business-development

The Complete Guide To Business Development

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

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Hw does a good business development process look like?

A good business development process should have as the primary aim to drive business growth with strategies, partnerships, and unconventional marketing to 10x the output of the organization.

The success of companies like Google also depended on their business development capabilities.

Although you might be looking for a straightforward definition of what business development is, you need to understand that this is a discipline in continuous evolution, which is the main driver of business growth for many companies, especially at B2B and enterprise levels.

In this context, a good place to start is to define what business development is not.

Why does business development matter?

Seth Godin does a great job of explaining why business development is so important:

Business Development is a mysterious title for a little discussed function or department in most larger companies. It’s also a great way for an entrepreneur or small business to have fun, create value and make money.

Good business development allows businesses to profit by doing something that is tangential to their core mission. Sometimes the profit is so good, it becomes part of their core mission, other times it supports the brand and sometimes it just makes money. And often it’s a little guy who can be flexible enough to make things happen.

Seth Godin also highlighted:

The thing that makes business development fascinating is that the best deals have never been done before. There’s no template, no cookie cutter grind it out approach to making it work. This is why most organizations are so astonishingly bad at it. They don’t have the confidence to make decisions or believe they have the ability to make mistakes.

Those words resonated with me as I found myself in the position of leading the business development of a tech startup.

If a proper deal is found, business development can make your organization successful overnight.

But searching and finding deals and executing them successfully feels like a gold rush.

Therefore, to make business development work, it is necessary to make it a process.

The process needs to be focused on understanding how to drive value for your organization by leveraging partnerships that can bring your business to the next level.

Business development is also about leveraging and tweaking your existing business model to make it scalable.

When Google closed the deal with AOL overnight Google, a rising star, could be featured on the largest online portal.

Before moving forward, it is essential to understand the difference between business development and sales.

Business Development vs. sales

Thinking about the business developer as the sales guy, it’s limiting. Not that a business developer doesn’t sell, but it does so by creating a distribution.

In other words, rather than looking at a single sale, the business developers try to find sales channels to tap into to speed up a company’s scaling.

If that means selling a product or a service directly, the business development person will temporarily become a sales guy.

Imagine the scenario of a company that has no clients. In that context, a business developer must find the first clients as quickly as possible.

Those clients will serve to launch the company’s growth, while the business developer will look strategically at ways to have those clients become partners.

Therefore, all of a sudden, a few clients become your distribution channel.

Even though the business developer acted as a sales guy from the outside, he never lost sight of the long-term strategy.

business-development-vs-sales

The successful business developer thinks like a marketer but acts like a salesman

Business development is a mixture of sales and marketing.

In many cases, a business developer will use marketing and PR activities to establish critical relationships for the business.

Those relationships will become partnerships to generate new distribution channels.

business-development-mixture-marketing-and-sales

Business development is about nurturing the right relationships with partners that can become distribution channels

Where the sales process ends up with a closed deal.

The business development relationship starts with a closed deal.

The business developer knows that a deal closed is just the starting point of a long-term relationship that can impact the business in the long run.

Therefore, the business developer will translate that paying customer into a trusted partner and an advocate for your business.

Thus, a sales person thinks in terms of the client by client basis. The business developer must switch the thinking to what sales enable a snowball effect on the company’s bottom line. 

For instance, some clients will refer to other clients, enabling word-of-mouth. 

In another case yet, closing a deal with a known player also means having that publicity that is necessary to bring in other customers. 

Thus, the business developer understands that to succeed, it’s critical to have a long-term view of each deal. 

Where you don’t want to optimize for short-term gains on a single client but rather create a strong position in the market. 

That is why the business developer is a sales person at the core, yet she/he also needs to deeply understand the product and how to talk with technical teams while aligning marketing teams. 

All while making sure to keep these teams aligned with the customers’ business goals. 

That is what a top-performer business developer does.

She/he aligns the technical/product team, with the marketing team, while relentlessly working on making sure product and marketing are in line with the customer’s business goals. 

When you master the above as a business developer you become one of the most valuable people in the organization. 

Business development guides marketing automation

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for any business. However, marketing automation is also risky.

Indeed, automating processes requires a deep understanding of your customers.

Thus, before you can automate the marketing processes, you’ll need the business developers to help the marketing team structure those processes.

Indeed with unique insight into the company’s customers, the industry, and competitors, the business developer will advise the marketing department on how to structure and set up automation processes that fit long-term organizational growth.

In fact, one of the greatest pitfalls, especially for startups, which try to automate processes very early on is premature optimization.

premature-optimization
Premature optimization describes the act of trying to make something more efficient at a point where it is too early to do so. Here, this focus on efficiency comes at the expense of more important tasks. As an example, before a business sets up marketing automation, it better understands its customers extremely well; otherwise, the risk is to lower the customer experience due to premature optimization.

