Business development is all about people.
It’s about being empathetic with leads, understanding their needs and explaining how your product/service fulfils them, and then building trust so that they buy from you.
Yes, of course, having the right product or service is crucial (if I need A, I’m not going to buy B) but if a lead is faced with two companies with a near identical offer and they trust one founder, salesperson or company over the alternatives, they’re going to go in one direction only.
So how can you build trust and, as a result, bankable relationships?
1. Always do what you say. I say this a lot, and every time I say it I feel like a bit of a fool. Why? Because I come, obviously, from a place of naïve optimism where everyone does what they say they will do – yet the business world is full of people who don’t follow through. Clients expect that you will do whatever you promise, and leads even more. In fact, if it’s critical that you keep your word with clients then it’s even MORE critical that you do so with a lead because if you don’t, you can kiss that potential deal goodbye. And then wait for the word of mouth consequences. It’s a chance to prove yourself; don’t show yourself up as someone who can’t be trusted.
2. Never lie. It can be tempting when up against it financially, or with a target that seems to be disappearing over the horizon faster than you can catch it up, to say that you, or your product/service, can do something you/it can’t. It’s a rookie mistake. Never, ever lie. If you can’t do something and are honest about it, leads and clients will trust you. And they may well carry on negotiating a deal with you, just on the strength of that truth. If you lie, not only will you cause yourself endless stress and sleepless nights but you may well be leaving yourself open to legal issues. Not to mention the likelihood of watching your professional reputation disappear in a puff of smoke. Truth wins out every step of the way. Can’t do it? Say so. Don’t know the answer? Say so. Can’t fulfil all of the deal? Say so.
3. Recommend. When I started in sales back in the day, if I met a lead and found that the product or service that I was selling couldn’t help with their requirements, I would recommend them to one that could. At first, my boss went nuts; stratospheric, hitting the roof stuff. She told me that I should always say our product was the best and could do anything, yada yada yada. I didn’t. I couldn’t. It just didn’t sit right. After a while, she realised that my way of doing things was working because it actually gave me more leads and, therefore, more sales. Why? Because the lead I’d had to reject then recommended me on to someone else. They held me up as a sales person who could be trusted, who was good to work with, and that their business colleagues should meet too. I firmly believe that if you can’t help, a recommendation (where possible) is the way to go. Business development is about the long game, building relationships that sustain well beyond the immediate. It’s not about making a quick buck and moving on to the next sucker. That’s definitely not going to help you achieve your financial, and professional, goals and it’s definitely not going to help you develop a fabulous, trusted, business.
What are your tips for developing bankable relationships? I’d love to hear them!