A top tips summary guide to best practice business development
What is Consultative Selling?
- Consultative selling is ‘building the motivation to buy’, which takes time, is a step-by-step process and is done to the client’s timescales.
- It’s about showing a genuine interest in the client’s world, building trust and being patient. There is no pressure, manipulation or persuasion in consultative selling.
- People make buying decisions based on needs and wants. Needs are easy to articulate, wants less so, and are likely to have an impact on decisions. Think of the iceberg example.
- In the iceberg, above the line is what the client needs, below the line is how they want it.
- The only way to find out about wants is to ask and show genuine interest in the answers.
- Becoming a valued adviser has four elements: technical expertise and the required back-office functions. The differentiators will be your depth of client and sector knowledge and showing genuine interest.
Strategic Business Development Planning
- Review your current client base. What do you want more of? How does it need to change over the next 2/3 years?
- Think about what blend of clients and work you proactively want to create. Are there any other intermediaries or professionals you should be building relationships with?
- What level of income do you want to achieve? Where will it come from?
- Consistently analyse your marketplace. Review the changes that are affecting your clients and how that will affect what you offer. What do you need to prepare for now?
P1 – Prospecting
- Remember the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle to pipeline management.
- Set filters for your prospect list that focus your business development efforts on those clients most likely to buy from you.
- Filters can be based on good existing clients and your future plans and aspirations.
- Consistently look for trigger events in your marketplace that might increase the likelihood of prospects buying from you. Use the PESTEL model to help.
- Get more junior people to become market monitors, looking for filters and triggers. This develops them too.
- Aim for a short manageable list of targets that are very attractive to your firm and likely to be responsive to an intelligent business development approach.
P2 – Promoting
- Use the right blend of corporate, capability and contact marketing to reach your prospect list. Remember that the more interactive types of marketing are most effective in our marketplace.
- Help create marketing material that adds immediate value to prospects and clients (articles, insights, comments).
- Define or understand the social media policy and strategy, and make time to contribute.
P2 – Promoting – Hosting Seminars
- Identify relevant and insightful seminars to offer to clients and prospects.
- Refine the list of attendees to whom the seminar will be too good to resist.
- Plan roles and responsibilities in advance of the seminar.
- Ensure each attendee is looked after by a team member.
- Follow up with each attendee with a few days, offering something of value.
- The key goal for a seminar is ‘to build the client’s motivation’ to want to enter into a more focussed dialogue with your firm.
P2 – Promoting – Positioning Statement
- Prepare a core positioning statement that you can use at networking events, speaker platforms or when visiting prospects.
- This statement should be no more that 2-3 minutes long.
- It should consist of: what you do and who you do it for, the typical sorts of issues these clients have, what you offer that addresses these and a benefit statement that will mean something to your prospect.
- For meetings you should also add proof that you’ve done some research, and a desire not to make assumptions and learn more.
P2 – Promoting – Networking
- Look for networking opportunities that get you in front of clients and prospects. Go where they go.
- Try to get the list of attendees in advance, and identify who you would like to meet.
- Prepare a short, snappy positioning statement (see separate section).
- When networking, relax and recognise that everyone probably feels a bit nervous or awkward. Think how you would behave if you were hosting a party. How would you make others feel at ease?
- Be interested, rather than interesting. Most people like talking about themselves.
- Go with an abundance mentality. Think about how you can help anyone that you meet.
- After the networking event, ensure you follow up with something of value to prospects. If appropriate, arrange to meet.
- to be responsive to an intelligent business development approach.
P2 – Promoting – Referral Network
- Make time to identify people you know who have or could refer work to you. Create a referral pipeline to nurture these contacts.
- Keep your referrers up-to-date with your achievements and share information of value to them.
- Identify people you can refer work too as well. A sense of reciprocity is a powerful influencer.
- Remember to network within your firm as well. The same guidelines apply.
P2 – Promoting – High Impact Campaigns
- Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes to create a campaign that is personalised, relevant and of immediate value to them.
- Send between 3-5 touch points, about a week to 1.5 weeks apart.
- Refer to a phone call in your last letter to ask if a meeting would be of value, and make it!
- The phone call should be made in private, when you are in a good mood and with a smile on your face.
- The phone call should consist of identifying the recipient, your name, a link statement and a request for a meeting. Resist getting drawn into long conversations.
- Show empathy to the recipient. If they’re clearly busy, arrange to call back.
- Try not to hand over control of the process to anyone. Offer to call back rather than leave a message.
- Always treat receptionists and secretaries with respect. They can help you gain access.
P3 – Projecting – Preparing to Visit a Prospect
- Confirm the meeting by email, and send something of value.
- If the meeting is more than a week away, send another email to confirm the meeting and add something of value.
- Remind yourself of your campaign, and research the prospect organisation and person.
- Decide who is going with you, and get together to prepare.
- Prepare who will lead the meeting, how introductions will be made and what funnels you will explore.
- Also prepare some credibility-raising questions for the journey from reception to the meeting room.
- Research travel to the venue (timings, transport, parking etc) and plan to be ahead of time.
P3 – Projecting – Arriving at the Prospect’s Office
- In reception, greet the receptionists with a smile and ask about their day. If you want to use an opportunity to be different resist the most common subjects of travel, weather and the paintings on the wall.
- Remain in an alert position (possibly standing), and look at any marketing materials or other information in the reception area.
- Decline offers of drinks, so you can keep your hands free. Greet your prospect with a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile when they arrive.
- Ask a credibility-building question or make an insightful remark regarding the client’s marketplace on the way to the meeting room.