The business developer is the person within the organization that understands how valuable is the interaction with the customer, especially in the early days. 

Therefore, the business developer will know that, over time, business processes must be – in part – automated. 

But she/he will be the guardian of the interactions with customers, making sure that the company doesn’t fall into the trap of premature optimization.

Indeed, initially, to be able to grow, the company must leverage, as much as possible, interactions with customers.

Therefore, part of the organization, like customer support, rather than being automated, or optimized, should be highly expensive (meaning the top people should be devoted to it), as, from these interactions, you will get a wide range of feedback that will be critical to speed up growth, through iterations. 

Business development scales up businesses

When Google closed its deal with AOL, it was a turning point for the tech company that would become a unicorn first and a tech giant then.

It started with a business development activity that allowed Google to build a partnership with AOL and kill its competitors!

A successful business development person is a quick learner and a renaissance man.

He will be able to learn about as many disciplines as needed to have a deep understanding of the industry that will drive the company’s growth.

For instance, if you think of a business developer in the digital marketing world, he’ll probably be someone that understands SEM, SEO, funnel optimization, content marketing, sales, and all the other channels available to grow a business.

But at the core, the business developer will remain a salesperson, thus, she/he understands that those channels are instrumental to building up distribution power. 

Thus, creating options to scale

business-scaling
Business scaling is the process of transformation of a business as the product is validated by wider and wider market segments. Business scaling is about creating traction for a product that fits a small market segment. As the product is validated it becomes critical to build a viable business model. And as the product is offered at wider and wider market segments, it’s important to align product, business model, and organizational design, to enable wider and wider scale.

Business development is about a growth mindset

The business development process could vary greatly based on the industry, business model, and stage of maturity of a company.

If you are called a business developer for a startup, most of the activities will be connected to growing the startup and bringing it to the next growth stage.

Therefore, the successful business developer needs to have a fine-tuned mindset for growth.

In business, it’s often called 10X mindset or moonshot thinking.

Yet, it doesn’t matter what you want to call it, what matters is you know that you need to work hard, extremely hard today, and do that consistently to build an incredible business. 

moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

In fact, one of the major misconceptions in the current business landscape is that of believing that you can build a successful business quickly. 

While that might happen to a few, very lucky ones. 

Developing an incredible business, takes time, hard work, consistency, and a five-ten years timeframe. 

That is why it’s critical (if you want to become a top performer) to like what you’re doing. 

From that standpoint, a tool like the Bud Caddel Diagram might work to assess whether you’ll make it on the other side, from amateur to top performer.  

how-to-come-up-with-a-business-idea

Business development requires a high level of understanding of a potential partner

To be able to build a relationship quickly, a business developer has to understand the business dynamics of a potential partner.

Indeed, just by tapping into the economics of a partner, the business developer can craft the perfect deal/solution.

For instance, when Google proposed the deal to AOL, it was so good for AOL, and it had no risk for them that they couldn’t say no to it.

Yet AOL was an established network, which allowed Google to get into the next stage of growth and scale.

Understanding what deal can build up distribution is critical. As it enables the company to build momentum and follow a flywheel model of growth

And growth moves from linear to exponential, and that is how the business achieves scale. 

What activities does business development imply?

Anything that helps build up a solid distribution strategy falls into the business development processes.

Tasks of a business developer can range from basic sales calls and LinkedIn/email outreach to closing major deals. 

What tasks you will be performing daily will depend on whether you’re a top performer within the organization and at what stage of development the company is. 

For instance, for a new company/startup, building a sales pipeline in the first place is critical. 

And outreach becomes a key component of day-to-day activities. 

You’ll spend most of your time identifying potential prospects and reaching out to them to build momentum in the sales pipeline. 

For that matter, you can use methodologies like MEDDIC to identify the right prospects. 

meddic-sales-process
The MEDDIC sales process was developed in 1996 by Dick Dunkel at software company Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The MEDDIC sales process is a framework used by B2B sales teams to foster predictable and efficient growth.

Or the BANT method

bant-sales-process
The BANT process was conceived at IBM in the 1950s as a way to quickly identify prospects most likely to make a purchase. Despite its introduction around 70 years ago, the BANT process remains relevant today and was formally adopted into IBM’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide.

Or yet the CHAMP method

champ-methodology
The CHAMP methodology is an iteration of the BANT sales process for modern B2B applications. While budget, authority, need, and timing are important aspects of qualifying sales leads, the CHAMP methodology was developed after sales reps questioned the order in which the BANT process is followed.

Whatever methodology you pick, what really matters is consistency and the understanding (as you ramp up the outreach) of the market’s landscape. 

Once that is full, and you have enough deals coming through, you will focus on consolidating these deals and ensuring those reach the maximum potential. 

Especially at an enterprise level, before the full sales cycle matures, it might take 1-3 years. 

In that process, you’ll need to outreach, onboard, grow and consolidate the deal. 

And depending on the deal size, the revenue you’ll be able to bring in from a customer will highly depend on your ability to consistently work to understand the changing business goals of your customers as their organizations change and evolve. 

You will act almost as a valuable player within the customer’s team; only then you’ll be able to really grow the deal size and fully consolidate the potential contract value of the customer. 

For instance, if you take organizations like Palantir, which work, on huge government contracts, to develop those fully, the enterprise salesperson will follow a 2-3 years journey of the development of the contract.

palantir-business-model
Palantir is a software company offering intelligence services from governments and institutions to large commercial organizations. The company’s two main platforms Gotham and Foundry, are integrated at enterprise-level. Its business model follows three phases: Acquire, Expand, and Scale. The company bears the pilot costs in the acquire and expand phases, and it runs at a loss. Where in the scale phase, the customers’ contribution margins become positive.

The sales pipeline is a basic tool for a business developer

pirate-metrics
Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables us to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage of the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

A sales pipeline is as a visual representation of your sales process where all your potential customers are displayed and neatly arranged according to their phase in your sales cycle.
Source: salespop.pipelinersales.com/sales-professionals/what-is-sales-pipeline

A business developer has to be able to build up predictable sales processes to generate continuous streams of leads for the organization.

The sales pipeline is a valuable tool for setting up those processes.

Also, being able to track your sales pipeline is a critical activity.

A sales pipeline is just a way to have a clear in which stage of the sales process you are with a potential client.

As shown by Sales POP, from the initial contact to closing a deal, it takes a few steps:

  • Initial contact.
  • Qualification.
  • Meeting.
  • Proposal.
  • Close.

At each of those actions, we can assign a probability of closing a deal.

For instance, at the initial contact, you don’t have an idea whether the person you’re reaching out to would later become a customer.

Therefore, the more you move down the pipeline, the more the chances of closing the deal improve.

Sales POP research shows that each of those stages has a chance of success as follows:

  • Initial contact – 0 %.
  • Qualification – 10 %.
  • Meeting – 30 %.
  • Proposal – 60 %.
  • Close – 100 %.

Therefore, you have 1 in 10 chances of closing a lead after you have qualified.

Once you have met, defined the project, and sent a proposal, your chances will improve up to 60%.

The chances of closing a deal also depend on other factors. For instance, have you previously worked with this person?

In short, if you have already built trust, it will be easier to close the deal. If you are expanding a project you were working on, then it might be easier as well.

Therefore, it will depend upon several factors crucial to any deal.

Yet the business developer can have clarity about the stage of a business deal.

In that way, the business developer can plan the actions and activities that will get the sales process going.

What actions can the business developer perform to improve the sales pipeline?

There are several ways to improve sales processes. Some examples comprise:

  • Experimentation with new tools or channels.
  • Find out new tactics from your peers.
  • Creating new partnerships.
  • Managing existing partnerships to expand the scope of work.
  • Direct sales (outreach, live demonstrations, free training).
  • Off-line activities (live seminars or industry events).
  • Content marketing or PR activities.
  • Talk to clients to improve products/services.
  • Learn how to build relationships with influencers.
  • Use LinkedIn for social selling.
  • Experiment with new distribution channels.
  • Develop relationships with media partners.
  • Create new packaging for your service.
  • Draft commercial offers.
  • Up-sell, cross-sell, and leverage the core product to offer. complementary services.
  • Create sales processes.
  • Build up a predictable sales funnel.
  • Help marketing to build sales funnels for continued lead generation.

Why undertake a career in business development?

Being a business development person means having an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s almost like you are a business within your business.

Therefore, working as a business development person helps you:

  • Develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Get more freedom compared to a traditional job.
  • Dynamic work that pushes you to learn new things quickly.
  • Make more money (the variable is an important part of the remuneration).
  • Higher pressure but also more fun than a traditional job.
  • Be your own boss (if it is in a large organization, of course, you will respond to someone. However, the only boss you have are the commercial objectives you agreed upon).
  • Build a professional network quickly.

What are some downsides?

Of what I can think of, here are some I identified:

  • The bottom line is your mixed blessing. Although you might be doing things right for specific periods, you just don’t seem to be able to close enough deals and partnerships or create a proper distribution strategy. From the outside, that might look like you’re not doing your job properly what I like to call outcome bias. In those periods, you have to be good at thinking about your track record.
  • Your pay is proportional to the objective you’re able to achieve. Therefore quite volatile.
  • Some days it just seems you’ll never get to achieve the financial results agreed upon. It is normal to feel like that. The good side is that you’ll feel what any entrepreneur experiences.

Overall the balance is positive. Now the most critical question. How do you make a business get traction?

The channels you can use to get traction

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO, and founder of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track your data, put together in his book, Traction, a list of channels that are critical to allow a business to grow.

