Six Essential Steps to Professional Services Business Development

July 30, 2014

You step into the room and extend your hand. “Hi! My name’s Brandt, and I’m with One North.” You start to tell them a little about your business, but you can already tell your audience is bored. Why? Because they probably already know all of this information – who you are, where you come from, etc.

Any savvy decision maker has done their research before you were invited in for the meeting. They know the services you offer and the experience you’re likely to provide. In fact, according to a recent CEB study, 57% of purchase decisions are completed before a supplier is even contacted. The good news? If you’re invited for a meeting, they must have seen/read/heard something they like, and now they’re looking for you to confirm it. All you have left to do now is set your firm apart from the rest.

I know – easier said than done. But it’s really about making sure you’re doing everything possible to start this potential relationship off on the right foot, and putting the measures in place to keep it growing stronger. Here are 6 tips for making that happen:

1. Borrow from Big Brother
Your prospects did their research, so you better do the same. LinkedIn can be a great tool to help you gain some insight; use it before your meeting to help answer the following questions about your prospective clients:

    • How long have they been with their company?
    • Where did they work historically?
    • Do you know any of the same people? I look at any common connections and do a little digging. “Hey Bill – We are meeting with one of your connections next week, any advice for me?”

Yes, you can see if someone has been looking at your LinkedIn profile ahead of time, and, yes, potential clients have mentioned it to me during pitch meetings. That said, I have yet to find a potential client that wasn’t impressed about us doing our research ahead of time. It doesn’t stop there, however. Research their industry, look at their clients and their clients’ goals. A good long-term potential partner is thinking more about their client’s clients’ goals.

It’s also a good idea to carve out part of this research time to help determine their digital consumption habits. Do they follow companies, influencers or publish to LinkedIn? Is Twitter more their style, or email updates? This is great information to store away for future use and share with your team so that everyone knows how to provide that customized experience that will set you apart.

2. Remember, this is a team sport (a.k.a. don’t forget to shut up).
Too often the strategy for a meeting or pitch is set by one person, and they end up doing most of the talking. What is the first step to avoid that? Have an internal prep meeting to plan for the pitch. Start by briefing the team on the background, the opportunity and what you need from them. Very often, the people on your team are highly successful, highly compensated and highly overscheduled folks. As the one setting the strategy for the meeting, you need to be clear about the agenda, the roles and exactly what each person will be saying. If you end up with an extra person or a section of content that just doesn’t seem interesting, cut it out. Trust me, the potential client doesn’t want to see an extra silent person sitting in the room, and they don’t want to waste their time hearing about a topic that isn’t 100% on point.

3. Also remember that time (and airplane travel) is money.
Don’t ever forget you are spending a lot of money to pitch business - just do the math. One meeting with 5 people flying in from different cities can cost over $10,000. Now, depending on the type of services or the scale of the project, that may not be a significant issue, but I have always had a simple philosophy regarding this topic: Spend it like it’s your money. If you think it makes sense to pull out your own checkbook and spend this amount for a pitch, then you are doing something right.

4. Sweat the small stuff.
I know it seems simple, but make sure they are ready for you. Do you need a projector? How fast is their internet? Are you going to sit or stand? Suit, no suit? Do they really have an hour for you, or is that hour more like 20 minutes? Did you check the batteries in your presentation clicker (my wife makes fun of me for keeping an extra set of AAA batteries in my briefcase for that last one)? The last thing anyone wants is to have a room of people waiting for a projector to get connected and talking about the weather. It creates a funk in the room that you need to overcome, and it could have easily been avoided.

5. Don’t be afraid to follow up after the meeting.
You spent time, money and resources to go visit this potential client. It’s more than okay to find out how you did. Even more, find out what you could have done better. Don’t press the potential client for a decision, just make sure they have all of the information they need. Any potential client that represents a good long-term partner will be open to this type of conversation.

6. Find a quiet place.
And reflect. Was your strategy sound? Did you execute on that strategy? If you can answer yes to both of those, you are all set.

I hope these tips prove useful. Though they’re seemingly no-brainers, they’re sometimes overlooked, and just as it’s necessary to be aware of, reflect on and make adjustments to your digital marketing strategy, you must also do the same for your business development strategy.

Interested in learning more about mixing the two to create powerful experiences for prospective clients? Check out our latest #1NWebinar, Building Relationships through Interactive Storytelling, to explore creative ways you can use interactive to express your brand stories and make lasting connections.

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