TOOLS FOR SUCCESS — LEADERSHIP IN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
However, education and training for business development management in graphic communications tends to be more self-taught than academic. It’s my opinion that not one graphic communications academic institution offers anything of substance regarding business development and marketing.
Individuals who excel in our industry as business development leaders tend to come from other disciplines, having demonstrated professional leadership and management qualities that top senior management recognize is needed (and too often missing) in their own business development ranks.
What are the duties and profile of a successful business development leader? Here’s a beginning outline from which I suggest you pick and choose, as the issue “fits” your organization’s needs.
Suggested Professional Profile and Duties:
If someone asked me what qualities I’d look for in a business development leader, I’d probably offer three: (1) profound curiosity, (2) an extreme work ethic, and (3) the discipline to personally perform and communicate the importance of excellence in pedestrian activities—in order to create “continuous improvement.” Without those three qualities, and especially in hard times—when the best of personnel is needed—I can’t see a business development professional succeeding.
Options for creating a tapestry of support for ensuring “holistic” performance improvement:
1) Ongoing review of the profile—deciphering who values your company most, who does not, and why. Most organizations do not have a written profile of who to pursue, and who to avoid, and why. Yet, every week sales personnel are pursuing business development with both current and new accounts. In today’s oversupplied customer markets, most organizations would steadily improve their performance results if they pursued the organizations that value them most, instead of primarily those organizations that a sales rep can “quickly sell” in order to make a commission to pay their personal bills.
If developing an organization’s market differentiation were ever important, it is critically and strategically important today. “Elevated perceived customer value” tends to drive predictability of future work and margins. Customers who fit your preferred customer profile, based on your ability to deliver elevated value, can be invaluable from many perspectives in hard times.
2) Capture and frequent review of all customer complaints. This is an organizational issue, and not just a sales team issue. Customer complaints may be voiced to delivery drivers, accounting, prepress—and even suppliers, to name but four areas, in addition to your sales reps, CSRs, receptionists and estimators. A monthly, summary review of complaints can be revealing to where there are recurring problems and limitations that are holding other resources back from performing at their best.
Organizations that prefer to avoid this frequent, critical review can be counted on to be giving up several points of increased revenues and margin.
3) Capture and review of all requests from customers that were not positively responded to. Several weeks ago I visited a company that’s near the upper quartile of bottom-line performance. I asked, individually, their sales reps, CSRs and estimators, “How often do we receive customer requests that have to be returned for lack of our ability to produce?” One of the sales reps reached in and showed me three significant orders being returned that day. Further investigation revealed that this was not unusual, and the president didn’t have a clue of the frequency, while wondering why his company wasn’t growing more than about 10 percent a year in revenues.
4) Improved personalization of all customer communications. Improved communications requires improved understanding and documentation. From e-mails to quote letters, we too often work to do more faster, and end up producing less. Too many quote letters look like they were produced by the same software our competitors use. It’s the rare supplier who takes the time to understand and then effectively communicate (a) what’s most important, (b) what’s critical, and (c) what should and should not happen—and includes those types of information on important correspondence, such as quote letters.
5) Constant updating of the “enlarged buying center” mailing list of target customers and prospects. There’s a sea change of buyer turnover, accompanied by buying positions with expanded management responsibilities and less experience. It follows that these critical positions of influence depend on senior management and close associates to guide their decisions—including major awards and changes in suppliers. However, most supplier reps don’t call on the “enlarged buying center,” and these influential names don’t appear on a supplier’s mailing list. In effect, it’s the suppliers who are most effective communicating to these positions of influence that are, predictably, most successful.
6) Identification and frequent review of your organization’s market differentiation. Why and which customers prefer to buy from your organization is a “moving target.” Successful suppliers are relentlessly reviewing what customers tell them (and don’t tell them) and integrating this information with a tapestry of other market information that, over time, sculptures their message to their target accounts. Most buyers are asking, one way or another, “What do you have that I need and don’t already have?” If you can’t answer that question successfully, odds are you’re a “low price wins” supplier.
