Prioritizing Business Development
Business Owners & Managers...
Ask yourself 5 questions before you continue with your day:
1. Are you ensuring that the amount of time and attention given to new business development FOR your company is equal to (or greater than) the work going on IN your company?
2. Are you as attentive to new prospects as you are to existing customers?
3. Do you start each day with a to-do list that is primarily focused on getting problems solved?
4. How many of those problems involve current customers, suppliers, equipment or staff?
5. How many items on your to-do or to-solve list will help bring you NEW business TODAY?
Naturally, it’s important to take care of the business at hand. That’s not what this article is about. But often business owners and managers get so caught up in the operational weeds that the BUILDING part of running your business – lead generation or pipeline advancement – becomes secondary.
When you don’t prioritize business development as a regular, routine part of your activity, it’s like being a farmer spending time on harvesting the crop, delivering the bounty, and working on the books, but NEVER planting seeds for the next crop.
Time management problem...?
According to Harvard Business Review’s article on the subject, Maura Thomas explains that time management problems aren’t always about TIME.
“My team has a time management problem,” leaders often tell me. For example, an executive might say that their teams aren’t moving the needle on important projects, yet staffers seem busy and stressed. “Time management” becomes a catchall solution to this problem, and they want to hire me to offer tips and techniques on things like prioritizing and using their calendars better.
What we soon uncover, however, is that the root of their team’s problems is not managing time, but managing attention.” (Source)
Here are some ways to realign your priorities NOW for increased success TOMORROW.
1) Figure out the answers to these 3 questions:
a) Do I KNOW my sales goals?
b) WHO in this company is responsible for reaching these goals?
c) Is he/she ON TRACK to reach our goals?
If you are struggling with any of the answers to the above questions, then your job is to immediately identify why. More importantly, your job as a business leader is to be ABLE to answer these questions now, so if you don’t, then that’s your priority.
Take the Leader Awareness Challenge and learn where there are gaps in your understanding of your current business situation and how you can quickly get insights where it matters most.
2) Define urgent.
Seriously, define it – for yourself and your staff. If you allow every distraction to interrupt the time you do set aside for business development, then you are showing that you are not supporting the sales effort.
Define for your team a) what is urgent, and b) what you allow as a reasonable window of time to get back to people.
Most companies have a policy of putting customers first. That is generally okay. But even the most irate customers become understanding if they are treated with respect and told that someone will get back to them within, say, 12 or 24 hours. Ensure you have a frontline person who can receive these types of calls, and who is coached on the acceptable way to handle something “urgent.” Make sure you have parameters around when and how you can be disturbed, so that when you’re focusing on something you’ve deemed to be a priority, like new business development and revenue generation, you can continue to give the right time and attention to that important area of your business.
3) Declare your communication preferences.
Urgent messages can get lost in email strings that aren’t clear. There’s nothing worse than subject headers that flow from an original innocuous topic like “Invoice 2601” but escalate throughout the back and forth emails until they finally reach you, demanding urgent help within the body of the email...with the same subject header!
Teach your people – staff, colleagues, suppliers, customers, and even family – exactly HOW to communicate when problems arise. Use subject headers judiciously. Train everyone on the best way to use emails, phone calls, texts, and other forms of communication when needing to reach you.
Provide Leader Communication Rules to your staff (and family!). Help everyone understand how to get what they want out of their messaging, quickly and concisely, in a way that produces maximum efficiency for all.
4) Decide who does what.
A leader should not act as both intake AND output for every inquiry. As noted above, if an upset customer contacts your company, you should not be the first person contacted and deemed skilled enough to solve the problem. Ensure you have an appointed intake person who is equipped to handle customer inquiries and/or problems. Empower that customer service person to deliver preliminary solutions.
Then find yourself a back-up. Give someone else in your organization the power to make decisions on your behalf, to the best of their capabilities and within the parameters you lay out together. Of course, as things escalate, they will inevitably reach your desk, but at least you’ve got a system in place that will allow you to stay focused on your work until you are most needed.
And finally, make sure everyone knows the process flow for handling problems that arise. Customer complaints or service issues or supplier problems should all have a clear step-by-step guide for communicating the issue and placing it into the hands of those who can help solve, and then on to those who can help execute the solution.
Work out who does what, and the back-up plan, in the Org Chart Plus exercise. This tool outlines the conventional organizational hierarchy while providing direction for back-up and support when key people are busy. This tool provides maximum productivity for your entire team.
5) Know the difference between downtime vs. think time.
In order to prioritize, you must make time to prioritize.
Meaning, if you believe new business development is important for your business, then you must take time to THINK about that part of your business. Not just in your downtime, which is what happens for so many business owners.
Think about it...you can’t just keep racing from fire to fire and expect to see the source of the flames while pointing the fire hose in one direction at a time. You must take time at the start of each week, during business hours, to declare your business development goal(s) for the week, estimate the time needed to accomplish those goals, and outline when you’ll work on these priority tasks.
Routine IS prioritizing...
You may be able to implement some but not all of the above, but even with one or two changes you can shift priorities toward growing sales for your business. Once you have the weekly routine of DECLARING your priorities, SETTING them on the task list and calendar, then managing any and all distractions during those times, you will start to see how quickly the seed planting comes to fruition so that another crop is always growing and ready for the next harvest.