Some may consider business development as a dreaded activity, but it’s a necessary evil for any size of organization. Non-profits call it “development”; corporations may include biz dev within their sales departments. Wikipedia defines it as “the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.”
For this blog, I’ll make it simple: Business development is any activity one can do to bring home the bacon. It’s a different animal for products companies versus solutions providers. And we’re focusing on solutions providers who might find it tricky to discover new and exciting ways to generate business.
Behold! Our tried-and-true list of the top ten business development strategies for solutions providers follows:
Referrals. Don’t be afraid to ask employees, friends, vendors, past customers, and current clients for referrals. If you bring value to those you serve, others will be happy to recommend you to others or refer their contacts who need what you offer. And while you’re at it, make sure to showcase your best.
Sharing. Are you an expert in a certain field or industry? If you are, sharing information that is pertinent to your prospective or existing clients can be a worthy initiative. As you do, make sure you’re making it valuable to your audience.
Education. Instead of selling, why not inform or educate? Consider a whitepaper or blog that has the sole purpose of teaching and bringing the reader fresh ideas and information.
LinkedIn. Have you ever considered reaching out to your potential clients via LinkedIn? Or keeping up with past colleagues or industry experts on the professional social media site? A personalized note with your value proposition can be an interesting way to harvest new relationships.
Handwritten Notes. After almost 20 years in sales and marketing, I’m amazed at how much people appreciate handwritten notes. When I was in my first sales job, I sent a superintendent of a school district a note to thank him for meeting to review the contract I wanted him to sign. The next time I called him to get on his calendar for the school board meeting, he referenced the thank you card and told me how much he appreciated it. And then, he put me on the agenda (and the contract was signed).
Telling. When I started my consulting business, a friend and mentor shared a Harvard Business Review article that said, “When You Start Freelancing, Let People Know.” This is sound advice.
Gifting. Just today, one of my current clients thanked me in person for the holiday gift I sent. (If you’re curious, it was a bottle of wine from my favorite Sonoma winery, personally signed by the vintner.) Consider not only sending thoughtful gifts at the end of the year, but to celebrate Valentine’s Day (We love our clients!) or even Halloween (My job would be scary without amazing clients like you!).
Mini-Campaigns. Go digital. Or traditional. Get a good database and target people that you’d like to work with in the future. Catchy mailers or value-added digital correspondence can be a great way to get in front of the right people.
Beyond Budget. I am enrolled in a program at Cornell, and the most significant takeaway so far is the thought of not offering clients what you think they’ll pay for but figure out how to bring them the most value. Let them decide what is best for their budgets, not the other way around.
Community. Get into the community. Serve. Network. Learn. Find an organization in your town that grows leaders in your field and roll your sleeves up. Not only will you develop as a person and professional, but you will meet new friends and potential contacts. In Las Vegas, the definitive program is Leadership Las Vegas. I can’t say enough about how it impacted my life for the better.
I hope this list brings you ways to grow your business as you strive to communicate with clients and your target audience—and that business development is now your favorite activity.