Developing New Business Is a Process, Not an Event

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Some marketing and business development professionals might believe this, but many ignore the concept that it takes more than one or two meetings to get a new customer to sign on the dotted line. You cannot treat new business efforts as a single event.

Developing new business is a process, and the classic two-step DM strategy many of us grew up with is dead. Today, the customers control the sales process. You must be prepared with a curriculum that educates them and guides them to the final step in the process: the sale.

And some days, your envelope may be the one that is used to swipe a jelly doughnut off someone's lap.

New business development is a process. When done correctly, it's the process that closes most of the deals. Yes, the segmentation strategy is still a critical part of every campaign but how often have you bought a product after a company has reached out to you only once? Strategies differ based on the product or service you sell, but let's look at the basic steps of the new business development process for high-end purchases.

Site verification/list hygiene. Call it what you will, this is a critical step in your process. Once you define the segmentation strategy, acquire the lists and append the firmographic/demographic points - invest in an outbound campaign to call into the list and confirm all data points you secured. Double-check everything - spelling of names, gender and, if you want to succeed, capturing the name of the office manager or executive assistant. These will be critical to this curriculum-based approach.

Initial touch. You have your target and you understand what some people call "the cues and drivers" that are relevant to your target audience. You have a killer offer that resonates with each prospect or customer (yes, getting additional revenue from existing clients also is a process).

The first touch should be an announcement e-mail to clients and an e-mail or telephone call (if you don't have their e-mail addresses) to prospects. Tell them what you are doing. It's inexpensive, easy to execute and can be timed to the mail effort. If you don't have an e-mail address, call first. Effective voice mail is a powerful tool. Script the message so all representatives introduce a consistent message.

Direct mail. The second touch should be direct mail, unless you've already proven that e-mail alone can work for your product. In either case, this piece should be highly personalized. Once you confirm that every data point is 100 percent accurate, use the information to your advantage and discuss relevant benefits specific to the recipient. Notice I said "recipient" because your message should be specific to the "cues and drivers" you uncovered for every person on the list.

Give the recipient every means of response that you can afford them to use. McKinsey reported a few months ago that "sales and marketing executives in a wide range of industries have lost control of their customers, with damaging financial consequences." Part of ensuring a positive ROI is managing the response channel that you want the recipient to use. McKinsey further suggested that you "begin to constrain the channels customers use by subtly guiding them through the sales and service process, from awareness of the product through purchase and post sales support."

Fulfillment. Be prepared to fulfill the request electronically or digitally within 24 hours. Personalize the response (use the verified data and blend it with relevant industry or geographic images). If hard copy is the preferred channel, understand the cost/benefit of using print on demand technology when possible.

Though POD technology can cost more per unit, it will improve program ROI because you don't print excessive inventory and the communication is more relevant to your "audience of one." Remember to let your client or prospect know what the next step will be (phone call, e-mail, newsletter, etc.) and be prepared to execute.

Telemarketing. Effective telemarketing may, or may not, close more deals within 30 days, but it will help ensure that you have permission to keep the process going forward. At every phone touch, capture more information about the prospect/customer and give them opportunities to interact with you and get their education from you.

Through this process, you become a trusted adviser providing a solution, not simply a vendor looking for money. Add the new data points to each record and use the information in your multichannel curriculum so you can speak to them as if you know them individually.

Curriculum. Here's the tricky part. To make this plan effective, you need to preplan your "curriculum." Be prepared to have a full year of correspondence. Don't assume that your sales team will diligently follow up with leads or that the marketing team will devise something new. The safest, smartest way is to have your channel and touch strategy in place before you make the site verification calls.

Your company is the most important business in the world, so act accordingly. Once you embrace the fact that high-end sales is a process and not an event, you will close deals that are more lucrative - and fulfilling.

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