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Making New Business Development a Priority

For organizations that don’t have a sales force, it’s really important to make business development a priority. Too many times I have encountered a culture where business development was viewed as something that needed to be done (begrudgingly) and nobody took ownership. Somebody within your organization has to own sales and business development. This person needs to understand the process, or be able to hire somebody who does. Talking to somebody at an airport bar while waiting for a flight is a good way to get the word out, but how many times can you do that? We need to think of business development as something that is replicable and that could be continued even if people leave the organization.

My slogan is “if you get hit by a bus tomorrow and nobody can continue your job, because there is no system in place, you don’t really have a business”. Warren Buffet once said “you need to establish a system for your organization that an idiot can run, because at one day that will happen” (check out the quote!).

Systems are usually used for engineering, IT, production, or accounting. Nobody would expect a company to not have an accounting system. It’s very common though for organizations to not have a sales system in place. That’s also why sales people can go from company to company, be rainmakers and move on without the former employer being in a position to protect their clients. If you don’t hold your sales people accountable for managing a database, they will be able to take clients away from you when they leave. Once a sales person leaves and there is no trace of who they are in conversations with, you are in a vulnerable position. Trust me, I have seen companies that didn’t know where to look to find out who their current clients are, let alone their prospective clients.

Sales is NOT something that everybody can do. That’s the biggest myth and it really upsets me that people still have that perception. I do believe that sales is the most underrated practice within an organization, next to the mailroom. We make the most money, some would argue, but we are not viewed as experts. When people think of sales people they think of insurance or car sales. Seldom will you find somebody who will respectfully talk about sales. They talk about sales people’s ability to convince, to be funny or crazy, to drink until they faint, and so on. Most people think there is no specific skill set involved other than a great personality, which is insane. The sales people that I know who are successful are methodical, super smart and process oriented. They know so much about the business that they could run a project if they had to and they are honest with a high sense of integrity. Be honest, that’s now how most people view sales. That is why smaller and mid-size companies view sales as a commodity or something that just about everybody who can read a script can do. If your CEO thinks that he is the best sales person, you are probably in more trouble than you think. As a sales person, or as company. CEO’s who think they are the best sales people will get involved in the sales process, will tell you how to do things and if it doesn’t lead to immediate results they will actually take over.

One of the biggest nightmares is when CEO’s get involved too early, or inappropriately. In both instances you appear small as a company and you lose leverage. If the CEO stays out of the sales process and things derail, he can always come to the rescue, apologize and explain if need be.

If he is involved at the second time of prospect interaction and things don’t work out, you are done. As a sales person and as a company.

One CEO of one of my client companies thought that he was the best presenter and that once he is on the phone he could convince prospects to buy, even if the sales people didn’t find a need. It really sounds crazy, but that’s what he thought. He blatantly told me that he thought that even if the prospect or sales person couldn’t find a need, he thought that once he was on the phone he might find a project. Now, this CEO is a really nice, decent person with a great personality. But that doesn’t mean that everybody likes him or that prospects want to deal with him. When I did prospecting for that client there were a handful of executives who told me that they didn’t really find a connection with that CEO and they would rather talk to somebody who was more research savvy. Now, who has the courage to tell a CEO, the person who could fire you, the person who writes your checks to provide that feedback? Not many, I can tell you that.

In other words, if you are a small company and you cannot afford a sales staff, you still need to find somebody who will own sales and it really shouldn’t be the CEO, unless you have only two people.

And there are some CEO’s who really are good sales people, but they are usually the ones who are critical of themselves, seek coaching and are very humble.

Business development needs to be a priority and every prospect/client touch point should be viewed as an opportunity to make a good impression and to contribute to the bottom line. But the process needs to be owned by somebody, somebody who develops a plan, somebody who monitors process, somebody who will be responsible for progress. Sales cannot be managed by consensus or a committee.

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About the Author

Monika DAgostino, Consultative Sales Academy
54 Soundview Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06854

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