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Six business development tips for professional services

When it comes to business development for professional services, one of the biggest challenges professionals face is finding time to do it all. After all, you don’t sell full-time. Your work, whether it’s consulting, accounting, or engineering, is what you do full-time. And that makes it very difficult to find time to create and develop the relationships necessary to bring in new business.

There simply are not enough hours in the day to do it all.

As a result, business development activities are unplanned and inconsistent, which leads to limited touches and prospects slipping through the cracks due to lack of follow-up.

While I cannot create more hours in the day, I can give you some business development tips that will help you become more effective with the balancing act of selling and doing.

Do a little bit every day

The excuses for not selling are plentiful: I was busy delivering, I had to run a report, a meeting went long, and the list goes on. There is always something else. To be successful, you must make business development a priority, and you can start by setting aside a little bit of time every day to focus on your sales efforts.

Mornings tend to work best, before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day. Block this time off in your calendar, close your door, and don’t allow any interruptions. This is your sacred selling time.

Focus on efforts that offer the best chance of success

Know where to spend the sacred selling time you have. Often, it takes just as much time and effort to sell a $5,000 deal as it does to sell a $50,000 deal. Focus on deals that have the greatest potential for long-term success.

In 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey writes, “Put first things first.” He suggests focusing on work that is less urgent but more important to your long-term goals.

Apply that thinking to your business development efforts. Know where the highest potential is, and focus on those prospects first.

Make action a priority

How many times have you thought, “I should really give Jim Smith at ABC Manufacturing a call to follow up on our conversation from last week, but I don’t have time right now. I’ll do it later.”

But later never comes.

When you think about doing something, do it (or at least set a reminder to do it during your sacred selling time). Half of selling success is just showing up and doing it, yet so many professionals get caught up in their other work and don’t do essential sales work.

Leverage your resources-both people and technology

Make your life easier by delegating when possible. Do you need to write the proposal and follow-up materials or can a junior staffer or virtual assistant sit in on the sales meeting and write the first draft? Do you need to write follow-up emails after you speak at an event or can you hand this off to a marketing person?

When you leverage your resources well, you can get more done for your clients and prospects and create more time to focus on business development and relationship building. And resources do not just include people; technology has come a long way to help you become more efficient.

Automate some of your lead nurturing by sending email or direct mail that provides valuable insights to prospects. Connect with prospects and clients on LinkedIn and Twitter. Publish a blog and post regularly. These technologies can help you build and strengthen your relationships. They also help you stay top of mind with clients and prospects, so when the need does arise, you are the first one they think of.

Keep efforts organised

Business development can be a daunting task when you do not keep all of your contacts, leads, and activities in a central place. To make your sacred selling time most effective, use a CRM tool to keep track of your sales conversations. I use and recommend, though there are many other tools out there that you can use.

Take good notes, and at the end of each conversation, set a solid next step for yourself and record this in your CRM. This will help you stay organized as well as prioritise your follow-up and sales efforts.

Build your business development skills

If you’re a consultant, account, engineer, or other professional service provider, you likely came up through the ranks building knowledge around your particular technical skill or area of focus. You’ve had very little business development training and the thought of having to sell may make you uneasy. After all, who wants to be seen as smarmy salesman?

But I have a secret to share with you. The skills that make you a great service provider to your clients are also the skills that can make you great in sales. You just have to know how to apply those skills.