P3 – Projecting – Starting the Meeting
- Take control with a light touch. If your prospect starts to speak, listen carefully and try to regain control appropriately.
- Check that the prospect still has the pre-agreed time slot available. If not, offer to reschedule. If they want to go ahead, make sure you respect their timings and don’t attempt to cram an hours meeting into 30 minutes!
- Ask if they would like to hear a little more about your firm, then offer your short and engaging positioning statement. Make sure your colleague (s) has a chance to speak as well. Your positioning statement should offer a brief (one line) description of your firm, 2/3 credibility statement showing knowledge of the client’s sector followed by evidence and examples of what you have researched about the client. Let them know you don’t make assumptions and move as early as possible to the ‘A’ part of PACES
- Ask if they are okay with you taking notes.
P3 – Projecting – Running the Selling Meeting (PACes)
- Begin the meeting with open, general questions.
- When appropriate, move to your prepared funnels, using open, general then open, specific questions to explore.
- Use closed questions sparingly to confirm understanding or to close off a subject area.
- Summarise frequently. Confirms you are listening and allows the prospect to clarify or add more.
- Keep track of the time, and acknowledge if it is running out, so you can move on to closing the meeting effectively.
- At the right time, ask the commercial qualification questions (these may occur over a series of meetings)
- The business or organisational drivers.
- The bases of decisions.
- Decision-making process.
P3 – Projecting – Concluding the Meeting (pacES)
- Recognise that the face-to-face selling process is likely to last over several meetings.
- End each meeting by summarising what has been covered, then offering a proposed way forward which requires the client to do something. This could be agree to another meeting, attend a seminar, arrange an introduction to someone else in the organisation.
- Resist the early proposal because you are unlikely to have enough information to respond fully after one meeting.
- When the time is right to create a proposal, offer to come back in to discuss it.
- Seek agreement to your proposed way forward.
- Send a short e-mail summary of the meeting and agreed next steps within 24 hours.
- Send some ‘dynamite collateral’ adding further value to the subjects discussed
P3 – Projecting – Presenting a Convincing Solution
- Format your proposal using the RFPB framework. Consider this framework whether your proposal is offered informally, in writing or in a more formal pitch.
- Restate the client’s needs and wants.
- List only the features of your product or service that are relevant to those needs.
- Provide proof that your solutions work (client testimonies, press reviews etc)
- List the benefits to the client of your solution. Benefits are the ‘so what this means to you’ of features – what outcome does the client get as a result?
- Handle resistance/objections by questioning, listening and understanding.
- Handle fee resistance by asking ‘compared to what?’, and then sell only the extra value you bring.
- If negotiating, never give anything away without a change in the scope. Consider variables on both sides of the table. Use the ‘if you..then we..’ technique.
P3 – Projecting – Managing ‘Bluebirds’
- Apply a robust framework to deciding whether to pursue RFPs or tenders that just land on your desk. Criteria should include:
- Can we speak to these people to qualify this opportunity?
- Do we have the resources to pursue and deliver this work?
- Is this work likely to produce our minimum profitability level?
- Is there the prospect of further substantial on-going work?
- Is there an identifiable and autonomous decision-making process?
- Is this ‘winnable’?
Pipeline – Maintaining Momentum
- Stay in touch with prospects in P2 and P3 and existing P4 clients with regular, personalised touch-points.
- Recognise that business development can take a long time. If the prospect is in your dream client base of the future, don’t give up.
- If a prospect does drop out of the pipeline, make sure you’re putting another one in.
Accessing the ‘C’ Suite
- Their focus is likely to be more on the whole business issues rather than technical matters.
- They like to interact with confident, insightful rounded individuals who have the credibility to challenge on occasion.
- From the outside, they value things like market insight, predictions for the future, and views on their company and people and current best practices.
- The meeting should be so valuable that they might have considered paying for it.
P4 – Protecting – Key Client Management
- All clients are valued clients, but you will have ‘key’ clients who should receive a proactive approach to relationship management (beyond just doing great work).
- Proactively identify key clients using filters like revenue, future income, reference value, type of work etc.
- Develop a live, 1-2 page plan that is owned and updated by all client-facing team members.
- Look at the four key areas:
- Excellence in delivery of work: planning, execution and communication.
- Client defence – nurturing relationships, segmenting the client base, identifying client needs.
- Client project management – making sure your internal systems work, leading internal teams.
- Client development – selling more or cross-selling to client, marketing to them. Key principle – will it be of value to them?
- Make plans to overcome the 8 common barriers to cross-selling:
- Internal communication – publish updates, share in team meetings.
- Knowledge of what others do – find out and share the questions your colleagues should ask to uncover opportunities for you.
- Trust in others’ capabilities – make an effort to get to know your colleagues. Share your key client plan and how your client likes to be dealt with.
- Loss of control concerns – as above. Also make sure you ask the same about any clients referred to you.
- Knowing how to cross-sell – remind yourself of best-practice PACE marketing and selling.
- Financial considerations – respect and broker deals with your colleagues to reward cross-selling.
- A real understanding of the client’s business – use PACES and key client management to find out more.
- The client’s image of our firm – find out what it is, then market appropriately your other services.
P5 – Pruning
- Recognise that some clients don’t fit with your ideal client base. Reasons include that they don’t pay on time, do low value work, are too demanding or association with them is damaging. Take steps to ‘prune’ them to make way for higher quality work.
- Prune by:
- Having a ‘be honest’ meeting
- Setting minimum acceptable fees
- Delegating the client
- Servicing ‘at a distance’
- Passing to a partner organisation
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