By Ellen Keiley
The truth is: there is no secret to business development!
Sure – there is an art and science to business development, but it is natural and basic if you follow this process.
Set goals, be accountable, and stay focusedSet specific, measureable goals for yourself and for your business, and write them down. Then determine what you are going to do to achieve those goals and incorporate that into a marketing and business development plan. If you keep everything in your head and don’t write things down, you are likely to forget something or someone.
Review your goals and plan weekly, and make sure you regularly engage in activity that will help you achieve your goals. This should include spending time with your contacts and working on building relationships. Keep a journal of your activity to help you stay accountable and on track.
Spend your time networking in the right placesDon’t just go to events or get involved in organizations just to get business. A lack of meaningful intentions will bring a lack of results. Choose specific organizations, such as professional associations and non-profits that you align with and are passionate about. Identify organizations where your target audience is and that meet in times and locations that work for you. That way you will be more likely to attend events and meetings regularly, enjoy the experience, and feel like you got a return on investment on your time. There’s also the added benefit of getting to know people and building stronger relationships if you see the same people on a regular basis.
The elevator speechOften people are vague when telling others what they do. For example, a professional coach may just say “I am a coach.” Well – there’s many different types of coaches out there. Similarly, a lawyer may say “I am a lawyer,” and not give specifics about the types of law they practice.
When networking, set yourself apart. Be specific about what you do in a clear and concise way, and tell a success story. If people know what you do specifically, they will be more likely to connect the dots and reach out to you when they have a need that matches your expertise or are asked for a referral by someone else.
Follow up and be a connectorMany people attend events, collect tons of business cards, and then do nothing with them. That is not an effective practice, nor is it a good use of your time. If you meet someone that you felt a connection with, follow up with an email or note and invite them out for coffee or lunch to get to know them more. You should also keep them in mind should you come across an event, referral, or other opportunity that would benefit them – that’s what connectors and good relationship builders do.
The most effective relationships are mutually beneficial. If you only focus on what’s in it for you, even inadvertently, people will notice, and the relationship will become weak. If you help others, you will leave a positive, memorable impression.
Be patient and keep up with relationshipsKnow that a new relationship does not usually become a referral source or client overnight. It can take years. Be sure to stay in touch and top of mind with your contacts. A contacts/prospect list tracking sheet or system is a good way to stay on top of this. The more people know you, trust you, and think of you, the better.
Be visible and a thought leaderIf you just stay in your office and don’t get out, that is not going to help bring in new clients. It is important to be visible and communicate on a face-to-face basis, rather than just electronically. Getting out there and networking provides the opportunity to be visible with your existing network and meet new contacts and prospective clients.
Being known as an expert in your field is equally important. As part of your marketing plan, determine what you like to do, whether it’s writing articles, speaking, or networking, and find opportunities in those areas. Given time limitations, it is most effective to focus your time and energy on things you enjoy doing and are good at.
Pay attention to how you portray yourself to othersBeing approachable, friendly, and positive goes a long way. It’s important to avoid negative talk. People like to be around positive, happy, successful people, so project that persona, and you will attract the same type of people your way. Be yourself; don’t try to be someone you are not. People appreciate being around genuine people.
To be successful at business development, you have to put time and energy into business development activities regularly. Focus on building relationships. Be persistent and patient. Every rainmaker knows this. Practice the above tips, and you can become a rainmaker too. You get what you give – it’s very true.
*Article appears on Boston.com Global Business Hub.