Mr Jenkins, I have just received a giant pumpkin from one of your sales people! Why???
Oh, how I used to love phone calls like this when I was managing. Seeing them put into practice what I always tried to instil in my teams - don’t be afraid to do something different when it comes to business development.
Why in your right mind would you send a giant pumpkin to a prospect? My answer, why wouldn’t you?
I bet you’ll be the only sales person who ever has, or will send them one to stand out from the crowd…And I bet they’ll take your phone call when you ring – even just out of morbid curiosity.
Cold call, email, marketing brochure, Linkedin, conference attendance, Twitter, dinner or lunch invite. All perfectly acceptable and valid ways of conducting business development, and they work…otherwise we wouldn’t do them right?...Duh!
But EVERYONE is doing this (or a mix of), which means your chance of being the one salesperson that stands out is highly diminished.
I’m not saying that traditional routes of BD can’t be very successful. In the last week I’ve had 2 great meetings that came about through LinkedIn ‘Inmails’ which I’m confident will turn into projects.
What I’m asking is:
When was the last time you sat down with your team, looked at your top 10 or 15 targets and brainstormed for an hour, innovative ways you could reach them?
When was the last time you had fun doing business development? Traditional BD can be dull, frustrating, boring, and soul destroying. But it really doesn’t have to be.
Last week I was doing some BD Planning with one of my clients, and we spent an hour doing the above. I won’t share what they came up with, but some of their ideas were fantastic, fresh and will undoubtedly open some previously locked doors.
There are few things that get my blood boiling more than:
Sales rep: I can’t reach the prospect.
Me: What have you done to try and reach them?
Sales rep: Sent them an email and tried to call them.
Me: How many times?
Sales rep: Once on Monday and once more since.
Seriously, so you send an email, which if it isn’t blocked by the prospects spam filter, will just be another email from one of the many they receive each day from sales people. Then you try and call them twice in a week. How often do you think C-Suite folk spend actually sat at their desk let alone answering cold calls? By only calling them twice in a week you’ve got more chance of being mauled by an escaped tiger wearing a tutu, walking down Regent street than you do of them answering.
I always ask sales reps how many sales people they think they are competing with on a daily basis for a prospects attention, and it’s only when they start to add them up, that they realise how difficult the task of standing out actually is. Sometimes they only think that they need to worry about their competitor’s sales people but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In my last role before setting up WheelSpinner, my average day would involve cold calls from at least 2 events sponsorship people, 2 delegates sales people, 4 recruiters, 1 training provider, and 4 or 5 media sales execs trying to flog me print or digital ad space.
So that’s 14 calls a day and that’s not event including the emails, Linkedin messages and other approaches.
The issue then becomes even more complicated, because instead of just trying to compete with all the other sales people trying to reach a prospect, you are actually running the risk of becoming part of a group movement that can cause real irritation.
So what do we do? Do we just stick with the same old platforms for BD or do we try something different? But something different might be risky and backfire?
Yes, it might. But nothing tried, nothing gained.
I always said to my sales teams that I’d happily receive the odd phone call or email from a prospect that didn’t like the attempted method of approach than receive nothing at all and us not reach our top targets.
I think this stems from my early days of event sponsorship sales where we were encouraged to think differently. I remember waiting on a contract to come back from a prospect who had said multiple times over 5 weeks that he would send it. Tired of waiting, and in need of the deal to hit my target, I phoned his PA, found out what his favourite pizza was, ordered Domino’s and asked the driver to meet me outside his office. I took the pizza, put a copy of the contract into a clear plastic wallet and stuck it to the inside of the box with a post-it note saying: ‘Hope you enjoy Steve, once you’re done, could you email back the signed contract. Thanks, Tim’
2 hours later it was back. Target hit.
Now, even though this wasn’t a cold approach as such, the point stands. I have plenty of other examples I could share with you where non traditional methods have yielded great results, but instead I hope you’ll take some time out with your own teams and see what you come up with.
Just try sitting down for an hour and agree that no idea is a bad idea. You never know what you might come up with, and the business it might lead to…
If you or your business need help with BD planning, please get in touch.