Category Archives: Business Development

These blogs focus on business development services we offer and what we’d recommend for you.

The Secrets to an effective follow up

‘You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.’ Zig Ziglar

Current market conditions make winning new business harder. With many companies choosing to defer any decisions until clarity is restored, planning a tailored approach and keeping in touch will increase your chances of winning the project later. What can you do to encourage your sales team to follow up more often?

Many sales managers and business owners conclude that their sales professionals must work harder but often they are stretched in lots of directions having to keep existing customer happy, while also prospecting for new business. In my opinion, an even bigger problem lies in the fact that many sales people are not sure how to follow up effectively.

To ensure that you and your team are following up effectively you need to consider a number of things:

Be clear on the value of following up: many people believe that if a prospect is really interested, they will come back to them. This is true in an ideal world, but it depends on your product, industry and their relationship with the competition. Whilst we want to strike the right balance, most decision makers are very busy and will need a few approaches to refresh their memory.

  • Top tip: Call it ‘Building a relationship’ instead of following up to help build the value and understanding amongst your team

Make sure you set goals: like with everything else, setting a goal each time you follow up with a prospect will ensure you ask the right questions and get a better idea of where you are. Just sticking with converting to a sale is not specific enough, a good follow up system will have a goal for each call.

  • Top tip: Understanding that what you are selling is not suitable or a priority to a prospect is a good step forward. Flogging dead horses does not take you very far

Ask good questions: these take some time and planning. Once you have a goal for the call, ensure you write down a few questions you should ask to find out more. Don’t try to find out everything at once but rather break it down to bite sized chunks. This will allow you to get to the real detail but also to build a relationship gradually.

  • Top tip: If you are not asking any questions that make you feel uncomfortable you are missing some key points

Find out more about their problems: what keeps them awake at night and takes up too much of their time? Remember the Status Quo Bias by Daniel Kahneman which predicts that unless people perceive an urgent reason to change, they will stick with the status quo. The more you find out about their pain the better your chances of selling to them, if your product is indeed relevant.

  • Top tip: Most people buy to alleviate pain and not to further their gain

At YBDT, lead nurturing is a key part of the support we offer our clients. We identified that having a clear sales process is a great way to ensure you have an effective follow up system. That said, we think that many companies fail to create an effective process that is used across the board. To support our clients and contacts, we are launching a series of quarterly seminars to cover key elements to creating a sales process and using it successfully.

If you want to learn more, sign up for our first lunch webinar: How to follow up effectively on Tuesday 23/03/21, 12:00- 13:00.

What are the key sales performance drivers?

The world has changed in so many ways in the last year and businesses have needed to adapt to the shifting situation to keep growing and thriving. Now that we are slowly making our way back to normality, it’s worth going back to basics with your sales and marketing and reviewing your approach to generating and nurturing leads as well as converting those into sales.

If you have been following the same sales path for years, then it is probably time to look at changing things up. Here are a few thoughts to start you on the road to sales success.

  • Clarify: Understanding where your business sits in the marketplace is key to this. What do you do best? Who needs what you do? How do you best approach them? How much are they willing to pay?
  • Goals: Every sales teams needs goals, both as something to strive for, and to give you, as their manager, something to measure your success against. When did you last review your sales goals? Are they fit for purpose in 2021? If they are the same ones you had in 2019 then you should certainly be looking at how your priorities have changed.
  • Results: Drilling down into your sales data will teach you how good your goals are. If your sales team are under-performing, is it about inappropriate targeting and goals setting than under achievement?  Reviewing the number of leads, conversion rates, and other KPIs will help you focus on the real problems and enable you to look for solutions.
  • Activity: Simply doing more is the best way to generate more leads. Talking to more of your existing prospects will connect them to your business more closely. Looking at the results will tell you what has worked, and what hasn’t, meaning you can start to establish a route to growing your sales pipeline.
  • Understanding: Knowing what your key prospects, and your existing customers, want and expect of you will enable you to strengthen your relationship with them. This will help establish a sales process and create workable and effective follow up routines which fit in with your overall process.

