budget for a marketing team or a CRM system. It may just be you, the sole trader, working in and on the business. It is still possible to generate and fulfil leads, it just takes discipline and good time-keeping.

CRM – without a CRM your steady flow of leads will be difficult (but not impossible) to nurture and coordinate effectively. The main benefit of CRM is having a rounded view of a contact by logging calls made, e-shots sent, invites mailed, meetings held etc. All activities that you should be doing in order to stay in touch with the potential customer.

If you are not talking to them, your competitors will be.

It is possible to do this on a spreadsheet and using Outlook diary, but it makes it much trickier. Even if you are a company with 1 or 2 people there are web based free (or very cost effective) platforms such as Zoho that you can use. The larger the company, the more critical a good CRM becomes, particularly across multiple offices.

Driving pipelines – Once you have your CRM in place you need somebody to drive its usage, reporting, campaigns, lead sourcing, data cleansing…the list goes on. This is where your marketing department is invaluable and why multiskilling them in pipeline management and lead generation is just as important as brochures, advertising, social media use etc.

If you do not have the luxury of a marketing department, there are other ways. You can outsource to a marketing consultant, you can upskill a PA or secretary, or you can do it yourself, you just need to be disciplined. Work out the best time to be calling or emailing your target market and set aside an hour a day in your diary to do just that. Once you get into the rhythm of it, it will get easier. There are also plenty of online/YouTube tutorials that can teach you the telephone sales skills needed to close a sale. Ultimately, always have a follow on action from any touch point with a potential client.

Follow-Up – This leads me on to follow-up. There are many opinions on this, but the old adage of it taking at least 8 touch points to win a client is very true. Most people give up after 2. If your competitors keep going after 2, where does that leave you? Follow-up is singularly the hardest thing to do, but the most vital in driving sales/new work and you have to maintain this through the peak times, so that the work stays constant and on an upward spiral, rather than intermittent which will lead to troughs and a downward spiral.

The internet has provided the Sole Trader with the same tools as large corporations and much of it is FREE. So there is nothing stopping you winning work, other than your own self-motivation and discipline of time. Good luck.

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