This week we have a guest blog from Lars Tewes, Managing Director, SBR Consulting. As a sales performance consultancy, SBR Consulting work closely with Partners and Directors to “liberate the sales potential” within their practices. Contact Lars with your sales challenges and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many, the summer is a wonderful time to enjoy a much needed annual break, however it can have one potentially adverse knock-on effect which, if you are not careful, can put you back a quarter – loss of business development (BD) momentum.
In your sales journey with each prospect it may have felt that at least one person you’ve been looking to sell to has been away for the past couple of months and so, frustratingly, closing business has taken longer. Also, we know that the longer decisions take to be made, the greater the chance that, for whatever reason, they never happen. Therefore, September is a crucial month to regain the momentum around activity and accountability. If this is not addressed, 10-30% of your firm’s revenue may not happen in 2016, if at all – a huge dent in the bottom line.
Bigger consultancies are just as at risk of this as smaller ones. Sector BD leads having been on vacation can make a big impact on the new business coming through if they don’t make BD a priority upon their return. And while large consultancies have more people working on BD, they also have correspondingly larger targets to hit. So it’s important for the firm’s BD leads to hit the ground running on return from leave.
Below are 4 key reminders around your team’s sales and your BD activity.
The power of momentum
A Chinese proverb stated: “Do not be afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still”.
We are all very busy and it is quite possible that our “to-do list” has a lot of non-BD tasks which have become both “urgent” and “important”. So BD and other items can slip down the list for another month and momentum you gained before the summer comes to a halt.
Decide that your prospect calls and prospect meetings are both “important”’ and “urgent”. Physically block out time to make them happen. Treat these blocked out times as if they were a meeting with the CEO of your number one client so you won’t avoid them or find other things to do instead. Momentum in the sales world is like that of any profession – you need to do a little, often, in order to stay on top.
The power of habit
If you are not forming good habits, unknowingly you are forming bad ones. As with momentum, once we stop doing something for a while the good habits we developed can decay. According to many experts and psychologists, it takes around 21 days to form a habit. I believe the same applies the other way, only faster – once we stop something for a few days, it can take real mental discipline to pick it up again.
Form the habit of doing some BD activity every week; call 2 past clients to maintain communication, call prospects to follow-up on proposals, research possible warm targets for your professional network, send an email/letter/press-kit to 5 targets, etc.
The power of reflection
I recently read “Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind” by Professor Guy Claxton. He talks about how one’s intelligence increases when you think less! My take on this is that it is essential to make time to just think without too much structure, to allow the creative sub-conscious to provide solutions that we often cannot see because of the tyranny of the “urgent”.
When it comes to hitting our BD targets, just making the time to reflect on where we are and letting the creative thought process work as opposed to blocking it with internal dialogue such as: “I have no time; I can’t get hold of anybody; this feels like it will never close, etc,” really brings up solutions that lead to successful outcomes.
The power of celebrating success
At this time of year in a number of clients, SBR sees senior management becoming very focused on end of year results and making sure the numbers line up to the forecasts, which is naturally correct. However some have forgotten that people who feel good about themselves produce good results and the same applies in BD.
Many of our clients spend a lot of time analyzing why they did not win a bid and even go so far as to ask the prospect for feedback as to why they did not win. One of the small but significant changes that Clive Woodward made to the English Rugby team that won the 2003 World Cup, was that at the end of every game they spent more time reviewing why they were successful and how to repeat it rather than why they lost. Celebrate the successes and spread the good news across the teams to encourage a healthy BD environment.
In conclusion, remember “The Slight Edge Philosophy” – if you improve in something by .003% every day for a year, you will have improved by 100% by the end of the year (e.g. you will be twice as fit, twice as skilled, etc). The summer break has a danger of knocking our momentum and stopping some of the good habits that secure our long-term success. By just getting back on track around the basic BD activities you will ensure that you are ahead of your competition, many of whom are still dealing with the natural summer break hangover!
If you are preparing to sell your consulting firm and would like to discuss your plans, please get in touch.
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