To many professional service providers, the concept of finding new clients and winning work is intimidating. Even the very term “business development (BD)” strikes terror in the hearts of some professionals. Among my coaching clients, the fear often comes from a mistaken assumption that to succeed in BD one has to be an aggressive salesperson. This couldn’t be less true. So put away your fake smile and your clammy handshake. These tips will have you feeling comfortable and improving your BD results in no time:
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint: It may take multiple meetings and interactions via phone/email before you’re ready to propose your services or ask for work. Simply focus on advancing your relationship a little each time you interact. This takes the pressure off feeling like you have to land a big contract over lunch.
- Meaningful conversations: Sharing meals with prospective clients can help bring in good work. But the most effective business developers always make lunch more than a chit chat over chicken Caesar. Know what you want to achieve and plan some questions that will help you bring the conversation in that direction when the time is right. For example:
- What are you working on?
- What does success look like for you/your business?
- What gets in the way of achieving this success?
- What kind of help do you need?
- Talk less, listen more: It’s no longer about the aggressive pitch. Instead, build a relationship and find common interests so you both win. Have your prepared questions and also let curiosity be your guide. When in front of the prospect, ask yourself what you’re most curious about and pose your questions from there. Your lunch date will find it refreshing.
- Let your prospect guide you when to ask for the work: It’s great to have lunches, drinks and conversations. It is also great to actually win work! Each time you interact with a prospect, check in with them. “What is the logical next step? Have I earned the right to propose on this work? Can we start on this small project so we can solve this problem with you?”
For more on effective BD, check out Get Clients Now by C.J. Hayden. Hayden provides an excellent 28 day plan that will get you into action and bring results. And remember: It doesn’t have to be hard. It could even be fun!