When it comes to business development, one of the biggest challenges professionals face is finding time to do it all.
I deal with this dilemma every single day. In fact, to be honest I’ve been spending the last 6 months working on a project that has been so demanding I’ve found little time to do anything else, let alone get out there and sell.
You can’t sell yourself – and your services – on a full-time basis. Your day-to-day work, also known as your business operations – whether it’s consulting, accounting, IT, financial services or engineering – is what you do full time to pay the bills. So when do you find time to create and develop the relationships necessary to bring in new business? Well, that’s the million-dollar question (perhaps literally in this case).
Of course, your business is also just one part of your life. On top of that, you have responsibilities as a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a friend… and on it goes. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all (successfully).
As a result, any business development activities you accomplish are naturally unplanned and inconsistent, limiting encounters and follow-up opportunities and making it easier for prospects to slip through the cracks.
While I‘ve been unsuccessful in creating more hours in the day, I can give you some business development tips that will help you become more effective in the balancing act of selling and doing. (And hopefully, I’ll take my own advice more often.)
Do a Little Bit Every Day
The excuses for not selling are plentiful, and I know them all. I got distracted at the project, I had to run a report, my meeting went long, I had doctor’s appointment for my daughter… and the list goes on. There will always be something else. To be successful, you must make business development a priority, and you can start by setting aside a little bit of time every day to focus on your sales efforts.
Mornings tend to work best, before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day. Block off a specific time range in your calendar, close your door and don’t allow any interruptions. This is YOUR time.
Focus on Efforts That Offer the Best Chance of Success
When time is limited, you need to make the most of what you’ve got. Figure out where this time is best spent. In many cases, it takes just as much time and effort to land a $25,000 deal as it does to a $75,000 deal. Focus on deals that have the greatest potential for long-term success.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey writes, “Put first things first.” He suggests focusing on work that is less urgent but more important to your long-term goals.
Apply that thinking to your business development efforts. Know where the highest potential is and focus on those opportunities first.
Make Action a Priority
How many times have you thought, “I should really give Johnny Doe at ABC Manufacturing a call to follow up on our conversation from last week, but I don’t have time right now. I’ll do it later.”
FYI, ‘later’ never comes.
When you think about doing something, do it (or at least set a reminder to do it during your sacred selling time). I’m at the point where I’m setting alarms on my phone to remind myself of tasks. Half of selling success is just showing up and doing it, yet so many of us get caught up in other work and don’t end up doing essential development work.
Leverage Your Resources—Both People and Technology
I could certainly do a better job here. If you have staff, vendors or contractors, use them. You need to make your life easier by delegating when possible. Do you need to write the proposal and follow-up materials, or can a junior staffer or virtual assistant sit in on the sales meeting and write the first draft? Do you need to write follow-up emails after you speak at an event or can you hand this off to a marketing person?
When you leverage your resources well, you can get more done for your clients and prospects and create more time to focus on business development and relationship building.
Keep in mind your resources aren’t just people; technology has come a long way to help you become more efficient. Automate some of your lead nurturing by sending email or direct mail that provides valuable insights to prospects. Connect with prospects and clients on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Publish a blog and post regularly. (like I’m doing right now – during my scheduled sales development time!) These technologies can help you build and strengthen your relationships. They also help you stay top of mind with clients and prospects, so when the need does arise, you are the first one they think of.
Keep Efforts Organized
Business development can be a daunting task when you do not keep all your contacts, leads and activities in a central place. To make your business development time most effective, use a CRM tool to keep track of your sales conversations.
Take good notes, and at the end of each conversation, set a solid next step for yourself and record this in your CRM. This will help you stay organized and make it easy to prioritize your follow-up and sales efforts.
Build Your Business Development Skills
If you’re a consultant, accountant, engineer or another professional service provider, you’ve likely built and honed your knowledge and experience over time – and you’ve likely had very little business development training. If that’s the case, the thought of “selling “might make you uneasy. After all, who wants to be the smarmy salesman? I get it. This is my greatest fear.
But I have a secret to share with you: the skills that make you a great service provider to your clients are also the skills that can make you great in sales. It’s all about learning how to apply those skills.
Need some help? Hit me up at email@example.com and let’s figure out how to win you more business.