Death of a Salesman
Okay, maybe not the most cheerful way to begin this discussion regarding new business development but it is relevant. Although Arthur Miller’s 1949 award-winning play may have been a dark playwright nevertheless we all know that sales drives business success and new business development sustains business growth. Be it organic or realizing new clients, successful new business development will always be one of the most important business pillars. Willy, our protagonist in the play, understood this…although he may not have addressed it well (as an unsuccessful salesmen he ultimately killed himself…oh, you didn’t see the play or read the book yet, sorry).
New business development success starts with an actionable knowledge of your business, your unique selling proposition (USP) and the ability to foster and nurture meaningful RELATIONSHIPS. In a previous life I worked on the “other side of the fence” in corporate brand marketing. Although I had fantastic access to timely market research and consumer insight, a good handle on strategic direction, and managed industry-leading product lines, it was my RELATIONSHIPS with my various corporate sales teams that solidified success for my respective brands. I may have understood the consumer but sales ultimately best understands the customer, I don’t care if your brand is Kix, Cheerios, Chex Mix, Coke or Tropicana (my former brands), without sales and customer approval and support your brand plans are DOA. My respective sales teams trained me on the nuances of true salesmanship and new business development. Similar to brand marketing and of course now agency/marketing communications, fostering mutually beneficial RELATIONSHIPS is a key factor in driving new business development success.
Now, as it relates to our industry, advertising/marketing communications, new business development begins with leveraging and presenting our USP to target business influencers and decision makers. I know you all have heard that in order to catch fish “you have to fish where the fish are”. Are you at the right business networking events, conferences, a member of relevant industry organizations, researching those individuals and companies who would benefit the best (verses your competitor) by using your services, have a great business network, referencing the right industry websites and industry trade sources? And then after you accomplish this task you need to prioritize the opportunity. Prioritization can be driven by a multitude of factors so be deliberate in your goals (immediate sales, size of contract, length of contract, organic business opportunity, higher profit margins, etc.).
Now, you may be “fishing where the fish are“ but are you fishing with the right bait?” You can’t catch swordfish with minnows. Ensure you are customizing your benefits as it relates to your client (it is always about what they need, not what you think they need). You may have influence but your potential client determines if you have the expertise to best deliver against a desired business need. How do you learn to best position and present the proper presentation? Well by listening of course. A key quality of successful sales people and new business development personnel is listening, guiding a conversation, and ultimately having the client share nuances that can be leveraged to exploit business opportunities.
Hum, I think that’s enough for now. I just realized I could be contributing to my own demise with this conversation. Happy fishing…Willy!