7) Educational programs and training for employees and customers, which serve to improve company performance. Education and training of employees needs to precede education and training for customers. And, in today’s conditions, it’s expected. However, few organizations carve their education and training program(s) to support their desired (a) performance objectives and (b) market differentiation.
8) Frequent customer feedback, such as major customer surveys that “test” strategic and day-to-day performance issues. Most organizations don’t know how their customers really experience them, and too many don’t want to know because that requires them to change.
Major customer surveys can be used to (a) uncover significant amounts of additional business at current customers, (b) identify strategic services that buyers are interested in pursuing (e.g., mailing, digital asset management, and storage and fulfillment), and (c) opportunities to improve day-to-day performance. When I hear a CEO say, “Let’s wait and conduct the survey when we’re doing a better job with our customers,” I tend to respond with, “How will you know when that is?” Other customer feedback opportunities include (1) periodic business reviews, (2) press check surveys, (3) plant tour surveys and (4) job surveys.
9) Systematic attendance at worthwhile (business development) conferences that focus on what customers want and need, and how technologies are being used to create value for customers and bottom-line performance. Business development leadership can be a lonely path. There’s not much of a line of folks wanting the position, and even fewer candidates who are qualified. Inspiration, collaboration and edification can make a marked difference in the quality of direction such a person brings to his/her organization. (We conduct two each year.)
10) Conduct a review of “target account performance changes” at least quarterly. Few organizations closely review their customers’ performances from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. Sample issues deserving critical review and senior management discussion include (but are not limited to): (a) changes in account revenues, (b) changes in products and services requested, (c) changes in account margins, (d) changes in requests for quotes and quote-hit-ratio performance, (e) changes in key personnel, (f) follow-up from previous periodic business reviews, (g) account attendance at company-sponsored functions, such as education sessions or an open house, and (h) reasons for lost accounts.
11) Quarterly review of written business development plans for target accounts. Most organizations conduct an annual budget planning session in which expected revenues from target accounts are estimated. Too often, that’s where the process stops. Seldom is there a written plan by which to accomplish those performance numbers—for each target account—that’s reviewed every quarter. Without a written plan, accountability for each account’s development is generally lacking.
12) A periodic business review (PBR) schedule. Periodic business reviews, properly executed, should include the servicing sales rep, CSR and at least one member of senior management. Clients who are committed to PBRs for target accounts tend to improve their revenues and margins. Buying organizations prefer suppliers who require them.
We increasingly experience major requests for proposals that require them. What is learned in these should be shared organizationally to improve the overall company’s performance for customers.
13) A self-promotion calendar that’s published. Your target “enlarged buying centers” should receive a substantive communication every month from your organization. Content can include (a) what’s been accomplished, (b) what’s new, (c) market trends, (d) supplier reports that are relevant to customers (i.e., upcoming paper pricing and supply), (e) recent awards, (f) recent achievements, (g) how to use print and print-related services to improve a customer’s economic performance, and (h) customer education and training schedules.
14) Frequent celebrations with employees, suppliers and customers for unusual achievements and awards. In my earliest professional sales career, I had the unusually good fortune to be adopted by the production team. I was 22, had a family, and ultimately became the youngest million dollar sales rep they’d every had in a 22-plant, international packaging division.
However, it was very clear in my mind that it was the production team that made me successful. They wanted me to succeed, they refused to let me fail, and I never stopped reminding them that my success was their success. Business development leaders make their production teams and suppliers their heroes, and never, never, never stop reminding folks that nothing is accomplished for the customer that production wasn’t instrumental in achieving. PI
About the Author
Chadwick Consulting’s mission is to improve company and individual performance in the graphic communications industry through business development—resulting from research, strategy development, education and training, and publishing. Sid Chadwick can be reached at (336) 945-0645 or www.chadwickconsulting.com.