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Part Two: The difference between selling and business development.

Your business development activities must align perfectly to your prospect’s buying process–leading both of you to the final act of closing the sale.

In the previous post, I covered some first principles of business development. For many early stage entrepreneurs and solo professionals, their biggest challenge, especially at the beginning of their journey–is selling to new customers.

If you have anxiety about selling to strangers then you might want to re-frame in your mind the whole selling idea and think in terms of business development. In other words–relationship building!

People buy from people they know, like and trust.

All business is centered in helping people, adding to their life experience, fulfilling their needs. If you are not known by your clients-to-be,  then you can’t be liked and trusted. Building relationships before you sell something is the heart and soul of business development.

When you think in these terms, the pressure and fear of selling melts away. I’ll bet my last dollar you are person who loves to connect with people. Through your natural talent for connecting with people you’ll experience much more joy and enthusiasm for helping people get what they need. Better to serve than sell.

When you are attracting new business, rather than chasing it, you are expressing your powerful creative energy to serve. People will be naturally drawn to you, and you’ll build trust with your client-to-be in an easy, relaxed and positive manner.

Stop selling what you do and start helping someone get what they desire.

It’s easy to completely forget that clients don’t care about what you do, they care about their desired outcomes. When you focus your sales conversations on the desired outcomes prospective clients care about, you won’t need to persuade anyone of anything.

They’ll be receptive to whatever guidance you share with them simply because it’s all about them and not you.

Customers only care about their outcomes, not your product features or service methodologies. Chances are those things are in abundant supply from the alternatives available. Helping people get closer to what they desire is the fastest way to build trust and confidence that YOU are the ONLY wise choice.

Some common business development mistakes.

I have worked with hundreds of early stage entrepreneurs in diverse industries. One thing they all have in common is an uncompromising desire to win.  I’m confident you do too. But in the desire to close sales, many entrepreneurs inadvertently make these common business development mistakes. Any of these apply to you?

You don’t clearly and quickly communicate your value to the client-to-be in a manner that is relevant and distinctive from other available alternatives.

You must be able to state why you and your offer will matter to a prospective client in one sentence. If you don’t know how to clearly and quickly articulate a compelling value proposition, then you are beating yourself at the game before you even begin.

You meet with prospective clients on their turf. Today so much business is conducted over the phone and in a video conference, that you might not think this mistake is relevant in our social media age. However, at some point in the sales conversation, you’re going to have to have some quality face time. When you do make sure that meeting is not conducted in the client’s office or yours. Meet your client to be in a neutral environment that is supportive of your value and gets the client-to-be into a head space where their attention is solely focused on how you will help them get what they want. That won’t happen if you are sitting in their office full of distractions.

You are unprepared. I’m shocked that anyone would be unprepared for the opportunity to create value. But many of you are. You’re unprepared to sell when you don’t know the real reason the client is buying in the first place. This is absolutely critical to your sales success. You must know the prospect’s pain before you can advise a course of action to relieve it. It also helps to know critical insights into the clients business, their culture, the markets they serve. Show the client-to-be that you have invested in their success.

You don’t connect with prospect on a consistent basis. As I mentioned in Part One, it takes a long time to build trust with a prospective client. If you are only “touching” them with an email once or twice a year, you won’t be making much of an impact. Your prospects will always be in some phase of the buying cycle, anywhere from “I’m not interested” to “I need it now”. Most of the time, you will reach out to a prospect when they are in the “not interested” phase and then you go away and come back in six months to try again. If your contact strategy is well targeted and consistent, you have a much better chance of being in the right place at the right time.

You don’t know when to close the deal. At some point in the sales conversation you will have to obtain a final conceptual agreement to buy. But this can only happen when the prospective customer is positive and inclined to do so. Many early stage entrepreneurs fail to secure a decision, or they keep plowing away with their pitch and talk themselves right out of a sale. A buyer may decide to buy in 10 minutes or 10 months. When the buyer decides to buy and you don’t close them right then and there, you will lose the opportunity.

Business development success is a matter of luck and timing–all of which you have the power to create.

When I started my marketing and design firm, it became rapidly apparent to me that few people were going to do business with me simply because I was good at what I did. I realized business development was a skill that I must learn. But I never liked selling.

What I did enjoy was connecting with like-minded people and helping them. When I began to realize that building trust made selling easier, my business took off. Yours will too.

Most importantly, timing is everything in business development. When you’ve invested your time and energy into creating relationships with higher value clients, when the time is right, your client-to-be will seek you out.  Pursing business development in a strategic manner, rather than blindly selling, you’ll get your business to the next level and beyond.


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