And I’m not where I used to be….literally. I recently relocated to Michigan. Yes, you heard me right. The great State of Michigan! And I’m pumped. I’ve left the comfort zone of my client base in Southern Ohio, with whom I continue to work. And I’m in my new frontier.
What do you do? Hopefully not same old same old. Because, as the saying goes, even if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it just may not quack like one. And in Michigan, it certainly isn’t quacking like a duck at all.
Approaching new audiences, new markets if you please, in the same manner that you do existing ones will not yield the same results in terms of business development. So take a step back. I know I am. And learn the Voice of the Customer. Again. Because your customers have something to tell you. Always.
I am doing a lot of listening. Are you?
The following 5 steps may help jump start your new market development. I know I’ve found them successful.
- Ask good questions so you can listen with “different ears.” In this economy, if you and your company are not seeking out new markets for your capabilities, then you need to re-think your business development strategy. Your skill sets really are the basis of business development. How you communicate your capabilities to new markets, however, is the variable. New markets have their own business-economic contexts. So your prospects will listen to what you are saying with “different ears” than your existing customers. And new markets may be interested in aspects of your services and skill sets that existing customers either take for granted or aren’t interested in at all. So you need to ask good questions so you can listen with “different ears” as well.
- Talk to folks who are outside your comfort zone. Even the cashier at the supermarket. Because everyone’s got a family member who’s been displaced in this economy. What better way to get a real read on Voice of the Customer and the impact of the economy? Don’t take your prospects’ word as truth simply because they are in your peer professional group. Do you really think they are going to be completely forthcoming when you ask them “So how’s your business going?” They don’t even want to admit their own situation to themselves, let alone you.
- Do your homework before you talk or listen. Have a pretty good understanding of the context of their remarks. And then listen for variations from what you’ve researched and what you know from other markets. Doing your homework about the company you are prospecting allows you to ask informed questions, specific to that company, rather than generic questions. Doing your homework before you speak with a prospect (even to set an appointment) creates credibility. Let’s face it, they only have so much time in their day to meet/speak with you. Earn your creds from your first conversation with them.
- Network, network, network! Networking can take place wherever and whenever.Yes, of course join the local chapter of your professional organization. But keep your antennae up in case you are, yep, in the supermarket check out line or a party or the gym and you strike up a conversation. You may be talking with your next client.
- Pay it forward. I strongly believe in stewardship and mentoring. When’s the last time you participated as a resource in a business incubator? When’s the last time you participated in programs offered by these incubators? No matter how much expertise you bring to anyone’s table, I would hope you see yourself as a lifelong learner. I know I am. There is always something someone can teach me that makes me see the same thing, differently. So incubate yourself every opportunity you get. Even if it’s at seminars outside your knowledge base or comfort level. And most of these seminars are free.
Just some food for thought.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.