These are just the first few steps on the road, and we will look at other aspects of building your sales performance another time. The quickest way to building an effective sales pipeline is to work with a reliable established partner.  Your Business Development Team have a fifteen-year track record of generating and nurturing leads, and supporting our clients in many industries to build and refine relationships. Our “Improved Sales Conversion” process provides a clear roadmap to enhanced understanding, better follow ups and a sales pipeline that you can develop into profitable orders. To learn more about how we can help get in touch

Why selling takes time and effort?

On a cold February morning in the middle of another lockdown planning how to improve your sales can seem like all too much effort. If you are thinking “well this worked when we did it before”, and before was 2019 then it likely will be wasted effort.

Doing more of “the same old same old” in 2021 is not very practical. Walking into your customer’s office with a smile and a firm handshake just isn’t happening. Unimaginative selling had been slowly dying long before the Pandemic, but now we all need to think more clearly about how we sell, and most importantly what our customer thinks of our interactions with them.

“How you sell matters. What your process is matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.” – Tiffani Bova

Innovation in your lead generation and nurturing is important. Now more than ever. With the world now firmly online, there is the temptation to rely on a few social media posts to do your lead generation for you. Your competitors probably think the same, but my experience shows that contacting customers directly raises you above the background noise of the Internet. Going offline to engage with your potential customers can positively influence their view of your company. One of my team was sent a drinks coaster by a supplier, a simple gesture but it showed that when so many companies have gone quiet and are just hoping for it all to be over soon, his supplier is still there ready and able to do business.

So, why does selling take time and effort? Because your customers are worth it. Taking the time to build a relationship with a new contact, understanding their business and what they need from you is a key piece in building the jigsaw puzzle of a sale. When much of their contact comes from instant sales pitches on LinkedIn, or they haven’t heard from a supplier in months, being contacted by a company that is interested and actively seeking to work with them will encourage them to look seriously at your offer and ultimately to buy from you.

A stat I have used on our website comes from Wanda Allan; “80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact yet, 90% of sales people make 3 contacts or less”. Your Business Development Team offer dedicated support to your sales team. Lead generation can be time consuming and your skilled salespeople’s time is usually best spent on the later stages of the sales process where their knowledge of your products and services matters most. That leaves the crucial area in the middle, nurturing those leads to the point that they are ready to buy. Remember Wanda’s stat. It isn’t your sales team’s fault that they only have time to make three calls rather than five or twelve. They are doubtless stretched in lots of directions having to keep existing customer happy, while also prospecting for new business. Your Business Development Team can fill in that gap between the lead and the sale.

For more information how Your Business Development Team will work with you to generate and nurture the leads that are vital to your business’s recovery visit our Lead Nurturing page, and get in touch to talk amore about our service.

Three things you might want to consider between Christmas and New Year

I think that we all agree that Christmas this year is not going to be as we are used to. Just like the rest of our lives through the pandemic, we will need to make do with a quieter Christmas. People I speak to are divided between those who are looking forward to having a quiet time and those who can’t wait for Christmas 2021…

Wherever you are on this, you are likely to have a bit more time for resting and recreation between Christmas and New Year. Just in case you get to a point where you are in need of some constructive thinking in the holidays, I thought I would share some great lessons I learnt this year whilst reading John Jantsch’s book, The Referral Engine.

The book explains how to create an effective referral system through focusing on key elements within your organisation. It made a big difference to our business in terms of customer satisfaction, increased referrals, and retention. Here are the main elements to consider:

  • Make your company the one people are speaking about: People don’t talk about boring products and they certainly don’t talk about boring companies.’’  John Jantsch, The Referral Engine

How can you make your company interesting? Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Come up with a new product or innovation which will make your company stand out against the competition.  This can be a small thing that makes a difference to your client like offering some training or best practice, so they get more out of your product.
  2. Write your business story: consider how it all started and what really matters to you and the rest of the team.  People buy from people and your story can make a difference to their buying decision.
  3. Identify the elements that define your business and make you different. Things to consider are your unique process or approach to doing business as well as your core strategy.
  •  Everyone is in Customer Service: I believe marketing, sales and customer service falls to everyone in your organisation. Widely referred businesses seem to find ways to empower everyone to create, deliver, mend and extend the total customer experience’. John Jantsch, The Referral Engine

In order to achieve this level of engagement, the book suggests that you consider ways of changing your team culture. Consider what mechanism, training and mind-set is necessary to ensure everyone in the company is delivering the right attitude which is aligned with your vision and mission statement. A few examples include

  1. Share your vision and mission with the team.
  2. Promote your company values in internal meetings. Ask your team how they relate to them.
  3. Share company performance figures and put together goals that matter to everyone.
  4. Ensure you are clear on the type of people you want to work in the organisation.

