Many of the businesses that I have talked with who are looking for business development support have the wrong idea of what it means to bring in this kind of service. Several thought that all their sales worries would be gone and their products would just fly out the door in moments even if they normally have a two-month sales cycle.
While others wanted to manage every step of the new business acquisition down to size of sale, not considering profitability one bit.
I am here to share with you a few things you should know before you even consider bringing in outside business development people. This type of consultant can help your business significantly; they will bring you expertise and contacts you would have to spend months to acquire.
Before you hire outside business development staff, these considerations will help you develop realistic expectations of this new road ahead.
Outside business development staff are not any faster than your inside staff, just a bit more profitable.
They are more focused on your strategic products and do not require as much overhead to generate the same amount of business. It is important to discuss sales cycle expectations up front, because if you expect them to work faster you will be disappointed.
They should enhance your existing staff, not replace them.
Encourage your existing sales staff to work with the consultants, together they will close more business. Most likely, the people who currently write proposals will keep on writing them, and you will be responsible for sales over the long term. Outside staff just help enhance what you already have.
They work for you in the best interest of the target customer
As many business development people are recognized by prospects as an expert in their field, they must work to keep a certain positive reputation while selling your product. Do not be surprised if they take the prospects’ side in getting the best win-win situation possible. They are often selling into existing relationships or seeking to build long-term relationships, when both sides win this can be very profitable for you.
They should be able to provide insights and have existing relationships in your industry.
Besides knowing about your vendors, competitors, and individuals similar to your customers, outside staff must be familiar with your industry.
Selling might be selling, but if they do not have a general aspect of your product down, prospects will see through them. Direct hands-on experience with your products or those of your competitors is a plus.
Mutually define clear channels of communications before you sign the contract
Define methods to deliver leads and register opportunities, develop guidelines for qualifying prospects and obtaining approval of pursuit, and understand methods of reporting and pipeline management. Most outside business development already have their own methods for all this, become aware of them and work together to refine what works for you.
Focus outside business development staff on a single lead product and develop a separate marketing plan for their efforts. Using your company’s objectives, they most likely will create their own marketing plan to track their campaign and measure its performance. This may introduce different methods of marketing into your organization, except if it provides the results you desire.
Focusing on a single lead product will generate the most profitable results for your company when you utilize these new leads to sell your backend products.
Their commissions pay their way and for their sales efforts
Most outside business development staff are independent contractors working on commission basis.
They are serious about retainers (advanced against commission) and expect to be able to work toward developing opportunities. Remember consulting services will be extra, do not expect to pick their brain while they are working with you — it will just annoy them and limit the time available for new business they bring to you.
Without solid and accurate expectations of what outside business development staff will do for your business, you will quickly become frustrated with their performance. They are not miracle workers, they are not going to cut your sales cycles in half, do not believe that promise. They will however, allow you to focus on your product and help you with corporate expansion even if you do not have sales staff of your own.
It is like “pay for performance” for your sales force — extending their reach and knowledge. If managed right, like a partner, your company can profit while your products reach highly qualified prospects you can keep selling for the life of your business.