27 Nov


Who to Call When You Don’t Know Who to Call- Getting Creative With Business Development


There is nothing more dismal than an afternoon spent trawling through a stale prospect list, calling the same people you’ve been chasing for months, when you can’t remember why most of them were on the list in the first place. These are the moments in which BD feels most like the kind of job we’re always reassuring our graduates it isn’t: monotonous, frustrating, fruitless. When I find myself on autopilot, aimlessly calling the people in my CRM and getting many more nos than yesses, I know I’m doing something wrong- being reactive rather than assertive, unproductive rather than creative, disturbing people unnecessarily rather than offering them a genuine opportunity to improve their business. What’s needed is a reset- to stop going through the same unsuccessful motions, to step back and take stock, and to come up with a plan to move forward. These are some things I find can help.

Sort out your prospects list
Rather than a long list of companies in your target industry that, at one time or another, you thought might be relevant, your prospects list should work as a tool to help you organise your time. Make it feel manageable and useful- go through it and remove anyone you don’t think is relevant. Identify your highest-priority targets, and focus your energies on these.

Write letters to clients you can’t get hold of
In these days of LinkedIn Mail and WhatsApp, the process of writing, printing, stamping and sending a letter feels hopelessly long-winded. When Amazon can get me a pair of headphones, on the same day I ordered them, by drone, how can a letter that takes three days to arrive still be relevant? But although they’re a faff, and they mean you spend half an hour on Google working out which address goes where, letters still have a formality that email and the phone don’t- and that, for some clients, translates to credibility. I once won a client (after chasing him for months) purely because he was impressed that I’d written to him. If you get a response from even one client this way, it makes all the effort worth it.

Research fast-growth companies in your market
Use resources like the Tech Track 100 list to discover new companies with a genuine need for your business- if they’re in your industry and they’re growing, the chances are high they’ll be investing in staff, resources and infrastructure.

Call your existing clients to see if you can get any more business out of them
If you’re good at what you do, your existing clients will be a valuable resource- they might have additional requirements, be able to suggest contacts you can work with, or even introduce you to their partners.

Go on your clients’ websites…
… And find out which businesses they partner with. Their partners might well have similar requirements, and when you call them, you can name drop.

Research events in your industry
In the daily grind of life in the office, Sales calls and emails feel like interruptions. At conferences, fairs and lectures, by contrast, even the busiest CEOs are open to meeting new people- no one wants to be the person standing on their own by the sausage rolls. So make sure you take advantage of industry events to get yourself in front of the people you’re chasing, and discover some new prospects. Make sure you get business cards!

Post on social media
If you’ve ever ended up buying something you saw advertised on social media, you know how powerful a tool it is. Get your message out on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make BD more productive, creative and fun. Have you ever tried any of the methods here- and what did you think? Or have you got any tips for struggling Sales people that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments!