Theodore Roosevelt is famously quoted as saying: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This could possibly be more applicable today than when he originally said it. I love the quote because it removes any excuses or hurdles from the conversation and forces you into action.

As we move closer to a year of making social distancing a new way of describing the way we interact with one another, many lives, jobs and professions have been negatively impacted as a result. One profession that has historically been built around physical interaction is Business Development. When many states were shut down with shelter-in-place orders, the challenge of achieving results as a BD professional increased considerably. Add to that events cancelling, networking eliminated and the ability to “work a room” no longer in the equation and it feels as though you are dead in the water.

But there are many ways to maintain, grow and engage with clients and prospects in a productive way that can make you stand out and continue to be successful. Let’s discuss a few of the areas we can perpetuate our business development efforts to position ourselves for continued success:

Focus on the Relationships You Have—Now is a great time to focus on the key clients you have cultivated through the years. The beauty of this time is that people are more available than ever before and willing to spend the time with you. The nature of this communication also has the rare opportunity to be a higher level of connection, caring and strategy. Take the time to get to know your clients at a deeper level, identify ways you can help them and listen more.

Strategy is Critical—The best business developers are strategic and understand that the best opportunities do not come from happenstance, but from good strategy. Now is a critical time to reset approaches to project pursuits, including pre-win strategies and client zipper modeling. This entails understanding who in the firm “owns” the relationship and ensuring the depth of the client relationships and knowledge. Additional strategic considerations are how your BD efforts tie into the company strategic plan annually. Are there certain markets that you have identified as a trend or growth area for your firm?  Are there additional service offerings you can communicate to your network?

Know Thy Self—As BD professionals, we struggle with getting our teams on the same sheet of music related to what makes us different and even who we are as a firm. To get clarity on why clients choose your firm, what you offer that is different and your “Why”, take the time to gain feedback from your clients and trade partners. Who better than you to find a reason to reach out to clients and ask them some questions and capture their candid feedback? They will value being included, and your firm will benefit from the knowledge.

Be Creative—There are a myriad of ways to reach out to clients and prospects in the absence of face to face meetings. Just a few of these include:

  • Phone calls—who does not have their cell phone right next to them at all times?
  • Zoom/Teams meetings—make a coffee date of it!
  • Social Media—there is a reason social media platform engagement is up by 50%+… people are getting their information from this source.
  • Webinars—now is a great time to impart your knowledge as an industry leader and subject matter expert.

Clean House—While I do believe people are more available than ever before, this is a great time to do some housekeeping to position yourself for success as we immerge from the pandemic:

  • CRM database—get one if you don’t have one or clean up the one you have. The more streamlined the CRM is the better your lifeline of information. Segmentation marketing can be very powerful and if you can categorize and prioritize contacts better, you can harness the power of this effort.
  • Develop segment plans—pick your top market segments/services or geographies and create a one-page BD plan for 2021.
  • Zipper model—look at your Top Clients and make sure the relationship is well secured on both sides by examining the activities you have done to keep them engaged and what additional activities need to be accomplished in your BD efforts.

Be Accountable—Business development can be discouraging during a socially restricted time such as this, making your hands feel tied. And if you are uncertain how to go about getting results in your job, generally your manager is even more removed from how to define results. It is critically important to create goals, measure success and communicate the efforts to contribute to achieving the goals. As an example, you may not have ever had a revenue goal or an expectation of reporting leads and opportunities. You might be one of those BD people who hate having to put activities into a CRM or create reports… but now is a great time to embrace some measures to bridge the communication gap that might exist on what you are doing to bring value as a BD representative for the company.

Business development efforts do not have to stall even when distance is an issue. Think of it as an unprecedented time where decision makers are making themselves more available than ever, and an opportunity to show you care. This is a historic time we will not soon forget, make the time count!

Danielle Feroleto, MA, CPSM, President, Small Giants