Create a customer network: ‘…It is not enough to simply provide a good product or service, that’s probably the minimum of what is expected. Your marketing, sales, content and service must all converge in a systematic fashion to move your customers through the referral lifecycle of know, like, trust, buy, repeat and refer.’ John Jantsch, The Referral Engine

Whilst referral marketing is recognised as a key marketing approach, you should consider how many referrals you get from your own customers. If you feel you could do better in this, there are a few key things to consider:

  1. Figure out a way to introduce referrals as a key element of your relationship with new clients. Make sure it fits with your brand and culture.
  2. Exceed your customers’ expectations; surprise, and delight them.
  3. Work out an appropriate way to reward your customers for referrals.
  4. Equip your team with tools and processes to make referring your business easy.

I hope you have a lovely break and think this should keep you busy over a few constructive sessions if you so wish. I hope you can then take it further and introduce some changes to your organisation.

Whatever you decide, to have the full affect, I recommend that you put the Referral Engine on your Christmas list this year: it is one of the best business books I have ever read.

Top 5 tips for business growth in 2021

Whilst 2020 has not been what we planned for, for many, 2021 needs to be a year of significant growth if we are to return to where we were pre-pandemic. This time of year, is traditionally a time to gather your plans for new campaigns launched in the new year. This week, we wanted to offer you our top tips for business growth:

Tip #1CHOOSE THE RIGHT MARKETING TOOLS TO SUPPORT YOUR MESSAGE

A successful campaign needs a specific approach and message which are relevant to the issues that you wish to solve. As part of this process, you will decide which will be your target markets and then choose the appropriate tools.

We are not suggesting that you have to choose one marketing tool only; you can run a number of campaigns using different tools and tactics. In many ways, the tools and tactics you use are all relevant as long as they appeal to your target markets and convey your message correctly.

Tip #2: HAVE A CLEAR SALES PROCESS:

How many times have you been told that selling is not rocket science? Whilst we agree that you should keep things reasonably simple, don’t be too simplistic.  A clear process that everyone works to, can help streamline your process and increase productivity and success. Some things to consider are:

  • Speed of response to enquiry
  • Accuracy in identifying needs
  • Demonstrating your capabilities
  • Packages and standardisation of products
  • Your CRM and automation tools
  • Relationship building

Tip # 3: FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP

One of our favourite quotes demonstrating this is from Wanda Alan, who wrote Follow Up Sales Strategies. She said that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact, yet most salespeople only make three follow up calls or less. The number of contacts are irrelevant; what matters is that you make as many as it takes to get a definitive answer.

Against popular belief, prospects normally appreciate your follow up as long as it is done in a polite and appropriate manner. Timelines will depend on your product and sales cycle, but we have been known to keep in touch with people for several years before they eventually became clients. Don’t give up: believe in your product and remember that you are talking to people who expressed an interest in your company.

Tip # 4: UNDERSTAND YOUR PROSPECTS

When we get frustrated with following up, we take a deep breath and remember some research undertaken by DISC which identified that only around 35% of the population make decisions quickly.  The remainder still like to take their time but, importantly, do make buying decisions eventually. To help you use this in practice, consider your prospects’ buying persona, of which there are four:

  1. The Decisive: These buyers have a clear picture in their mind of which results they want. They value rapid action so will typically make quick decisions if they feel your solution is right.
  2. The Interactive: These buyers want to shape events and enjoy “getting their way” when it comes to negotiations or buying something. They typically make quick buying decisions, particularly when they feel a sense of connection with you.
  3. The Stabiliser. These buyers are more passive and introverted and interested in the how and why of a solution. Their primary interests are in maintaining stability, so they prefer to “take their time” and weigh up all options and outcomes before making a decision.
  4. The Conscientious: These buyers are also more passive and introverted. They too take a much more detailed and accuracy-based approach to their buying habits. Without sufficient data to prove any statements made to them, you will fail to achieve their buy-in.