He identified quite a few channels:

  • Targeting Blogs.
  • Publicity.
  • Unconventional PR.
  • Search Engine Marketing.
  • Social and Display Ads.
  • Offline Ads.
  • Search Engine Optimization.
  • Content Marketing.
  • Email Marketing.
  • Viral Marketing.
  • Engineering as Marketing.
  • Business Development.
  • Sales.
  • Affiliate Programs.
  • Existing Platforms.
  • Trade Shows.
  • Offline Events.
  • Speaking Engagements.
  • Community Building.

As a business developer, you must understand some channels to grow a business.

What’s a secret weapon for the business developer? LinkedIn

65% of salespeople who use social selling fill their pipeline, compared to 47% of reps who do not. source: blog.hubspot.com/sales/sales-statistics

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for generating conversations that can help speed up the prospecting phase.

What can you do with LinkedIn?

  • Find new B2B clients.
  • Build new partnerships.
  • Get media coverage.
  • Personal branding for business.

Those things are possible if you are consistent.

Three ways to build relationships with businesses are:

  • Outreach to people that might get value from what you offer.
  • Use LinkedIn publishing to create awareness or become a thought leader in your niche.
  • Share and like posts about people you admire to strengthen your relationship and create value for your network.

A crash course in sales canvassing

Sales canvassing is a process where you get in touch with potential customers who have never heard about your brand.

sales-process-sales-tactics
A sales process is a system comprising a set of steps that the salesperson can follow to understand at which stage of the sales cycle the prospect is. A valid sales process can help salespeople shorten the sales cycle, and to align sales teams around common goals and processes.

Examples of sales canvassing are door-to-door sales and cold calling.

Those are critical strategies as they might be inexpensive and sustainable ways to generate qualified leads without relying on sales consultants or expensive lists.

However, to be successful, the process of sales canvassing needs to be structured.

Why does sales canvassing matter?

As many new startups operate in the digital space, it is easy to assume that old sales techniques are outdated.

Thus, we all like to speak about marketing funnels, automation, and multiple touch points.

However, for any business to be sustainable needs a continuous stream of leads; in many cases, this implies cold calling or approaching people who have never heard of you.

Indeed, unless you have a massive marketing budget that you can use to grow your brand quickly.

In most other cases, you need a sales force that can venture into the world and create contacts with customers who don’t know about you.

However, to make the sales efforts effective, you’ll need to ensure your sales force has a plan, a strategy, and a process to follow.

That is what sales canvassing is about.

That is a process through which salespeople can have consistent results nonetheless of the single outcome.

When you make the sales canvassing process yours, that is when your company can become sustainable in the long run, as you won’t need to depend on other companies to provide you with a consistent stream of leads, you’ll be able to generate them on your own.

Also, you’ll be able to grow a sales department able to create new opportunities independently from the marketing department.

That doesn’t mean you’ll need only sales canvassing. In many cases, having multiple touch points with a potential customer via proper marketing strategies is a good strategy as it makes it way more comfortable for your salesforce to close a complex deal.

In other cases, though, it is also critical to have an independent sales force able to open up new opportunities, primarily when your brand isn’t yet established.

So what steps do you need for your salesforce to take advantage of sales canvassing? Some key ingredients are:

  • Have the sales force once understand the product/service and its strength and unicity.
  • Make sure your sales force understands what problem your product or service solves.
  • Have them set clear targets and share them with the rest of the team.
  • Make the value proposition clear to your sales force.
  • Prepare scripts and speaking points but let them be flexible enough to handle a complex conversation.
  • Get them ready to be rejected.
  • Rejection is a key to the learning process.
  • Focus on a single channel but leverage several media.

Understanding the strength and unicity of the product/service

When a salesperson ventures to bring in customers that have never heard of your brand before, it becomes critical that the sales force is very knowledgeable about the product and service and can explain it in the simplest terms.

Focus on the problem and payoff

When approaching someone that never heard about your brand, why even focus on explaining who you are?

Instead, focus on their issue and what solution you have for them.

They need a short-term payoff.

Find out the payoff and struggle your potential customer has and propose a solution. That is when you’ll listen.

Set a target customer

During sales canvassing, it is critical to have a laser focus. You need a list of contacts, but it makes sense to start from a profile that fits your company’s existing customers.

Indeed, when approaching a customer that never heard about your brand, you’ll need to understand what problem you can solve.

But she/he won’t trust you can answer it unless you showcase studies that resemble their situation.

When you tell a business owner you’ve already helped someone in a similar situation, it’s easier to trust you, even if they have never heard of your brand.

When you take the time to understand the problem, propose a solution, and show a similar case study, sales canvassing becomes way more effective.

Have a script but leave it flexible

Many salespeople like to use scripts. Scripts are prepackaged dialogues usually drawn from old conversations with existing customers.

While scripts are a good starting point, you need to be flexible.

