For many, the summer is a wonderful time to enjoy a much needed annual break. However, it does have one potentially adverse knock-on effect which, if you are not careful, can put you back a quarter - loss of business development (BD) momentum. Based on the conversations SBR Consulting have been having with a number of our clients, this month’s article is simply a reminder, of the challenge of keeping on top of your BD work during and after the summer months.
In your sales journey with each prospect it may have felt that at least one person has been away for the past couple of months and frustratingly closing business has taken longer. Also, we know that the longer decisions take to be made, the greater the chance that, for whatever reason, they never happen. Therefore, September is a crucial month to regain the momentum around activity and accountability. If this is not addressed 10%-30% of your firm’s 2011 revenue may not happen in 2011, if at all – a huge dent in the bottom line.
Below are 4 key areas I would like to remind you of as you think about your team’s sales and your BD activity. They are as applicable at this time of year as they are when setting objectives and goals at the start of the year.
The Power of Momentum
A Chinese Proverb stated: “Do not be afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still”.
We are all very busy and it is quite possible that our “To-do list” has a lot of non-BD tasks which have become both urgent and important. Other items can slip down the list for another month (including BD activity) and the momentum you gained before the summer comes to a halt. Decide that your prospect calls and prospect meetings are both important and urgent (because they are) and physically block out time in your schedule to make them happen. Treat these blocked out times as if they were a meeting with the CEO of your No. 1 client. That way you will not avoid them or find other things to do instead. Momentum in the sales world is like that of any profession and you have to do a little, often in order to stay on top.
The Power of Habit
If you are not forming good habits, unknowingly you are forming bad ones. As with momentum, once we stop doing something for a while the good habits we developed can decay. According to many experts and psychologists such as Dr Maxwell Maltz in his book, “Psycho-Cybernetics”, it takes around 21 days to form a habit. In my opinion the same applies the other way, only faster. For most people, once they stop something for a few days it can take real mental discipline to pick it up again.
Form the habit of doing some business development activity every week; call 2 past clients to maintain communication, call prospects to follow-up on proposals, research possible warm targets for your professional network, send an email/letter/press-kit to 5 targets, etc.
The Power of Reflection
I recently read a book by Professor Guy Claxton called, “Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind”. He talks about how one’s intelligence increases when you think less – an interesting and challenging read. My take on his message is that it is essential to make time to just think without too much structure, and to allow the mind to do its work and for the creative sub-conscious to provide solutions that we often cannot see because of the tyranny of the urgent. The best example of this is when we meet someone and we cannot remember their name but later in the day when we are not even thinking about it, the person’s name pops into our mind. It is as if the brain is proving it does know the answer once we allow it to work freely.
When it comes to hitting our BD targets, just making the time to reflect on where we are and letting the creative thought process work as opposed to blocking it with internal dialogue such as: “I have no time; I cannot get hold of anybody; This feels like it will never close, etc” really brings up solutions that lead to successful outcomes.
The Power of Celebrating Success
At this time of year we have witnessed in a number of clients, senior management becoming very focused on end of year results and making sure the numbers line up to the forecasts, which is naturally correct. However some have forgotten that people who feel good about themselves produce good results and the same applies in business development.
Many of our clients spend a lot of time analysing why they did not win a bid and even go as far as to ask the prospect for feedback as to why they did not win. One of the small but significant changes that Clive Woodward made to the English Rugby team which won the World Cup in Australia in 2003, was that at the end of every game they spent more time reviewing why they were successful and how to repeat it rather than why they lost. Remember to celebrate the successes and spread the good news across the teams to encourage a healthy BD environment.
In conclusion, remember “The Slight Edge Philosophy” when focusing on your BD for this month. It shows, that if you improve in something by .003% every day for a year, you will have improved by 100% by the end of the year (e.g. you will be twice as fit, twice as skilled, etc). The summer break has a danger of knocking us off our momentum and stopping some of the good habits that secure our long-term success. By just getting back on track around the basic Business Development activities you will ensure that you are ahead of your competition, many of whom are still dealing with the natural summer break hangover.
Written by Lars Tewes of SBR Consulting