Tip # 5: TEST AND MEASURE

Once you are clear on your message and campaign tools, start experimenting to see how you get your message across best. This will ensure that you get a better return from your campaign. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Try a number of platforms to promote your message
  2. Segment your data and send smaller campaigns to see which get better engagement
  3. Try to use new tactics you have not used before

All of the above are great ways to test, but the key thing is to measure your results carefully to ensure you understand what works best at the moment. One more thing to remember is to be realistic and give it time and some repetition to ensure you are being heard.

We hope you have found this useful. Should you want more, we have created a small series of targetted eBooks, designed to help you put together a successful sales process from lead generation to conversion. Click here to download them from our website.

Planning in the age of uncertainty

Here is a wonderful quote from J.R.R. Tolkien which is particularly apt for the current environment: ‘It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.’

Planning is recommended by experts in all walks of life as a way to support business growth but what happens if planning becomes very difficult due to uncertainty, as we are experiencing at the moment? Do you abandon it all together? I believe that you should always have a plan in place, covering short and long term, whilst not forgetting the dragons nearby. Here are five tips I have collected for you to consider:

  1. A tip from Oxbridge Academy Blog:

Focus on what you can control: You have to accept that some things are completely out of your control. For example, you cannot control most of the effects that the coronavirus has had on your everyday life. While accepting the things that you cannot control, you should focus on controlling the things that you can. This can include maintaining a positive attitude, controlling your spending habits, or deciding to learn something new. In the face of a difficult situation, you may need more determination than ever before to work on yourself and get through the tough times. 

  • A tip from Life Lanes:

Have “go-to” people who can help you every step of the way. Having people you can reach to in times of change can get you through even the most uncertain of times. You do not need to know everything. You just need to know people and organizations you can trust to fill in the gaps for what you do not know.

  • A tip from Management Centre:

Use scenario planning instead of traditional goal setting: Scenario planning can get you outside the normal strategic planning box by encouraging you to think about multiple futures and how these futures would impact on what you would need to deliver your mission. They may even, if profound enough, encourage you to change or adapt your mission.

  • A tip from Great Performance:

Prepare yourself for various possibilities: The most challenging part of being uncertain is the inability to feel in control. Being human, we want to know how things will go so as to be comfortable. Uncertainty takes this from us. Things change too fast for us to experience this. Therefore, instead of expecting specific outcomes from life, it makes more sense to simply prepare yourself for various possibilities. For example, you can make lists of the activities that you will perform in case things go one way or another. One of the characteristics of an uncertain future is luck. This is when things go exactly as you desired. It is important to know that luck happens when preparation and opportunity meet.

  • A tip from Your Business Development team:

Always be selling: Planning for growth is one of the key things that will make a difference to your future as a business. Creating new business and improving your sales conversion are born from a structured process which you can set up and follow in any environment. This process takes time so use the downtime to plan and start conversations with people in your target market. This means that when things move forward you will be first in line for consideration.

I hope you have found some inspiration in our Blog today. If you are looking to create a sales process or strategy, we might be able to help you. Click here to find out more or get in touch to discuss your specific circumstances.

Our lead generation funnel

What is sales conversion support and why is it helpful?

When working on business development strategy with clients, we often come across companies who struggle to define their conversion rate. Three years ago, I wrote a blog about this which I think is still spot on. The key argument I was making is that getting both lead generation and lead conversion right, is the key to the success of any lead generation strategy. There is little point in generating leads if you cannot convert them and this can often result in wasted budgets.

To understand the problems better, take a look at the info graphic above. If you are using a lead generation agency to support your sales, you will find that most of them will support stages 1-2 of the funnel above leaving you and your team to complete stage 3. This often results in reduced return on your investment due to lack of conversion. which is why so many companies initiate lead generation campaigns which never get concluded leaving them feeling disappointed and frustrated.

