August 12, 2011
Hey all! I wanted to put together a piece about business development and how to get business in general through the Internet. This is something I have been doing for probably 10 years now, so I have the frame of reference and experience to guide others towards being effective with their biz dev activities. People that know me know that I love doing business development or “biz dev”. But so many people are clueless as to how to do business development effectively and use social networks properly, which really bothers me! Here are some strategies and ideas for how to do your business development activities online and be effective at it.
1. Be Prepared - One of the most important aspects to doing business development well is being prepared. You should know the in’s and out’s of your own company and how your business prospect does what they do. You should be able to answer any questions you may be asked about your company and be able to represent it well through email and over the phone. The quicker and more thoroughly you are able to answer questions posed to you, the more effectively you will be at getting the deal. If you do get stumped with a question, you can say that you need further clarification and will get their answer right to them, then work in that response in the future. There is nothing like going through the “pitch” with a few potential partners to get it down right. Your pitch should always be a work in progress that improves over time. The more calls and email you go through, the more comfortable you will be handling the rebuttals and probing questions about what your company does and how you can bring value or deliver your service. Make sure to cite case studies about how your company has effectively worked with other clients or how other partnerships have gone amazingly in the past. Don’t even get on the phone with a potential business partner until you know what you’re talking about! Role play it a few times with other people to work out the kinks, then get to it!
2. Use Tools - One of the nice things about doing business over the Internet are the wonderful tools there are to facilitate your business development activities. My favorite is LinkedIn, which is the largest business-oriented social network and a great way to find people to approach about doing business together. I call LinkedIn the most amazing, under-utilized business development tool on the planet, because so few people really use it properly or with enough gusto. I’m connected to over 4100 people on LinkedIn and I should be getting forward requests for introductions far more than I do. If people were using LinkedIn properly, they would be sending connection requests almost daily to connect with connections of their connections. Also, reaching out to new connections they find while searching LinkedIn. Once you connect with people on LinkedIn, you should send a nice follow-up email to them explaining more about what you do and to see if your new connection is interested in talking further about working together. Only through extremely pro-active use of LinkedIn can you ramp up your partnerships and business development, so get all over it! It’s also good to use a CRM like SalesForce to keep track of all the potential business leads and whether they have closed or not. Using a CRM tools is vital to keeping yourself organized and making sure you follow-up when you say you will. I also really like ReferralKey.com, which will allow you to offer a reward to your connetions that refer you clients, kind of like dangling the carrot, which can never hurt. Another AMAZING tool is called Jigsaw.com which allows to actually purchase people’s contact info and download it to your CRM.
3. Use Social Networking - Not only should you use LinkedIn daily, you should use Facebook and Twitter daily to make potential connections and partnerships with people. By connecting to a lot of people in your industry on Facebook and Twitter, people will see what you do and possibly want to work with you or know someone that might need your services. Building your friends and followers on the social networks is an ongoing process that will allow you to touch more people over time and generate more business for yourself. You have to find the right balance of personal stuff and business postings so you don’t alienate anyone. I tend to use Facebook mainly for business, but I’m also extremely proactive with interacting with other people’s postings, so they return the favor to my postings, which gets more exposure for my content.
4. Search Google - you can find anything and anyone through Google! By Googling by keyword phrase you will likely find all the companies you want to contact about partnering with you. The top of the search results and the right side are all “sponsored” results so you know those companies are paying to be there and likely have money to spend or at least are into online marketing and willing to spend money. Try to familiarize yourself with search results as they come up and try different keyword searches to bring up new potential sites you can contact. Make sure you don’t repetitively contact any website or company about doing business with you or you run the risk of being admonished or worse. By Googling various phrases related to the types of companies you are interested in doing business with, you will see a ton of potential you can filter through and do your contacting. Contact them through their website and tell them what your company does and ask to set-up a call. You have to do it in volumne to get a good response though, so get after it!
