We’ve just begun the second half of the calendar year. I recommend you review your business development strategy. Take a look at the list of customers, prospects and investors. Do you have more prospective customers and investors than you have committed and engaged customers and investors? Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you identify prospective customers and leads. This business development strategy allows you to better understand the outcomes you have achieved thus far. Otherwise your business development strategy might let you down.
Ultimately, some of these folks may not be worth the effort and angst you put into the customer and investor acquisition process.You may not be aligning your business development strategy with the markets, verticals, customers and investors appropriate for your venture’s or company’s products, services and platforms. Alternatively you may not be meeting their deadlines, deliverables and expectations, either.
Here are some tips to figure out whether you are jumping through your customers’ and investors’ hoops. You know you are jumping through their hoops when:
- your prospects, customers and investors wait until the 11th hour to provide you with feedback on their decision to contract for or invest in your product, platform or solution. Evaluate whether or not you, as a sales person, engineer or startup, are perceived as a high priority investment or not. Does this prospect have too much on their plate to pay enough time and collaborative attention to you? If this equation appears to be one-sided, you are pursuing, rather than being pursued. There isn’t much “strategy” to your business development strategy at all. You may be wasting your time chasing this target. The lead is dead-end. Are they really a good fit for your company’s core capabilities and your own skill set?
- your customers, prospects or investors scale back on the deal you were proposing. What factors have impacted their decision? Evaluate whether you have met their criteria for moving forward with the sale or investment. Consider that a better deal, sounder investment, or negative data made them not-quite-walk-away from doing business with you. Instead, they figure “something is better than nothing”. They give you a small contract, or funding round, rather than what you were anticipating. That’s not much of a business development strategy, is it?
- your prospects, customers, and investors are never satisfied. No matter what goals and objectives you meet, they keep prolonging consummating the deal. These folks continue to ask you for more information. Your overhead continues to accrue and there are time and materials to consider. Perhaps you are providing prototypes whose specs continue to change. You turn down or ignore other opportunities because you felt you were chasing a hot deal. Fact of the matter is that they are hoping you go away. They never were interested in doing business with you. However, they sure enjoyed making you jump through their hoops. There’s no business development strategy here at all, is there?
- your prospects, customers and investors feel you didn’t meet their expectations. It’s not all one-sided. Did you drop the ball? Did you create expectations without producing deliverables? Did your deliverables fall short of anticipated outcomes? Managing quality of outcomes forms the core of your business development strategy. Are you focusing on this aspect?
I don’t care for hoop-jumping as a business sport. Yet there are some individuals, decision-makers, companies and investors who put all of their vendors and ventures through this process. You may be concerned about making your numbers, meeting payroll, or getting your first funding round. Consider whether you are wasting your time pursuing certain targets. Consider whether they are a good fit for you. Consider whether they treat every investment or vendor in this manner. Consider whether you are delivering on your promises.
If you like jumping through other people’s hoops, that is your choice. However, you may end up focusing on targets which prevent you from doing your best work for your best investors and customers. The choice is yours.
Whose hoops are you currently jumping through? What do you want to do about it?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, traverses the sales-engineering interface®, bringing entrepreneurial mojo to small and mid-sized Seller-Doer businesses and revenue-producing business strategies to startups.