Photo by Matt Donders on Unsplash

By Shane Bender, Founder Bender CFO Services

When I was a financial advisor with Edward Jones, I discovered that there were many ways to perform business development. I would meet with one mentor and he would tell me to go door-to-door to businesses in the morning between 7-8 am. He told me to bring donuts to the receptionist. Then after 8 am, I could go into the neighborhoods and just knock on doors. I found that 1 out 5 people would answer the door. It was grueling in September in Texas. I would wear my suit and tie and sweat to death in the near 100-degree weather. I remember one time I literally knocked on 100 doors in a row and nobody answered.

Then, I met with another mentor and he told me that the best place to get contacts is to go to the mall or an event where there were many people and just go up and start talking to them. How nerve-wracking! One time when I was in a restaurant I started talking to a family eating lunch to introduce myself and the services I offered. I bet they thought that was annoying. There they were eating lunch as a family, and I was interrupting them.

One person told me to always shake their hand and another said never shake their hand. Other people told me to get involved in Chamber events and some told me not to. One person tried to recruit me to his firm when I knocked on his door. He told me that it is all about telephone cold calling because you can call more people. My head was spinning. I didn’t know what to do. The best advice I heard when the stress and anxiety were getting overwhelming was to just be yourself and do what works best for you.

Business Development is important for any business to grow.  The challenge is that there are so many opinions and ways to do it. How do we know what we should do?  Since I started my own business, I have studied, tested, researched and come up with ways that work for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go through dry spells (remember the 100 houses). It just means that you have to develop your business for it to grow.

What does it mean to develop your business? It really is about building relationships and following up and then following up again. The amount of follow-up can be quite significant. I have heard that you must average 7 contacts or more with each prospect before you get their business. The most important thing is to simply have a business development plan that works well for your industry, your personality, and your business. You have to be consistent at working the plan.

I think most people know that you need to spend time developing your business for it to grow. The question is, do you truly believe it? For example, we all know that we should work out, and most of us know how to work out. We could even hire a trainer to have a more effective and efficient workout. The problem is, do we really believe working out will make us healthier, give us more energy, and improve our mental clarity? If you know you should work out but aren’t doing it, how much do you believe that it works?

The same approach works with business development. I know that it is important, but sometimes I get too busy with clients or family and I just don’t do it. Sometimes I am too tired or fear more rejection. Do I believe it works? How can I believe it so much that I make it a higher priority?

In Stephen Covey’s Book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he discusses a decision matrix of what is important and urgent. After more research, this came from President Dwight Eisenhower.

We tend to spend too much time in Quadrant 1, which is the Important and Urgent. Most of the time Business Development is Important but not Urgent and we struggle to get to it. Now if you are running out of cash or lost a key customer, then Business Development might be in quadrant 1. But we should not let it get to that level. We should always be doing it.

Let’s go through a list of ways to develop business so you can decide what works best for you.

Physical Networking Events

Physical Networking Events are any kind of event that involves meeting people face-to-face. The goal is to meet as many people as quickly as possible, exchange business cards, and hopefully connect with them later.

These events can be conferences, Chamber of Commerce meetings, MeetUp.com events, happy hour meetings, etc. I have found that you can spend quite a bit of time going to these events. I have had some people tell me they were great, and others say they were a waste of time. My experience has been mixed. There have been many meetings that have been helpful if I follow-up with the contact and maybe schedule lunch or coffee to know them better. You never know if they will become a referral partner or a client/customer. My first client came from meeting a tax CPA through a chamber event that I later had lunch with. You just have to be careful about how much time you spend going to these events. Make sure you have a somewhat quick path to get to a decision maker for your ideal client/customer.

Online Networking

When I started my business, I spent quite a bit of money on a course to show me how to network through LinkedIn and Facebook. The process can work on any social media platform. Here are the steps:

  1. Consistently post articles to keep your name and brand top of mind on social media. Use aggregator websites like Feedly.com.
  2. Create a group with a logo and invite as many people as possible.
  3. Use the filter capability to find potential clients. LinkedIn has a very powerful tool to find the right people.
  4. Send out invites to as many people as possible. If your profile is set up right and you reach out at the right time, you can get 30-40% to connect.
  5. Once they connect, invite them to your group.
  6. Over the next few weeks, you send them content that they will find helpful either through other sources or your own.
  7. Develop a lead magnet (tool, paper, product) for them to opt-in.
  8. After about 5 or 6 messages, ask them for a quick phone call. By now it is not a cold call and you come across as an expert in your industry.

Eventually, you hope the phone call turns into business. Whether you get business or not, at the very least, it gets you to the front of people’s minds and builds a network of new people to market to. It does build your list, connections, friends, etc. Just like anything though, the more you work it, the better you get and the more likely you will get business. It is time-consuming, and you can pay other firms to do this for you if you don’t have the time but you do have the money. It is worth giving it a try. If you get enough business from it, then keep on doing it.

Sales Funnels and Lead Generation

I have found this process to be the most fascinating. Typically, you start with a lead magnet that gets people on the email list. You can advertise on Facebook or Google. The recommendation is to give away some of your best advice for free. I know this varies by industry, but it is quite effective in the services industry. Over time, you sell them an inexpensive course or book.  Then you eventually sell something more expensive such as your consulting or product.

The effectiveness of this strategy comes down to marketing and the value of the product. In “Dotcom Secrets”, Russell Brunson discusses the value ladder and how to effectively transition to more expensive and valuable products. He makes a comment that  “a buyer is a buyer is a buyer”.  This means that if they buy something small, then they are psychologically going to be more likely to buy something more expensive if it is valuable to them.

Friends and Family Network

The Friends and Family method is the easiest method as it simply means you reach out to your current friends and family. You can do this by email, text, phone, or face-to-face. The goal is to talk to them one-on-one. Most likely this method does not turn into a big business, but there is a secret. You have to ask them one important question. “Can you give me 3 names of someone you know who might be interested in my service or product?”  Then ask them for an introduction through email, social media or in person. As you can imagine, you can really increase the number of warm leads this way.

Cold Calling – Phone or Door-to-Door

Cold Calling is typically calling someone via the phone or knocking on the door of someone you haven’t met or been introduced to.  In my opinion, this is the hardest kind of sales. I have a friend in his 80s who spent much of his career selling this way, and he says it is quite effective. It is a numbers game, so the more people you contact, the more customers you will have. The goal is to have a good script and get good at it and be genuine. Also, I think you don’t want to be pushy. When going door to door, I found the conversation went the best if you can figure out some way to quickly connect with them. Do they have kids near your kid’s ages or did they go to the same college? My friend that I mentioned above says he thinks he was successful because he was consistent, authentic, and believable.

 No matter if you focus on one method above or all of them, the most important thing is to focus on your actions. It is difficult to control getting people to buy from you. It is important to ask for the sale, but you can’t make them say yes. If you are pushy, then it is counterproductive and will hurt you in the future. You can control your actions which means you can always connect with more people. The goal of any business development plan is to learn as you go and figure out how to add as much value to as many people you can in the least amount of time.