First things first. Despite what the title might have conjured in your head, we will not be talking about coffee being for closers or anything remotely close to it. Likewise, you won’t read any quotes from the Art of War within this prose.
That isn’t to say, of course, that aggressiveness and cagey military metaphors don’t have their time and place in sales but this isn’t about hawking a used Buick or meeting a monthly sales quota on office copiers. This is about business development, a concept admittedly close in DNA to sales but, in reality, an entirely different animal.
Business development is about building industry relationships that lead to expanded books of business and not the proposals that put the proverbial icing on the closing cake. It’s about establishing a solid foundation that a more robust client-base stems from and, coincidentally, a topic near and dear to Embark's heart. Therefore, give us just a few minutes of your time as we provide a handful of critical best practices and bite-sized morsels of wisdom for middle managers and new hires trying to develop a more effective business development strategy.
It Starts With Being a Good Person
No one wants to be around a pompous jerk, much less associate with one. Granted, like cockroaches during a nuclear winter, those folks of the unsavory ilk always seem to have their moment in the sun but, like a dying star, their energy is bright, overwhelming, and fleeting.
Enduring, lasting relationships that create successful practices stem from marathons, not that bombastic fellow’s short sprint. Take Embark’s own COO, our beloved Clancy, for example. Absolutely no offense intended to dear Clancy but if we were interested in a salesy sprinter, we’d more likely bet on a wounded hen than our talented COO. Okay, maybe that was a bit mean and not entirely accurate, but we’re trying to prove a point here.
Clancy has flourished in business development through consistent effort, being very good at his job and, generally speaking, just being a really good dude. Along the way, he’s successfully pierced the overly dramatic and intense veil of business development by acting friendly, always getting to know the people he’s worked with and building relationships that could lead to additional business in the future. A loudmouth with a slick sales pitch and empty soul would never get that far, burning too many bridges in a highly fiery fashion for short-term, near sided gains that pay dividends today but disappear tomorrow. Thankfully, that’s not how Clancy rolls.
Middle managers and new hires should always remember WWCD -- What Would Clancy Do? -- for a gentle push in the right direction. You’re playing the long game, not chasing short-term glory. As such, no one is going to ask a second year senior to pick up the phone and start cold-calling CFOs they’ve never met before.
Instead, run through that mental Rolodex and reach out to those old friends from high school or college that now work in the industry, invite their engagement team to lunch, drink a few a beers, and start building a relationship that could result in business at some point down the road. Likewise, rely on the tried and true notion of six degrees of separation, knowing that even in the DFW area -- the fourth largest in the country -- it’s often far less than six degrees separating people within the industry.
When Embark is interviewing someone, it usually only takes a quick phone call to the candidate’s old firm to find an existing contact that is familiar with the individual and able to provide us a clear perspective on their abilities. As big as DFW is, actively cultivating business relationships shrinks it down significantly, making you far more likely to have an existing relationship with someone at any corner of the sector, even in places you weren’t expecting. Similarly, since there are only four firms in question, people often send out RFPs to the entire group, making it far more likely for you to win the business if you have been actively building relationships along the way.
Just remember, being phenomenal at your job, a decent and friendly person, earning respect, and getting to know those around you wherever your career takes you are the building blocks to any effective business development strategy. Believe it or not, sitting in front of the TV, Xbox controller in one hand and a bag of chips in the other while playing Fortnite all weekend won’t help your business development. Crazy, huh?
Invest the Time
To revisit a previous example, a sound business strategy isn’t specifically about the number of beers you drink with contacts or where the happy hours land on the decibel scale. Effective business development relies on the quality of time spent on it. Leverage the things you’re already passionate about as a footing for developing your network -- whether that’s sports, crotchet clubs, food, or anything that’s...uhh...above the board.
Using this tactic, new hires will learn about the industry at a far quicker pace while also enjoying the time spent, making it easier to be friendly, enjoy conversations, and establishing lasting business connections. Electing to avoid such revelry is essentially choosing to have a lackluster business development strategy so do yourself a favor, figure out what you would enjoy doing and will likely be shared by others in the industry, and dive in.
On the digital side of things, take full advantage of LinkedIn. Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re already spending a shocking amount of time on social media so weave LinkedIn into the fray. Begin with every member of your starting class and coworkers to give your digital network a healthy headstart. Likewise, establish a LinkedIn connection along with an additional touch point with every client you work with to continue to grow that relationship into the future. Yes, this approach will amplify the volume of calls you’ll receive from recruiters and ne’er-do-wells, but the benefits in this case far outweigh the costs.
Know What Value You Bring
As tempting as it might be to discount this advice, remain on your Xbox, and tell yourself it will all somehow work out, look at Embark as an example. We’re great at both solving problems and building relationships. If we were to focus on the problem-solving side of the equation exclusively, business would soon begin to shrink, and at some point in the near future, Embark would cease to exist.
Don’t convince yourself that sales just aren’t a part of who you are, that the thought of sales triggers panic attacks and flop sweat, and you’d be better off living in a cave than trying to sell. It’s actually not even about sales but, instead, being genuine and friendly, open and social. Be great at your job, follow our advice, and the business development will naturally follow.
Whether you’re a middle manager or a new hire looking to develop an effective business development strategy, once you establish yourself as a reliable, talented, trustworthy individual, your name will inevitably come to mind when someone needs a problem solver. It’s far easier than you’ve likely thought so now just go out and do it. Embark has faith in you.