The light at the end of the tunnel is shining and we are envisioning a reopening of our economy. You may be thinking, “let me just get through this busy season, and then I can return to in-person events and meetings and start re-filling our pipeline.” But wait! Can we really expect things to EVER be “back to normal”? Let’s take time to reflect on what the next normal – or next better approach is going to be as we reopen, and how our business development strategies will evolve to be effective.
The global pandemic has impacted our behaviors, psyche, and expectations. Look at the reaction in states that have begun to open up. Though the state mandates have lifted, many still do not feel comfortable returning to pre-pandemic ways of transacting business and interacting with the public. There are several changes we need to plan for.
Not everyone is ready to meet in person. We have all been inundated with information on how diseases are transmitted and how dangerous some are. Some surveys have shown increases in the number of Americans that have become germaphobes. People are going to consider the value versus the risk of going to in-person meetings. Everyone has now been introduced to video calls and conferences and digitally exchanging files; they like the time savings! For many, being forced to use these methods has proven the viability of continuing to interact in this way. Given the genuine fears many people still have, and their knowledge of virtual meeting tools, we need to incorporate business development strategies that continue to offer remote options to appeal to these clients as well.
Meeting remotely saves time. Who isn’t looking for time savings today? When conducting business remotely, professionals have noted how client meetings have run shorter and more efficiently. There is a risk that we are not taking the time to build rapport and deepen our relationships as we are focused on addressing the business at hand and concluding the call, but we also save clients, and staff, travel time to and from offices. This allows more flexibility in scheduling appointments, allows us to schedule more meetings in a day, and the extra time can be spent working on or in our businesses, or with loved ones.
Looking beyond geographic boundaries. For years the profession has discussed how clients are looking for proactive experts and the desire to work with an advisor that knows their industry. Now that we have experienced the ease of working together remotely, there is much less hesitation to look for an expert wherever they may be – not necessarily in our own backyard. Business development activities should focus on “fishing” where our ideal clients swim and establishing a presence in their marketplace.
We GET TO reimagine business development! All those things you dreaded can be redefined as the next better is still being established. In our Rainmaker Development Program® we help professionals identify the type of business developer they are and want to be. If you have not gone through the exercise of defining your ideal target client, this should be one of the first things you do to prepare for more remote business development. No one has the time to wade through leads that are not a fit. Nor do we want to waste time and money producing ineffective marketing because we are throwing out bait in the wrong pond and not catching anything or catching the wrong things. Start by considering the specialties your firm offers and which clients could benefit from that. Or, by looking at the clients you are most successful with, then assessing their attributes. Break out your creative thinking. If this is a challenge for you, ask others to brainstorm with you and reimagine who you want to work with and how you will reach them.
There are plenty of new tools at our disposal. Video conferencing, webinars, virtual conference experiences, avatars, and good old-fashioned email, phone calls, and snail mail. Each have their place and use in a remote business development strategy. These tools should be used to build rapport, trust and make a connection. Whether we meet in person or remotely, the truth is that people still do business with those they like and trust. Earlier, we discussed the efficiency of remote meetings. Remote meetings also expedite our ability to find common connections. With video calls, we can “make a visit” to their personal space, unlike meeting at a networking event. We meet surprise visitors who will pop in, like the furry family members that flash across the screen, or the mini me’s in our homes that will pop into frame. We see each other as the human beings we are! We can see if the person is a book worm or loves music. The key is, take a moment to ask them about what you see and use their answer to find commonality. We have a very unique opportunity to get to know each other in a fast and personal way.
I can hear you thinking, “This is great, but I am so busy!” I know you are and applaud you for all the work you have tirelessly done. You owe the discipline of business development to your future self. When we ignore this critical area, we hit valleys of low revenue or end up having taken projects that aren’t a great fit but feed the team. There are always clients consolidating, going out of business, and aging out. You will be losing clients. What is your plan to replace them and keep your revenue growing? There are small steps you can take during your busiest time to keep business development activities rolling including:
- Asking for referrals then tracking the leads so you can have marketing or admin support analyze how many of those leads became clients. You can have a great referral source, but if they are sending you the wrong types of clients, you may need to re-educate them on your ideal target, or they are not a quality referral source.
- Contribute content to associations in your niche. While you are researching the new standards rolling out, write a client-facing version of your summary and contribute it to associations. You can become a leading expert that drives inbound traffic. Leverage your marketing person or a free-lance writer to help you put it in layman’s terms. If writing is daunting, consider a live video feed or podcast you could record.
- Create visibility within your own firm. Make sure other partners, offices, and team members know your specialty and how you can add more value to your clients. Don’t forget about the value of developing referral sources within your own firm.
- Listen for needs. Though you may feel like you can’t take on a single project for a client now, listen for opportunities for the future. My own accountant is great at this! He hears me say things in our tax meeting and suggests an appointment post tax season to revisit that topic. He keeps excellent notes and when we talk in the summer, he takes us back to the pain we expressed earlier in the year. This reinforces the trust we have in him, solves problems for us, drives revenue for him, and hooks us with more services. In exchange, we have sent him multiple referrals.
- Update your digital assets. Don’t let your social media profile become outdated. If you are a partner now, make sure your LinkedIn profile doesn’t still say manager. (I saw this recently.) Keep your website and social media feeds updated with keywords and hot topics. What is weighing on the mind of your ideal client right now? Post about it!
You have the power. (Took me back to the start of the cartoon Hee-Man). You have the skills and knowledge that so many people are desperate for. A neighbor of mine owns his own business and sat at our table with his head in his hands, bewildered by the input he was getting. His bookkeeper was telling him one thing, his CPA, who is the CPA for his whole family, wasn’t returning his call, and he didn’t know what to do. You are like doctors, diagnosing problems and selling solutions. Yes, selling! And it doesn’t have to be or won’t be all in-person. Ready for the next better in business development?
You’ve got this!