As with other problems, explaining it can be easier than solving it because the solution needs to be specific and complex. We believe that you need to consider three key questions here:

  1. How much do you know about your prospect and their issues? Knowledge is power and really helps converting sales because it highlights where the opportunity lies as well as builds a good relationship. People are very keen to talk about themselves and their needs yet so many times we forget to ask the questions or dig a bit deeper to make sure we understand. Sometimes the answer is to pick up the phone and ask more questions or book a time to do so.
  • How detailed is your follow up process? Many people find follow up difficult because they are worried they will annoy the prospect or appear desperate. If you changed the word ‘follow up’ to ‘relationship development’ that might help you understand how important it is. The key to doing it well is to break it down to small goals and outcomes and then practice a lot. Still, this can be easier said than done and sometimes, another pair of eyes is required to make this work.
  • Does your CRM support this activity well? Most companies use a CRM system to record their business development work but getting this process right is difficult and time consuming. A big part of the follow up process is about booking the next conversation and documenting your new knowledge which makes the CRM work very important. To make it work you need to ensure the CRM process mirrors your sales process and that the team is clear on what needs to be done.

Like I said, it is easier to describe why conversion is difficult to affect than improve it. But fear not, at YBDT we approach things differently because we understand that new leads are often very initial and require a structured nurturing process to yield a sale. We offer our clients a more strategic approach that supports them throughout the sales process. You can read more about it here.

First impressions matter but they are only the start…

I am currently reading a great marketing book by Richard Shotton called The Choice Factory. In it, he talks about research into first impressions and how important they are to get right. Through examining behaviour research, Shotton develops the well-known phrase, “First impressions matter,” to explain that Brands are often associated with one characteristic which colours the rest of the beliefs consumers hold about them. The reason first impressions are so important, is because they often form the initial belief which then affects our relationship with the Brand forever.

The way I see it is, if we create a bad impression, we can put a prospect off our company for life but if we create a good impression, it is only the start of the relationship. As a Sales Director, you need to ensure that:

  • You and your team always create a good impression when you speak with a new prospect
  • Once you have had an initial conversation you need to follow it up in an appropriate way

The first action above is important to all businesses across all industries and requires planning, processes and training. The second action, however, is particularly important to companies who sell high value services and products. This is because the length and complexity of the sales process have a direct correlation to the cost and complexity of the product you sell.

If you are looking to grow your business in an effective manner, you need to develop a funnelling process which includes the following steps:

  1. Creating an initial interest = identifying leads
  2. Identifying interest and clarifying time scales= identifying prospects
  3. Following up and nurturing the prospects= converting to customers

Having worked with many clients to create leads and build a pipeline of prospects, we find that most companies struggle with the third stage and this is because the follow up process is difficult to define, control and manage. To improve this, we recommend that you consider the following elements:

  • Identify what you still need to find out about your prospect and take steps to close this gap. This can be done through looking at their website and LinkedIn profile or by speaking to the prospect directly using prepared questions.
  • Understand the prospect’s personality type and work out how to best communicate with them. You can read more about buying profiles in our previous Blog, here.
  • Agree a timeline for further communication and a point of purchase or review which you are aiming towards.
  • Break the process down into small goals that you plan for each communication point. Things like, finding out where the project is and understanding who else is involved; other ways in which you might be able to help can be useful steps in building a relationship.
  • Ensure that you are always checking if your contact is welcome and appropriate.
  • Push for a definitive answer where possible so you are not pursuing a false opportunity and inaccurately inflating your pipeline.

We hope this is helpful in supporting improved lead conversion and increased overall sales revenue. Having said that, creating the correct follow up process is not easy and most companies I come across get it wrong in some way.

As follow up is a big part of what we do, we have developed some good insights which we will be happy to share with you. Get in touch to discuss your specific requirements.

Post lockdown working environment: has the sales process changed forever?

As we are living in times of tremendous change and uncertainty, I thought I would look for a quote from Deepak Chopra, My favourite change and transformation man. Hope you like this one:

“Simply with a change of mind you can change your life.”

One of the big changes we have all had to adapt to in the workplace, is the lack of face to face meetings. As a result, most people are now used to managing their meetings on virtual platforms. In many ways this has been a revelation showing that travel can be reduced making our working week much more productive.