Indeed, with sales canvassing, you’ll deal with people who have never heard about your brand and company.

Would it make sense to engage in a dialogue you had with a client that already knew you? Not really.

Rejection is part of the process

During sales canvassing, the risk of being rejected is exceptionally high.

It is critical to allow your sales force to understand that it is not something personal but rather that it is part of the process.

Rejection is what makes them more effective.

Focus on a single channel but leverage several media

During sales canvassing, it is important to focus on a single channel.

Therefore, if your preferred way is telemarketing, you’ll use the phone. However, not all customers like to be reached by phone.

In that scenario, you’ll need to learn how to use several channels, from social media to emails.

The important thing is to be able to generate a conversation for long enough that the person, on the other hand, trusts you can bring actual value.

When you get there, you win.

Examples of sales canvassing

Sales canvassing can be done in several ways, like:

  • Telemarketing.
  • Door-to-door.
  • Direct mail.
  • Networking.
  • Events.
  • Introductory sales letters.

Whatever medium you choose, it is critical to have a process with clear objectives, which is repeatable and where rejection is part of the learning process.

A crash course in sales and marketing alignment best practices

marketing-vs-sales
The more you move from consumers to enterprise clients, the more you’ll need a sales force able to manage complex sales. As a rule of thumb, a more expensive product, in B2B or Enterprise, will require an organizational structure around sales. An inexpensive product to be offered to consumers will leverage marketing.

In Marketing vs. Sales, a cleared out the distinction between the two activities and when it makes more sense for an organization to leverage on marketing rather than sales and vice-versa.

While it is essential to understand the difference between marketing and sales, it is also critical to understand how they work together.

Marketing and Sales are working together.

As Peter Drucker pointed out in his book Drucker Management, “there will be always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.

While marketing can get to the point of understanding the customer and make the sales team superfluous – to a certain extent.

The sales team, though, is a critical link between the marketing department and the customers.

Salespeople are involved in the whole customer journey at a personal level.

Indeed, not only the salesperson might speak to the potential customer in the most delicate moment when she/he is deciding whether it makes sense to purchase your product or service.

But it assists the customer throughout the entire process.

For instance, a critical moment of the customer journey is when she/he needs assistance or support.

While this phase might be in part automated, in most cases, you’ll need a support team, which is often sales-oriented, to assist the customers.

In those phases, you can unlock many insights about the customers that marketing will never manage to have with automation alone.

That is when sales and marketing come together to create a customer-centric journey.

In what other ways than sales and marketing work together?

Lead generation

The usual funnel sees the marketing department in charge of giving the sales team a list of leads (people that might be interested in your product or service) they can work on and bring in as customers.

While this is the traditional process, it is important to remark that often the opposite happens.

For instance, if you take the sales canvassing process that allows the company to acquire customers that have never heard about your brand.

In that scenario, a sales team can give valuable insights to the marketing team on where to focus their attention and understand the areas where the company’s marketing activities might be improved.

Automation

In the era of AI and machine learning, it’s easy to assume that automation should come before anything else.

However, automation, if done without coordination between the marketing and sales teams, doesn’t add any value.

If at all, it can create irreversible damage to your brand.

Therefore, before you set up any automation, you need a deep understanding of your customers, your product, your value proposition, and the journey customers take to go from the first touch point with your brand to the referral stage and on.

Thus, before the marketing department creates any automation, you need them to coordinate as much as possible with the sales team to make sure the automation process leverages customer insights that only the sales force, which is in touch with the customer base daily – has at its disposal.

Related: Marketing vs. Sales

Viral marketing

Many believe that you need a viral marketing campaign to make the lead acquisition process smooth and inexpensive.

However, even though viral marketing can do that, you might initially need intense coordination between sales and marketing (and engineering) to understand what part of your product might carry some virality.

For instance, if you run a SaaS business, in some cases, it might make sense to create a free version of the product (the so-called freemium model) that becomes an essential part of the lead generation process.

However, what features, or how many volumes, can you offer for free to acquire enough customers? A/B testing and big data will help.

However, to set it up correctly, you need insights from the sales teams.

Those mentioned above are just some of the activities for which sales and marketing working together can really create an effective strategy for the growth of your brand and business.

Therefore, even though it makes sense to understand and keep a clear distinction between sales and marketing so that each of them can focus on specific aspects of the business with accountability and set results.

On the other hand, it is critical to understand the level of coordination that sales and marketing can achieve.

RelatedDropbox Self-Serve Business Model

More sales best practices to apply to your business

Sales and distribution are two primary ingredients for any business’s success. Thus, starting from the best practices for your sales team is the first step toward building a profitable business.

Of course, once you have mastered those the time is right to start experimenting with new sales strategies that none out there is doing. Yet if you’re missing the best practices, this is an excellent place to start.

Action plan

Salespeople have to act and do it as quickly as possible.

