Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Four Elements For Business Development Success

After I’d racked up some experience training industrial salesmen back in the ‘70s, a number of truths became apparent.

The most important one I learned is that sales success required the presence of four elements.

Alan’s experience illustrates this statement. He took to the training program like a champ. He read the materials, accurately completed the exercises, listened to the tapes and did well in the role-playing. Once he was in the field he attacked his assigned territory with vigor. He visited the existing accounts and met with those who made the buying decisions. He reviewed everyone’s stock position, updated inventory, actively worked his to-do list, created schedules for follow up and generally invested a lot of energy revitalizing the customer base.

Because it is a process, not an event, it takes time for a business development campaign to bear fruit. (This is true for your efforts, too.) In his first six weeks, Alan produced a nice revenue spike within his existing customer base. This jump in revenue was the result in Alan systematically calling upon them after the prior salesperson’s relative neglect. However, a problem was becoming apparent.

In our sales management system, we would meet each week and talk about various performance metrics. One metric was the number of new accounts each salesperson brought in. Historically, a new hire would begin to generate these in the third or fourth week after being turned loose.

Alan didn’t have any. Realizing we had a developing problem, I brought him in for a day and we reviewed how things were going. When we focused in on his results, I brought his attention to the zeros in the “new customers” column. He had a lot of reasons and excuses for his lack of success, and we spent the balance of the day talking about various things he could do to turn things around. We parted with Alan vowing to improve, and the next morning he gave me a plan detailing exactly what he was going to do to succeed.

He didn’t improve (in fact he never brought even one new customer), and Alan left the company a month later. All the pieces were in place … good technique, good attitude, a territory rich in potential … but Alan failed. So, what went wrong?

There is an answer to this, and it is an answer that applies to all of us who wish to build or improve our practices. The bottom line is that as simple as it may sound, you have to actually do it to succeed! Nike has it right: Just Do It.

A proven, effective business development technique is readily available to you in the form of the manual most of you own. And, as you’ve read numerous times in this blog, you can employ these techniques in your own interpersonal style that is both more effective and gentle on your psyche. Technique isn’t the barrier, for Alan or for you.

Alan’s real limitation was that he wanted everything to be right … no mistakes, no awkward tongue-tied moments, nobody saying no and no negativity. The “perfect” circumstances he desired never arrived. The effect was that he couldn’t take the necessary steps to develop new customers.

In contrast, he felt safe with the existing clients, all of whom were pleased to see him. But he was terrified of talking to someone who might not respond positively to him. The result was that talked to none. Zero results.

Yes, business development can be messy. It involves people. It is unpredictable and, depending upon how far you want to extend yourself, can even be psychologically uncomfortable every now and then.

How does this affect you? I’m going to assume you are reading this because you want your practice to have more revenue, more margin/profit, better clients, more clients or some combination thereof. This is the first element. You have to want it. Like you, Alan had desire … he wanted a six-figure life style.

The second element is patience. You shouldn’t expect to go from zero to 60 in 2 seconds. Nobody can do that. It is going to be a few months before you see real results. Alan had this, too. He was patient … he knew it would take some time to succeed.

The third is that you have to do it. This is what killed Alan. You have to put your toe in the water, even if you step on a pebble or two, and then wade in more deeply as you gain confidence. There is absolutely no substitute for taking action.

To overcome the “Alan” barrier, I suggest you begin by talking with your existing clients about doing more work for them. In both the manual and in this blog we’ve explored several ways of going about this that are very, very easy on your internal “I-don’t-want-to-sell-used-cars-for-a-living” meter.

Once you are comfortable with the techniques related to obtaining additive revenue from your present book of business, then it is a relatively small step to wade in a bit further and begin converting prospects who are more or less strangers.

Desire, technique, patience and Just Do It. It works every time, all the time.


Ron James said...

Alan is an example of a person working in his own comfort zone. Well to be successful you have to learn, learning is a long and continious process. Thus you can soon develop your own business. Because in a business, being involved is a must. Nothing will succeed if you don't know your business. This is what I'll never forget about Ford. He said that even if everything he has now, material things, will be taken away from him he'll still become a billionaire because no one can ever take his knowledge away from him. -- WMS

Darcy Grubaugh said...

The elements you mentioned are very practical and useful, especially in these trying economic times. What I like best among them is the second one, which is patience. A patient business owner can certainly come a long way. Also, taking calculated risks to improve the business is a great way to take the business to greater heights.