Eighty percent of new businesses fail for one important reason: They are unable to attract new customers.
Without a consistent focus on feeding the organization with "fresh blood," the selling team will starve to death, the executives will flounder, and the company will wither and die. Yet company after company consistently commits the following strategic errors:
- No one is charged with bringing in new business.
- There are poorly defined responsibilities, such as "everyone is responsible for sales."
- Metrics are poorly illustrated.
- There is no reward system or compensation for bringing in new clients.
- The company is excessively concerned with handling internal issues, rather than remaining client-focused.
- There is a failure to outline and implement a business development strategy beyond PR or marketing.
- No system exists to capture and track leads.
- There is either a lack of follow-up or late follow-up to new leads.
The comprehensive solution to these problems is to create a business development team and to find a "rainmaker" to manage the process. Among Native Americans, the rainmaker was a professional practitioner of ritual incantations or other actions intended to cause rain to fall. (The term came into use in the late 1700s.) Modern American businesses have adopted this term and define it as an influential employee who creates ample new business and revenue for his or her firm. This is one of the most important positions in the entire company.
A step-by-step approach
Studies of the best practices adopted by successful, expanding companies reveal a consistent focus on business development as a corporate strategy and focus. A trait shared by my most successful clients is a remarkable consistency in their approach to rainmaking. The following are the important steps in their acquisition process:
1. Defining the team, goals, and metrics to properly measure success.
2. Researching, in detail, and defining the ideal customer. Many large corporations are hiring mathematicians and statisticians to focus on business intelligence and use sophisticated analytics to fine-tune this process in real time. To compete in the modern era, you need to focus your efforts with precision.
3. Examining your sales history over the last five years and discovering with precision the source from which your effective deals originated. Where did the leads come from?
4. Noting how many of your actual closed sales match your definition of an ideal customer.
5. Researching and defining your unique value proposition (UVP). What is it about your product/service that is valuable and truly unique? If you're not sure, ask your best customers why they bought from you originally and summarize the results.
6. Making sure everyone on your team is trained to articulate your UVP correctly and without hesitation. They should know it and believe in it, as it will become the core of your business development efforts. If they have a hazy understanding of this UVP because it is not consistently expressed, they will add confusion to the marketplace or, even worse, potential customers.
7. Taking your ideal customer profile and matching it with your UVP. There will most likely be a convergence of information, as many of your customers need your services because you meet their unique business needs. So figure out who else needs your UVP. Who among your target market is actively searching for the unique value that your product/service delivers?
8. Developing a subset of preferred target companies that match your ideal customer profile and that will likely have a strong demand for the value that your product/service offers. This will become your prime target list. These companies will also be your highest probability prospects to win as new clients.
9. Creating an outbound marketing campaign focused on making appointments with the key decision makers at each of your targeted companies. This can include the following strategies:
researching the key individual(s);
looking into mailing campaigns, perhaps with special packaging;
creating and sending VITO introductory letters;
investing in persuasive email campaigns;
connecting with companies through engaging social media campaigns;
creating phone call scripts; and
making personal phone calls to prospective business customers.
10. After making an appointment, the rainmaker or sales executive can meet and proceed with the next step in the selling process.
The most important objective of this rainmaking blitz is to generate a significant volume of appointments with qualified prospects. In most companies, the business development rainmaker is a specialist who focuses on finding and setting appointments. When that job is done, the more experienced sales team members take over and proceed with the rest of the selling process.
Patrick McClure is the founder of the Connexia Group, a consulting firm specializing in accelerating performance in sales, management, and presentation skills. His industry experience includes manufacturing, wholesale distribution, high technology, small business, and Internet-based start-ups.