Long-term success in any industry takes more than a great product or service. To win customers you must offer something different. The key to achieving this is to cultivate a deeper understanding of your customers and prospects.
Business development superstars know what’s trending in their target industries, and they are familiar with their customers’ businesses and operations.
They also understand their customers’ business goals, buying culture, key decision-makers, and biggest challenges.
To become a business development superstar, and develop others to do the same, you need to dedicate adequate time to the task.
Be a strategic consumer of information. If most of your work is with specific industries, study industry-specific articles or attend professional organization meetings. The more you learn about these industries, the easier you will find it to spot opportunities.
Becoming an expert takes time but spending just a few minutes each day can equate to a master class by the end of the year.
Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Start by re-establishing contact with people you enjoy and admire. Share articles or updates you find interesting on your own social media accounts and invite discussion. If you have an interesting conversation with an acquaintance, follow-up with them a day or so later with a call or quick note with additional information.
If you’ve chosen industry or issue that excites you, identify the key thought leaders and look for where they publish, what they read, or the groups they belong to. Read what they write and what they’re reading and engage them in virtual or in-person conversations. Get involved in their charities, clubs or associations. Follow them on social media and comment or ask questions when they post. The key is to treat networking as part of your job and set aside time for it every week.
Nurturing existing customer relationships is less expensive and less time-consuming than pursuing new business relationships, so the best strategy for becoming a business development superstar is to keep your existing customers satisfied.
Just meeting expectations is not enough to prevent your customers from being lured away by another firm. Customer loyalty comes from receiving value beyond what’s expected and it’s the key to creating a poach-proof customer.
Start with the customers you serve right now. Get to know the people on your customer’s team or your key contacts. Think about what they need to be successful in their business and then think of ways to help them accomplish that. You’re already learning all you can about their company and industry, so you’ll also be able to talk to them about their challenges or opportunities in their role. Look for and present solutions, even if it’s outside your area of expertise.
How will you know if your customers are happy? Ask them. If you’re not already running customer satisfaction surveys, start doing so. Informal feedback is also an important tool for monitoring the status of your relationship. Ask customers how they think the engagement is going, what they appreciate most, or wish would change. Share that information with your team, act on it and follow-up with your customer to demonstrate that you heard them and took their feedback to heart.
By investing a little time in self-education, doing a little planning and practicing new skills often, you can quickly become a business development superstar.
Author: Heather Kunz, Guest Author, Williams Benator & Libby, LLP