Well you’re making a list, checking it twice, trying to find out if your customers think you’ve been naughty or nice. Yes, it’s that time of year when we begin to put the results of this years sales behind us and look to the future. Ah, the optimism of a new year!
One critical list to compile is your business development pipeline. As you’re playing around with forecasts and projections for the New Year, have you asked yourself what you can do to grow the top line? Well, here are five very low cost ideas to stuff in your BD stocking.
- Ask for Referrals. I spent a very short stint with Oracle in 1990 and the very first meeting I attended had a pleading VP of Sales asking if any of us knew of a customer in the telecommunications vertical market segment willing to give us a reference. That was almost twenty years ago and Oracle now boasts thousands of references, but it started for Oracle and it will start with you, by asking for the first. Ask your current clients and customers if they know of someone you should call on. A referral gives you instant credibility and will shorten your sales cycle.
- Educate Your Current Customer Base. Are your customers aware of your entire product line? Do your clients know each of the offerings you’ve developed? Make sure your customer facing staff has a full understanding of your products and services. You are not selling anything to your customers in this process; rather you are educating them on the skills, competencies, products and service offerings in your portfolio.
- Stop By For a Visit. United Airlines used to run an ad showing an out of touch sales force getting to know their customers again by flying all over the country. Every sales person and manager was given a ticket to visit a customer, including the CEO. Traditional marketing campaigns can be useful. An inbound, web based marketing strategy adds a great touch. Flashy collateral and sales calls still have their place. All are necessary, but just not sufficient. Spending time with clients and asking them how they are doing and what they need now and in the future will still distinguish you from most of your competition.
- Become an Expert. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The combination of caring about your client and fully understanding their position in the market place is paramount when asking for additional business. Vertical market expertise is the table stakes for being added to the short list of providers.
- Cull the Flock. This may be a little counter intuitive but not all customers and clients are right for you. Get rid of the high maintenance ones. Some may cost more to service than they are really worth. Geoffrey Moore calls this “bad revenue” and it can be distracting and keep you from adding real value to current or even new clients that really fit your profile.
So there you have it – five stocking stuffer ideas to help you grow the top line in the New Year. And your business development team was thinking they were getting bonuses! Ah, the joy of giving!