5. Getting Your Phone Ringing - No one really likes cold-calling, even if it’s a targeted list, so what to do?? I know it sounds CRAZY…but you can start by spending all weekend or all night sending business development emails to hundreds of potential websites or partners you want to do business with. If people are interested they will respond to your email or just give you a call to discuss it further. Make sure to be really open and accessible to people you are contacting so they feel that they can reach out at any time to discuss the opportunities with you. Also, another good way to get your phone ringing is staying after hours and leaving a ton of voicemails for people that have left for the day. This works because you’re not bothering people during their work day and most people will give a call back to a nice message about potentially working together when they have some free time to really chat. By doing a ton of site contacting and leaving voicemails you can get your phone ringing with interested people wanting to hear about what your company does. Have the right approach though, don’t be pushing at all, and don’t sell, rather tell them what your company does, how you do it, and the value you can delivery.
6. Attend Tradeshows - Tradeshows and conferences are probably the best place to do business development. However, it’s all about your approach. If you are too push with what your company does or don’t care about anything but pushing your deal, you won’t likely be very effective. You have to be a good networker and really take the time to meet new people and understand what they do. Sometimes, how you can work with someone doesn’t come out right away and through a lengthy conversation you finally see how you can work together. You can’t be afraid to spend the time building the relationship with someone to find out how you might be able to work together. At the very least you will have made a new friends that could become a client later or knows someone that may be interested. At tradeshows, you should be willing to go up to anyone and introduce yourself, portraying your confidence and willingness to meet new people and do business. It’s also good to set-up some meetings for yourself to meet some contacts in person you are working with.
7. Follow-up - Follow-up is SO important to closing deals and doing business development. Whether you meet the person on the phone, through email, or at a tradeshow, you absolutely have to follow-up with that person in a timely fashion to show them you are eager for their business and have good professional skills. Don’t be pushy when you follow up, let the deal happen. They might want to negotiate a little bit on your terms or how the deal is structured so be prepared to know what latittude you have with your company to make that happen, so you don’t have to keep getting back to them. Make sure to have all your ducks in a row with the potential deal prior to doing your follow-up so it goes as smoothly as possible. Only follow-up as much as you think is necessary without bothering that person. Know how to read the signs that they just aren’t interested and just move on to the next batch!
8. Build the Relationship - Business development is all about “building the relationship” with prospective clients and companies. People don’t like people that are too “means to an end” or pushy with the deal, so make sure to take your time with the deal and the relationship you are starting with that person. Ask them how their weekend went or how the their city’s sports teams are doing. Try to find out a little about their background and tell them about yours and what you like to do in your spare time. Building the relationship with people is a key component to business development. Make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn after you speak to them or email with them initially, which will show you are inviting them to connect with you socially. Try to make helpful suggestions or make referrals to other people they could possibly work with that you know. When you attempt to help people get ahead it goes a long way to getting people to like you and want to work with you.
9. Close the Deal - Closing the deal is every bit as important as initiating the deal, if not more so, and can be the toughest part. If they are gung-ho about doing the deal then you don’t really have to worry, just make sure it’s a smooth process to get the deal done and implemented. If they need more convincing make sure you are prepared to take the time to answer all of their questions and don’t rush it. Strike while the iron is hot if you sense they are ready to proceed, don’t let the opportunity slip away. Act like you really want their business and are eager to do a great job. Once you have the deal closed you can thank them for giving you the opportunity. Then, make sure the deal gets implemented expeditiously and goes like you said it would, otherwise they could be put off. Consider sending a thank you gift like a gift basket for becoming a new client with your organization. Definitely send a corporate gift to your clients during the holidays.
10. Be an Animal/Beast - No one ever got a lot of deals or partnerships by not being a very pro-active, aggressive individual. If you are doing business development, you need to eat, sleep, and breathe the process. Always look for new avenues or channels for finding potentially interested people or companies to contact. You may be searching in Google and come across a directory of a bunch of good prospects. Keep your eyes and ears open when going about the process to see if any hidden gems pop up you can use to further your goals. The more you get into the process, the more you will get out of it. Make sure you are going about the process really professionally and with good business development emails and voicemails…give yourself a fighting chance with excellent outreach so people are impressed right off the bat and your actually “selling” is easier to do. This can all be done with out being obnoxious or overly-zealous, which turns people off. Be upbeat and friendly too and have fun with it!
These are but a few strategies to make your business development activities more effective. Remember, the harder you go at the process, the more your will get out of it and do better for yourself. Make sure to be nice and friendly with your approach and try not to be annoying! Business development is an evolving process that should improve over time as you get betting at doing it, so dive right into the process and be great! Let me know what you think of my article and feel free to leave a comment! Thanks!