Procrastination is the first enemy as the more time you spend thinking, the less you’ll have time to act and start sending emails that can lend you new clients or calling those contacts you have on your desk.

However, to make your action more effective, a plan is needed.

An action plan is merely a set of predetermined steps and a workflow you’ll need to organize your effort.

Customer targeting

customer-segmentation
Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers into sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing, and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down in several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics, and more.

One key ingredient to making sales processes successful is the ability of the sales team to target the right leads. Indeed, imagine the case of a salesperson contacting a hundred people and closing none.

In many cases that happens when the salesperson doesn’t know who’s the ideal target that can benefit from the company’s service or product.

Sales canvassing

sales-canvassing
Sales canvassing is a sales process where you get in touch with potential customers that have never heard about your brand. Examples of sales canvassing are door-to-door sales and cold calling.

When a company has mastered lead generation by automating part of the activities of its marketing department it is easy to have salespeople forget about the first and hardest stage, getting in touch with people that don’t know your brand.

Instead, have your salespeople spend a part of their time doing sales canvassing or contacting with cold calls or emails people that don’t know your brand. When they master this process, they can also uncover insights about why your business didn’t manage to be recognized among valuable segments of the market as well.

Sales scripts

When a company starts up, you’ll probably have one or two salespeople that have a weird profile. In short, they are not typically just people that mastered the sales process; they are more like renaissance men and quick learners.

They ventured into the business world when none or few people knew your brand and built the company from the ground up. Thus, those people know your company and product better than anyone else.

Therefore, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. Instead, have the new team members of the sales team take advantage of scripts that cover up the main concerns and questions potential customers might have and how to address them. Keep in mind that the script is just a tool to guide the sales force, but it is meant to be improved over time.

Email templates

Just like scripts, email templates can be a great help to salespeople to use what has already worked and rolled it out on a larger scale.

It is essential to keep improving those templates to allow sales emails to gain higher and higher conversion rates. Even though templates do work, it is vital to let at least a small part of it be personalized.

Thus, while you can have a template, you still need to do your research and make sure you offer some valuable information to get the lead interested in what you’re saying. Why would anyone listen to you if you’re sending out the same message to anyone?

Personalized message

Before contacting anyone make sure to do your research. People are interested in listening to you when you can deliver them solutions to their problems.

None cares about your product or service or who you are (unless you’re a rockstar). Thus, before sending that message, are you providing something valuable to the person on the other side?

Value proposition

One of the less understood aspects of selling is the fact that you only need to pick up the phone as many times as you can and sell your product.

However, while this is a prerequisite, it is not really what makes the difference. When you’re reaching out to someone, you need to understand what motivates them, and their value proposition.

Marketing usually can deliver a value proposition and make it seen by as many people as possible.

But that value proposition will be not tailored. In short, your product or service doesn’t have a single value proposition, but it will have as many as many potential clients exist out there.

The salesman has to be able to find the value proposition in the product or service that most suits the potential customer on the other side. That is how you get attention.

RelatedWhat Is a Value Proposition?

10x goal setting

moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Among the most misunderstood things about sales is the goal-setting process. Many believe that is fine to set reasonable goals.

Thus, they won’t shoot to the moon but rather be happy with a discrete objective.

For instance, they might say, “why don’t we increase sales by 50% this year?” And for many, this is a massive increase.

Yet if you are not ambitious enough not only you won’t reach the objective but you won’t even take the necessary actions to get there.

In short, to reach massive results, you need to have quite ambitious goals, and targets. Those will ask for the kind of actions that will get you motivated in the long run.

RelatedMoonshot Thinking

Understand the client’s business model

If you’re selling to another business, you need to understand its psychology. While indeed when you sell to a consumer, you want to understand their necessities.

When it comes to business, you want to study their business model indeed. How do they make money? Who are their customers? What do their customers want? What cost structure does the business have?

All those aspects will be critical to understanding what the person, on the other hand, is motivated by and get you closer to delivering the solution that works best for them.

RelatedSuccessful Types of Business Models You Need to Know

Follow-up

This is the most critical word in sales, yet many neglects it. When you’ve spent hours prospecting, researching, and meeting a client you’ve done only part of the work.

However, when you don’t follow up, you’ve wasted your time. You could have well not done the work at all.

The follow-up is probably the thing that requires the least effort (that is more a matter of organization), yet that is what gets you to close the deal.

Until the potential client gives you an answer which might be positive or negative, you need to follow up!

Related: How Does ConvertKit Make Money?

Fill your pipeline, always!

In some cases, you might think your pipeline is good enough. That is when you start losing ground. To avoid the risk of being left with an empty pipeline, you need to be prospecting at all times.

Some deals might take way longer than expected to be closed, in that scenario you need a backup plan, which is your pipeline and how full it is.

sales-cycle
A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products. In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.

