Historically, the approach to business development resembled a “hit and run” attitude. Business development professionals were encouraged to acquire the account quickly, pass it off to someone else in the organization and move on to the next target. At Nikoleta & Associates, we’ve adopted a different methodology, one that treats the account as a long-term relationship rather than a short-term acquisition. In our experience, this not only leads to a higher referral rate – it also generates referrals years down the road. In addition, this approach keeps you grounded in what is actually happening, not what you think should happen, which in turn builds trust and authenticity with clients over the long term. Here are three options for business development professionals to consider:
Strive to become the trusted advisor
When a business development professional demonstrates a genuine desire to solve the pain point of his target client, whether he wins the business or not, this creates a level of trust. Trust is an essential element of business – rare, yes – but that makes it all the more valuable. Business development professionals who successfully morph their roles into trusted advisors are far more likely to get the call when a company launches a large initiative and requires their particular product or service to execute it.
Resist the temptation to “sell”
For a business development professional, the above point may seem ridiculously counterintuitive. What are we here for anyway? To sell, no? Of course the answer is yes – the nuance here is how you sell. Old school tactics of “working the phone” tend to fall flat, in our experience. Rather, quietly offer solutions that entice the target client to view you in a different light. Above all, tell the client the truth. For example, if your firm does not offer a particular service that the client requires, don’t finagle. Provide a few of your own referrals to help the client find an appropriate vendor. In the short-term, a few opportunities may slip away. However, if you consistently wow the client with your honesty and integrity, you will be top of mind when the large opportunities arise.
Be available for your clients, even when they aren’t your clients
The challenge of business development, as any practitioner will attest, is the “unpaid” component. Lunches, coffees, phone calls, emails, texts – though you can expense some of these items, it’s impossible to recoup the time spent. That said, being available for clients, even if they haven’t started paying – or worse, are paying someone else – develops the trust bank. Trust lands the large accounts and trust moves you to the front of the referral line.
The long-term relationship approach to business development demands a rejigging of the traditional mindset and in some cases leads to less short-terms wins. However, over the long haul, the benefits include more referrals, more renewed contracts and a stronger, more viable network of clients.
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