This change has had a big impact on the sales process, particularly for high value sales. Salespeople typically spend 2-3 days of their week on the road, networking and meeting prospects to build strong relationships and promote sales. Face to face communication is considered an important factor in most sales processes offering great opportunities to get to know people. The tactile feeling you get from having lunch with a client or visiting a prospect’s site is hard to duplicate online.

Another element that differentiates sales activity is that it is not necessarily meant to be productive from a tick box perspective. Whilst your salesperson might be working long hours and running around, a lot of what they do is prospective as that is the nature of the job, particularly if they are developing new business. Current limitations mean that most of this activity is either postponed or undertaken online and that takes getting used to.

A lot has been written about how to adapt your sale style to suit online meetings and I think it is important to spend some time reading and reflecting about this. Here are a few important elements to consider when preparing for a virtual sales meeting:

Preparation:

  1. Make sure you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection at your office
  2. Consider what people can see in the background
  3. Dress appropriately
  4. Do your research
  5. Prepare slides to manage the meeting
  6. Be clear on your goals

In the meeting itself:

  1. Always appear engaged, smile and nod
  2. Look at the people you are talking to
  3. Allow time for questions and feedback
  4. Agree next steps and book the next meeting

After the meeting:

  1. Email all information required
  2. Send the next meeting invitation
  3. Follow up with the key decision maker for their feedback
  4. Make sure you are all on the same page

Going back to the quote from Deepak Chopra, the most important thing to manage now is your sales team’s mindset. If you can maintain a ‘can do’ attitude, you will get better results quicker. I do not see the sales process changing forever but I do think that, in the post pandemic world, virtual meetings are going to be more popular so learning to manage them is time well spent.

Where do you see selling going in the near- and long-term future?

Just in case you need support with your sales operation, we have a new service designed to support your sales kickstart as you are bouncing back from lockdown. You can read more about it here then give us a call to arrange your free target market workshop to kickstart your sales strategy.

Are your salespeople up for the challenge?

You can always count on Brian Tracy to provide a good quote when it comes to sales success; how about this one, ‘Keep yourself positive, cheerful and goal orientated. Sales success is 80% attitude and only 20% aptitude.’

What I love about sales quotes, is that they make everything sound very simple and easy. In reality, achieving sales success can be hard work. I do agree with Brian Tracy that attitude and aptitude are the two main components to consider if you are looking to improve your sales success. Whilst there are many things to consider, these are the key elements in my opinion:

Attitude:

  • Poor attention to details: When it comes to new business, details are essential to progress the sale. Appearing too pushy, closing too soon, or trying to promote the wrong solution can all result in a sale not going ahead.
  • Lack of empathy: A successful sales process must include developing trust, and empathy is a big part of that.
  • Lack of enterprise: Working on business development tends to bring up challenges regularly which require rapid response and creativity. Note that sometime the problem can be related to your management style rather than your staff.
  • Lack of ambition: People who want a regular 9:00-5:00 job should not become salespeople. You want your team to have fire in their bellies, always looking to have more (money, training, responsibility, products, territory)

Aptitude:

  • Poor communication skills: This is not so much about verbal communication but about written communication and presentation style which can sometimes get in the way of a sale.
  • Lack of processes and systems: Boring as it might sound, a well-designed sales process can be the difference between success and failure. The more defined processes and clear systems you have, the easier it becomes for your sales team to focus on selling.
  • Lack of clear strategy: If you have not looked at your strategy in a while, please make sure you do. Without a strategy, progress will be slow and measurement almost impossible.
  • Lack of organisation skills: Keeping on top of a sales funnel and pipeline takes some organisation. Sales is one of those jobs where you need to multitask to ensure that you are always moving forward.

An important thing to remember is that aptitude is easier to train and fix, whilst changing someone’s attitude is harder. The thing with attitude is that it is forever changing; people can be fantastic sometimes and struggle at other times. This is particularly true when it comes to hard times and rapid change, both of which are very prevalent at the moment. If you are starting to bring your sales team back from furlough, you will need to make sure that you are paying attention to their frame of mind and attitude, ensuring you give them the right support.

What can you do to make this happen? Well, because we are a very helpful company, we decided to develop a new service designed to support your sales kickstart as you are bouncing back from lockdown. You can read more about it here then give us a call to arrange your free target market workshop to kickstart your sales strategy.