Keep in touch

When you’ve closed a deal or received a No as the answer, you can’t just leave it up there. You need to keep in touch with that person as what might have prevented closing the deal might have been timing.

On the other hand, if you already closed a deal with that person keeping in touch might allow you to understand when that person has additional needs and whether you can help your company to fulfill them.

Deliver value before closing

Many think of selling as closing a deal. While closing is part of the process, you’re selling (or serving) at all times.

The common mistake is to think you have to deliver value only when the customer has been acquired and has given you the credit card.

Instead, you need t deliver value as soon as you start interacting with a potential client. Why does she/he need to trust you?

That person doesn’t know you, how she can be sure you’re the person she wants to have business with.

There is only one way to prove it, to deliver value before the sales are closed.

Outstanding support

After you’ve closed the sales, it isn’t like your work is over. If you provide a service the most delicate part of it is the first stage of usage of that service by the new customer.

Indeed this is still a process in which the person needs to understand whether you can be trusted to deliver the value you promised.

Therefore, you need to be on top of it.

The way you support the client once she has acquired your product or service determines how much your business can be trusted.

Also, an essential part of any sales funnel is the referral side.

When you’re providing outstanding support not only you’re retaining valuable customers, but you also have those people refer your business to others.

In the end of it, it’s about listening

Based on the research by Hubspot those are the top four ways to create a positive sales experience, according to buyers:

  • Listen to their needs (69%).
  • Don’t be pushy (61%).
  • Provide relevant information (61%).
  • Respond promptly (51%).

Therefore, it is critical to learn to listen, which does not mean thinking about what you have to say next when the other person is listening. But instead to focus solely on what the other person says emphatically.

One mantra I have (or at least I try) to follow is “how do I create value for this person?”

Once that becomes hardwired, it will be much easier to get things going!

Business development and business engineering

In my own experience, as a person that worked in the sales industry for years, going from business development to sales director.

I can say that one of the most valuable ways to become great at business development has been a deep understanding of the business world, through which I labeled business engineering

business-engineering-manifesto

Business engineering is a combination of business modeling, design thinking, and a deep intuitive understanding of scale, which makes you act more like an intrapreneur than a salesperson. 

Other tools and resources for your business:

Handpicked popular case studies from the site: 

Related Business Concepts

Business Development

business-development
Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, and sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

Sales vs. Marketing

marketing-vs-sales
The more you move from consumers to enterprise clients, the more you’ll need a sales force able to manage complex sales. As a rule of thumb, a more expensive product, in B2B or Enterprise, will require an organizational structure around sales. An inexpensive product to be offered to consumers will leverage on marketing.

Sales Cycle

sales-cycle
A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products. In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.

RevOps

revops
RevOps – short for Revenue Operations – is a framework that aims to maximize the revenue potential of an organization. RevOps seeks to align these departments by giving them access to the same data and tools. With shared information, each then understands their role in the sales funnel and can work collaboratively to increase revenue.

BATNA

batna
In negotiation theory, BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement,” and it’s one of the key tenets of negotiation theory. Indeed, it describes the best course of action a party can take if negotiations fail to reach an agreement. This simple strategy can help improve the negotiation as each party is (in theory) willing to take the best course of action, as otherwise, an agreement won’t be reached.

WATNA

watna
In negotiation, WATNA stands for “worst alternative to a negotiated agreement,” representing one of several alternative options if a resolution cannot be reached. This is a useful technique to help understand what might be a negotiation outcome, that even if negative is still better than a WATNA, making the deal still feasible.

ZOPA

zopa
The ZOPA (zone of possible agreement) describes an area in which two negotiation parties may find common ground. Indeed, ZOPA is critical to explore the deals where the parties get a mutually beneficial outcome to prevent the risk of a win-lose, or lose-win scenario. And therefore get to the point of a win-win negotiation outcome.

Revenue Modeling

revenue-modeling
Revenue modeling is a process of incorporating a sustainable financial model for revenue generation within a business model design. Revenue modeling can help to understand what options make more sense in creating a digital business from scratch; alternatively, it can help in analyzing existing digital businesses and reverse engineer them.

Customer Experience Map

customer-experience-map
Customer experience maps are visual representations of every encounter a customer has with a brand. On a customer experience map, interactions called touchpoints visually denote each interaction that a business has with its consumers. Typically, these include every interaction from the first contact to marketing, branding, sales, and customer support.

AIDA Model

aida-model
AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.

Social Selling

social-selling
Social selling is a process of developing trust, rapport, and a relationship with a prospect to enhance the sales cycle. It usually happens through tech platforms (like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more), which enable salespeople to engage with potential prospects before closing the sale, thus becoming more effective.

CHAMP Methodology

champ-methodology
The CHAMP methodology is an iteration of the BANT sales process for modern B2B applications. While budget, authority, need, and timing are important aspects of qualifying sales leads, the CHAMP methodology was developed after sales reps questioned the order in which the BANT process is followed.

