“It’s in the diary.” “Let’s catch up over coffee.” These are typical phrases which are uttered when we hear the words – “business development.” What are we really looking to gain from having countless lunches and coffees with contacts we may not have seen or heard from in a while?
In these uncertain times, businesses can no longer afford to cherry pick where their business comes from. Work may be referred continuously from one reliable source or may come from the man in the street, your cousin’s ex-girlfriend, that gentleman you met at that seminar etc. – the list is endless! However, the purpose of business development is to do just that – develop your business, increase your client base and, ultimately, generate profit. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to business development which is, perhaps, why some businesses struggle with the concept; there is no template.
Picture the scenario:-
You are attending a professionals networking seminar. There will be a presentation of some sort, followed by the usual “drinks and nibbles”. You don’t know anyone there. You strike up a conversation with someone which turns to what you did at the weekend. You finish your glass of wine and come back to the office in the morning to time record this as “business development – meeting with professional contact”.
So, what did you do wrong?
Well, forewarned is forearmed in this case. Ask for the guest list. Who is attending? If you don’t know them, do any of your colleagues? Why are they attending? Are there any mutual clients involved? First impressions count. Have your business cards available and pass them out only to those you strike up conversation with and believe are interested in you and your business. Know the interesting facts that differentiate you from your competitors and share these. Don’t be shy. Be proud. How many referrals are you looking to get from this event/this person and why? Will they generate a profit? These are all questions which require to be considered prior to any business development event. Otherwise, it just becomes an endless carousel of meeting nice people at nice events, with no business flowing from these encounters.
Having a targeted approach to business development and actively engaging with your professional contacts is key. A detailed knowledge of your competitors, market size and market players, will help to make good strategy and build insight of what your target audience wants.
If you are better prepared – ‘research, plan and execute’- you will maximise your opportunities to gain business contacts, referral opportunities and, ultimately, new instructions. You will know how much time you have spent, where and with whom, you will know the number of leads you have been given, the number of new instructions you have secured, the value of these and will know what you can or hope to be able to give in return. Whilst some contacts are looking for return business, many simply need to know that the work will be done professionally, timeously and at an appropriate cost. Beware the contacts looking for financial reward.
Don’t be afraid when a contact who you have had endless cups of coffee with to no avail asks “are you free for a catch up?” and you say “no.” Whilst we are not advocating ending professional relationships, if no work flows from these relationships, it is important to stop and think “what work have I had from them recently?”, “has it been worth it?”, “do I want to invest my time in these meetings?”
So when you are asked “shall we grab a coffee?” your answer “yes” or “no” will not be a mistake.
If you would like any advice regarding your business, or business development in particular, please contact our experienced team.