Business Development in slippers.
As 2020 draws to a close, there is an optimism in the air as the talk of a vaccine seems to be an increasing reality. Notwithstanding, things have changed this year, and for certain things there will be no going back. In part 1 of this two-part blog, we set out some of the challenges professional services firms are facing doing business development in 2020. In this part, we reflect on some of the things that are working, by drawing on some of the thoughts and conclusions that came out of our recent panel discussion on the topic.
New versus existing relationships
One of the things we try and do at Client Talk is leverage empathy. A good way to do that is to raise awareness of what others are seeing and feeling. So, whilst the focus of this part is what we can do, first a reflection from our event.
43% of our attendees found sustaining existing relationships more challenging. This can be seen in stark contrast to the 80% who found creating new relationships more challenging. This is tough.
There was an awareness that relationships go two ways. Just as the advisor needs a client, so too the client needs an advisor. The magic that happens, the value, occurs when there is a level of trust and understanding between the two. Understanding that building connections is hard in a virtual world is an important take away. With it, we become more empathetic to those who reach out to us, and more empathetic when we in turn reach out to others.
So, how do we create the magic?
The importance of focus
The ability to make connections in a haphazard way has gone. The chance encounter at a conference, or the link made at a dinner party, isn't part of a Covid world. This means we must work harder, and this has meant that focus is more important.
With focus comes data. The use of data to inform business development plans has taken centre stage for some firms. For many firms Covid-19 has provided the reason for professionals to listen to and analyse this data.
With focus comes value. The adage that you only have one chance to make a first impression is perhaps even more stark in a digital world. When discussing virtual encounters, there was a thought that a lot of people expect to get straight down to business. That first impression happens faster.
Guy Myles, one of our panelists, highlighted the need to think about value. Understanding your value, and the need it meets, should always be at the heart of every business. In a world where everything feels a little bit more transactional, pausing to think about value and need can be powerful and can help with those first impressions.
Something is only valuable if it is relevant. This goes for value-adds in general, it goes for the services you provide, it also goes for the connections you make as part of your business development. Know your market well and understand what the challenges are. Both for the individuals you connect with, but the wider businesses they are involved in.
Get out of your comfort zone
There was an observation that there are two camps when it comes to business development. There are the firms which are standing still, perhaps planning for when things return to how they were, perhaps doing nothing until they reset, and those firms which are actively embracing the now and pushing the boundaries.
It is the firms that are pushing boundaries that will surely survive.
Another adage, that necessity is the mother of invention, has been used a lot this year. What does it mean for professional services firms? It means that people have to think differently and do things differently. The status quo is not an option. That is true for the services we provide, the way we provide them, but also the way we go about selling them.
Alongside Zoom, LinkedIn has become indispensable to anyone looking to do business development in 2020. Business development is digital, and LinkedIn is the new playing field for ad hoc encounters. LinkedIn has become a place where people not only see what is going on in the market, but it’s also become somewhere to connect, to introduce, to share. For some it is the only place to do those things. This opens up possibilities of encounters that were there before, but which we perhaps weren't brave enough to explore. All of a sudden we can reach people who we never thought it possible to.
Professionals have to leverage their personal brand, not just rely on the firm’s. The armour has gone and there is more authenticity then ever before. We have written about the authenticity paradox with social media before. Authenticity is crucial to developing relationships on social media.
Everyone is different
The power of difference is something that we strongly believe in. For us it can never be talked about too often.
What is clear when it comes to business development, is that understanding that everyone is different is key. Some people have been juggling busy households, some have been on their own. Some people learn best together, some people need space to reflect and energise. Some people like telephone calls, others hate having their videos on. Zoom energises some but drains others.
Understanding difference is the key to successful communication and communication is the key to successful business development.
Do things differently
With webinars becoming a go-to, don’t fall into the trap of doing the same thing as always. Again, be creative. Think about your guests, think about who is presenting. Connect beyond the content and create an experience.
We sent care packs to attendees. This isn’t without challenges: we tried to send things that were sustainable, minimising plastic and only sending packs to our national guests. However, in sending them, we hopefully demonstrated that we cared. We weren’t just looking for numbers online. We thought about who to invite and we treated their time with the same respect as we would have if they had come to a face-to-face event. We tried to create a shared experience.
Active listening is central to what we do. The simple question: “How are you?” is so powerful.
There is a feeling that it is perhaps harder to go deeper in 2020 because of the virtual. However, active listening is surely the way to get us there. It helps us move from know to like to trust. It is true that the non-verbal is harder to see, but it’s still there. Active listening can help us uncover it.
A theme that came through on our webinar was the need to have fun. Whether that be by creating shared experiences online, bringing a variety of people in, or trying to make every-day interactions entertaining, having a strategy to maintain the fun was seen as an important, and perhaps the most important, thing when connecting in the new normal.
A final thought
Despite 2020 being the year of computer screens – and slippers – it has made us all a little bit more human. Some things will have shifted this year, some shifts are seismic and here to stay. We at Client Talk hope that the humanity that has entered the business world is one of the keepers.