BANT Sales Process

bant-sales-process
The BANT process was conceived at IBM in the 1950s as a way to quickly identify prospects most likely to make a purchase. Despite its introduction around 70 years ago, the BANT process remains relevant today and was formally adopted into IBM’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide.

MEDDIC Sales Process

meddic-sales-process
The MEDDIC sales process was developed in 1996 by Dick Dunkel at software company Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The MEDDIC sales process is a framework used by B2B sales teams to foster predictable and efficient growth.

STP Marketing

stp-marketing
STP marketing simplifies the market segmentation process and is one of the most commonly used approaches in modern marketing. The core focus of STP marketing is commercial effectiveness. Marketers use the approach to select the most valuable segments from a target audience and develop a product positioning strategy and marketing mix for each.

Sales Funnels vs. Flywheels

sales-funnel
The sales funnel is a model used in marketing to represent an ideal, potential journey that potential customers go through before becoming actual customers. As a representation, it is also often an approximation, that helps marketing and sales teams structure their processes at scale, thus building repeatable sales and marketing tactics to convert customers.

Pirate Metrics

pirate-metrics
Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

Bootstrapping

bootstrapping-business
The general concept of Bootstrapping connects to “a self-starting process that is supposed to proceed without external input.” In business, Bootstrapping means financing the growth of the company from the available cash flows produced by a viable business model. Bootstrapping requires the mastery of the key customers driving growth.

Virtuous Cycles

virtuous-cycle
The virtuous cycle is a positive loop or a set of positive loops that trigger a non-linear growth. Indeed, in the context of digital platforms, virtuous cycles – also defined as flywheel models – help companies capture more market shares by accelerating growth. The classic example is Amazon’s lower prices driving more consumers, driving more sellers, thus improving variety and convenience, thus accelerating growth.

Sales Storytelling

business-storytelling
Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Enterprise Sales

enterprise-sales
Enterprise sales describes the procurement of large contracts that tend to be characterized by multiple decision-makers, complicated implementation, higher risk levels, or longer sales cycles.

Outside Sales

outside-sales
Outside sales occur when a salesperson meets with prospects or customers in the field. This sort of sales function is critical to acquire larger accounts, like enterprise customers, for which the acquisition process is usually longer, more complex and it requires the understanding of the target organization. Thus the outside sales will cut through the noise to acquire a large enterprise account for the organization.

Freeterprise

freeterprise-business-model
A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Sales Distribution Framework

sales-distribution-peter-thiel
Zero to One is a book by Peter Thiel. But it also represents a business mindset, more typical of tech, where building something wholly new is the default mode, rather than building something incrementally better. The core premise of Zero to One then is that it’s much more valuable to create a whole new market/product rather than starting from existing markets.

Palantir Acquire, Expand, Scale Framework

palantir-business-model
Palantir is a software company offering intelligence services from governments and institutions to large commercial organizations. The company’s two main platforms Gotham and Foundry, are integrated at enterprise-level. Its business model follows three phases: Acquire, Expand, and Scale. The company bears the pilot costs in the acquire and expand phases, and it runs at a loss. Where in the scale phase, the customers’ contribution margins become positive.

Consultative Selling

consultative-selling
Consultative selling is a sales approach favoring relationship building and open dialogue to adequately meet the needs of a prospective customer. By building trust quickly a consultative selling approach can help the customer better meet her/his expectations and the salesperson hit her/his targets more effectively.

Unique Selling Proposition

unique-selling-proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) enables a business to differentiate itself from its competitors. Importantly, a USP enables a business to stand for something that they, in turn, become known among consumers. A strong and recognizable USP is crucial to operating successfully in competitive markets.

Read: product development frameworks here.

Read Next: SWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five ForcesTOWS MatrixSOAR Analysis.

Main Free Guides:

What is involved in business development?

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

What are the skills required for business development?

Business development requires a set of skills that go from marketing, sales, account management, project management, and distribution. The business developer should look for ways to grow a business through partnerships, deals, and generating distribution. Thus the business developer should look at sales from a strategic standpoint.

What does a BDM do?

A business development manager looks at ways to develop the distribution network of an organization by looking at partnerships, deals, agreements, and also strategic clients and channels that can help an organization grow exponentially and improve the chances of success in the long term. Business development goes beyond sales.

Is marketing like business development?

While business developers might tap into marketing activities to grow a business, in general, business development looks primarily at distribution, partnerships, new channels (or how to improve existing channels), and how to improve sales processes. Therefore, there is a critical distinction between marketing and business development, which should be understood.

How is business development different from sales?

Sales and business development are two different activities. Where sales look at critical processes to build a customer base for a product. Business development looks at the distribution of a product in the marketplace. Therefore, it looks at channels that can lead to a better distribution of the product.

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