Success, in modern business development, demands a thoughtful approach to client engagement; one which demonstrates a deeper understanding of their needs. At face value, this sounds like a truism. However, it’s important to note that there are certain nuances that come with maintaining a rich depth of understanding. Mastery of these nuances can elevate client engagement—and, as a result, your success as a business developer—to the next level and beyond.
Client Engagement: Beyond the Next Level
All too often, business developers center their focus around the offer—the “ask” or “sell”—without affording the “client journey” sufficient consideration. Clients, both current and potential, are receiving offers left and right; 24/7, 365 days a year. As such, these offers are easily shrugged off without so much as a second thought.
However, in truly understanding a client’s needs and maintaining an awareness to prospective risks and opportunities in their path, development reps stand a far greater chance of making their voices heard.
Renowned as one of the leading minds in persona-driven marketing, personalization guru Phil Cave notes that reframing business development to focus on personalization “typically increases sales by 15-20 percent and significantly drives up customer engagement”.
The key takeaway, in this case, should be abundantly clear: in this era of superficial connection, information disengagement, and the robotic “personalization” of algorithm-driven digital marketing software; the ability to deliver bespoke, laser-targeted messages to your clients focused on their interests and needs is—not an option—but a necessity for sustainable revenue growth.
What Understanding Your Client Really Means
It’s always easy to say you focus on your clients. But talk is cheap. Delivering a “bespoke, laser-focused message” means going above and beyond. Simply looking at a company’s sales, stock price, market position, etc. and offering jejune advice that already crossed the client’s mind a month ago won’t cut it. So what will?
You’re a business development rep at a PSO specializing in accounting and taxation. Since 2014, a popular restaurant chain has turned to your company for tax preparation. By monitoring developments in the food service industry, you learn they plan to open three new locations in the New England region. You reach out to the client with an article on proactive tax strategies for companies in the Northeastern United States and, in doing so, get the ball rolling vis-à-vis upselling the client on tax strategy services.
Executing on a “beyond-the-next-level” approach of this nature requires business developers to stay on top of where a prospect or client company is, where they’ve been, and where they’re heading. You’ll also need an idea of what it will take for them to get them there (where “there” may be) and as well as potential obstacles standing in their way. Beyond that, you need to know where your product or service fits into the equation.
It becomes almost impossible to develop this depth of knowledge without keeping a finger on the pulse of recent developments, statistics, and social chatter at the company, competitor, market, and industry level. If this all sounds exhausting, congratulations! You’ve stumbled onto the biggest string of challenges facing the modern business development rep. And, in case you thought tackling this challenge couldn’t be a more daunting ordeal, it may be worth knowing that sales are increasingly going to the reps who can pull this off. That being said (and after allowing yourself a moment to hyperventilate into a paper bag), you may find some comfort in knowing that there are plenty of effective methods aimed at streamlining this process.
The remainder of this article, however, is focused on three assertions:
1. Demonstrating a “holistic comprehension” of the context surrounding a client’s hopes, needs, fears, etc. incites credibility.
2. “Credibility” is the involuntary byproduct you generate in the process of creating unique value.
3. Offering “unique value” is one of the most effective means of exceeding high client expectations.
Cultivating an Ongoing Dialogue
Your first contact with a potential client should be impressive, but you’ll need to broaden your goals beyond simply scoring brownie points ahead of a sale. Your sights must first be set on becoming a trusted advisor. This takes time.
The potential client needs to develop the sense that you are a reliable source of information; that your understanding of their needs extends beyond any single issue. You need to demonstrate a “holistic comprehension” of their business needs. This means showing the client you’re capable of providing a useful, ongoing dialogue surrounding the items and topics they view as being critical to their current and future success.
Success in cultivating this an ongoing dialogue of this nature demands that you anticipate a client’s needs and interests, connecting with them in ways that linger on after the call ends or the email is marked as “read”. This is no easy task. It requires that you enter into conversations with current or prospective clients already equipped with that “holistic comprehension” and ready to leverage it towards solving their problems on the fly. Calling all veterans of a high school improv team—the few, the proud—this is your time to shine!
Importance of Context
The insights you choose to share with current or prospective clients cannot be “hollow”. You can’t get away with simply rattling off a talking point after doing just enough work to haphazardly wedge it into the conversation.
Demonstrating a holistic comprehension of context incites credibility.
Let’s take a second to unpack what that means. Unlike when you ramble off hollow talking point from rote memory—offering little more than a demonstration of your muscle memory—contextualizing the latest industry developments with your knowledge of the client (along with its competitors, its market and the industry in which it competes) creates value that cannot be faked. Consider the two extremes of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning (pictured below).
There’s no substitute for the feeling of a straight razor shave. You do it the hard way or you don’t do it at all. It’s not something you can replicate with a piece of disposable plastic plucked from a factory-sealed bag next to its five identical siblings. Similarly, your shiny new marketing software can run an algorithm to spit out the latest data and developments for a given industry, but only you have the power to contextualize that knowledge and from it, synthesize meaningful insights that cut right to the core of your client’s needs.
Advancements in sales and marketing technology may help a business developer climb higher on the pyramid. Essential to demonstrating a “holistic comprehension” of a client’s needs, however, is showing them you’ve ascended to a height on the pyramid that competitors were unwilling to reach. Simply put, demonstrating “holistic comprehension” means delivering uniquely-valuable insights on an ongoing basis.
If there was ever a way to guarantee you’ll exceed the increasingly high expectations of a current and prospective client, it’s this: develop a depth of understanding around their needs which no competitor—human or machine—can reproduce. Don’t simply “remember” on their behalf; “create” uniquely-valuable insights. This is what it means to “incite” credibility. “Credibility” is the involuntary byproduct generated by the creation of unique value. Rinse, lather, repeat, and—after positioning your firm as a trusted source of thought leadership—your products and services will sell themselves.
Bloom, B.S. (Ed.). Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc.
Cave, P. (2016, Nov 15). 7 Powerful Customer Engagement Tips From The Experts. Zoovu. Retrieved from https://zoovu.com/blog/7-powerful-customer-engagement-tips-from-the-experts/
How Smart Firms are Using Content to Engage Clients and Prospects
Leveraging current awareness and competitive intel is one of the most effective ways PSOs compete in the modern information environment. This 30-minute webinar from Manzama Co-Founder Mark Hinkle and Concep Client Services Director Freddie Hustler coaches professional services organizations on modern methods to:
- Earn new clients
- Increase value to existing clients
- Turn business developers into advisers