If you’re in business development, here’s a scenario you might be familiar with; you had a great meeting with a lead who turned out to be a promising prospect. You got a thorough briefing, totally understand the problem the prospect faces and have just the right solution, and then spent a lot of time and energy in preparing a compelling proposal. You are now in “follow-up mode”, but the prospect’s response is starting to decline. Your emails are not answered and your phone calls are rarely being picked up or returned. Frustration settles in and you vow to keep at it until you get a clear “yes” or “no” out of the prospect.
After all the hard work and time you invested in writing the proposal, you rightfully believe that you deserve a clear closure one way or another. However, this is unfortunately not how it always goes. If your career is in business development, you have chosen one of the most frustrating – yet very rewarding – paths there are in the business world.
A business developer must know when “to let go” as pursuing an opportunity too hard and too long can backfire. For one, there’s a good chance that the prospect is preoccupied with other tasks and doesn’t have the time to work on your proposal for the time being. On the other hand, it can also be the case that he/she isn’t really that interested or was just trying to collect some proposals. This will always happen and you need to move on when it’s time to do so. (Read this article to learn more about phantom shoppers).
Here are a few actions you can and should take to benefit from such scenarios.
Maintain meticulous records in your CRM system
Someone else in your department might run into the same lead in a year’s time while you’re on vacation. How great would it be if your colleague had access to what transpired this year? He/she can easily detect the potential phantom shopper and excuse your company from bidding this year again to save time and energy by not pursuing an opportunity that had already once proven to be fruitless. Your colleague can state that a previous attempt (by you) was in vain, in which case the prospect may finally produce that plausible excuse you were waiting for. On the other hand, your colleague may determine that the prospect’s reason for not responding previously was legitimate and decide to give it another shot. In either case, information is power.
Put the lost lead in your marketing machine
Business development will always need support from marketing for a number of reasons. For one, even if this particular opportunity didn’t go through, you want to make sure the lead/prospect doesn’t forget your brand and includes you in future opportunities. Including the lead in your newsletters and other marketing tactics will accomplish just that. In addition to that, you can use marketing to gradually educate the lead about all the other products and services your company offers, just in case they have an opportunity in an area they don’t know you provide as well.
Schedule a follow up visit in a few months’ time
This needs to be really judged on a case by case basis, but since you already opened the door you might as well keep it open. The prospect may have decided not to purchase your particular service this year, but things are known to change from time to time. Since you have already an established rapport with the prospect, do some relations marketing (RM) and schedule a courtesy visit in three or six months’ time. Your CRM solution will come in handy here and remind you to call the prospect in due time to chat over the phone or schedule a meeting if that’s warranted.
Keep the lead on a special alert list
You’ve done your homework and know what the prospect’s interests are. Let’s say the solution you offered this year entailed the deployment of a multi-currency accounting solution because they export goods and services to different regions. Now let’s assume that your development team added a new module that integrates the automatic updating of exchange-rates in your accounting solution. At this point, you may want to send that prospect a special note, alerting him/her about the upcoming release of this feature, and offer a free “test drive” or demo.
Review and update your records annually
Your CRM solution should have a field that indicates the last date each record has been reviewed and updated, and by whom. To keep your records and data reasonably updated, you should review each contact record at least once a year and contemplate what you can do to maximize your benefits from the information on hand. For example, because your CRM is connected to your LinkedIn account, you find out that a particular record has moved to another company and holds now a higher position in the accounting department there. In this case, you would want to call the contact to congratulate him/her on the move and promotion, and try to schedule a follow-up meeting just to brief them about all the great new stuff that‘s been added to your product since you met last.
Start building a VIP list
Some contacts may turn out to be really important for your business, whether they purchased your products/ services or not. They may be important industry influencers, or otherwise important for a magnitude of reasons. You will want to keep these contacts on a special (VIP) list so you can send them personalized greeting cards, call them more frequently than others, and invite them to events your company is organizing (such as an annual gala dinner).
These actions – and several additional ones along those lines – will help you in building long-term relations with your prospects that will eventually lead to closed sales. Unless you can clearly establish that the particular prospect has no intention whatsoever to do business with your brand, it pays off to be patient, persistent, and to “let go” and “pick it up again” when the time is ripe.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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