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  • Writer's pictureBen Paul

9 Impactful Steps to do Effective BD Without Selling in an Unfavourable Market

BD without selling in an unfavourable market

When the market turns, most firms look to their people to go out and do more BD or sales activity to reverse the tide. However, most lawyers, accountants, architects and engineers, don’t see themselves as salespeople and may actually revile against the idea of selling. So how do these people do BD without selling, particularly in an unfavourable market?

One of the key issues with only doing BD when the market has turned against you, is that you are clearly only doing it because you have to. As I’ve mentioned, in many previous articles, BD needs to be a habit that is done regardless of the market conditions. In fact, I think you should almost do more BD in a good market!

Only doing BD when you ‘have to’ means your intention is one of necessity and pressure, be that peer, management or revenue. Deep down that means you have no real desire or aptitude to develop and nurture your business relationships and networks. Which means, if you only go out when you need revenue, you’re going out with the purpose of selling – and your contacts and clients will know it.

Therefore, with all these pressures, how can you do effective BD without selling?

9 Steps to Doing BD Without Selling

1. Shift your focus – forget the external pressures

When I talk to my clients about this, particularly in coaching sessions, they immediately say that this is easier said than done. And that is absolutely true, it takes some time. But a shift from meeting and contacting people to get their money, to one of wanting to find out more about them, and how you can genuinely help is possible. Once you do this a few times, it becomes second nature and your meetings always go well.

2. Embrace failure

I understand that in your professions, mistakes are not what you’re paid for. But building relationships is not an exact science. Fear of failure certainly holds people back from doing what they need to do, in terms of reaching out to clients and contacts. These fears are natural, but mistakes are what we learn from. I’ve made countless over the years, and I find sharing these in my coaching sessions helps my clients to understand it is okay, we all do it, and ultimately can still build great relationships in spite of our mistakes. A fear of this stops you doing anything.

3. Make a list of contacts

For those of you who’ve downloaded or read our BD Playbook, we like to categorise contacts into three simple buckets. Clients, contacts, and referrers. Doing this and building a simple list of who your best and most important contacts are, and how often you need to see them, will build you a list and contact plan you can use right now and in the future.

4. Book weekly time in to make those meetings

The more BD work you do, the easier it gets. A weekly habit, where you book time in to reach out to contacts, either to share information, or book in meetings is vital. The more you do, the more straight forward it becomes. We’ve even come up with a plan to do it in only 18 minutes (6 billable units for those working in professional services). So there’s really no excuse not to create a weekly BD habit.

5. Think about how your network can help your contacts

Outside of the work you do for your clients, what other help or assistance can you give them? It’s highly likely that in a contracted market they also want to grow their networks and ultimately their business. Therefore, think about your network and see if you can make meaningful offers of who you can introduce them to. The next step from this is to…

6. Have an active referral programme

The best sources of new work for most professional service practitioners are referrals. This is great as it really is doing BD without selling. After all, someone else has done the selling on your behalf! Which is great, but you have no visibility or control over this.

However, you can ask your good contacts in conversation if they know of anyone else you should be speaking with. Better still, you can ask them who they would like to be referred to. The chances are, on hearing this, they are most likely to throw the offer back to you. And since you have made your lists, you’ll be ready to answer them.

7. Think about what innovations can help your contacts

Bringing your elevator pitch will only get you so far. Many clients have heard these already, and most, while showing the value you bring, don’t really differentiate you from your competitors. They may highlight what you are great at, but differentiate? Highly unlikely.

This means, it is better to think about the clients’ main issues or opportunities in the next few years, and offer some options for them to consider on how to tackle them. You could even frame it in a workshop. Bringing new ideas and options is better than proposing a solution. It keeps them on a journey alongside you and in control of their crucial business decisions.

8. Create a platform for a second meeting

Getting a first meeting can be hard. If they are contacts who you know already, it’s relatively easy. However, getting second meetings is tough. A nice and pleasant conversation is not a reason to meet again, in a business context. That means, in the meeting you need to drive to an outcome, which is shared. For example, a commitment to meet again or for both of you to share some information or even contacts. Having a meaningful outcome creates a reason to meet again.

If you can’t see an obvious next step, ask the person you are meeting what they see as the next stages. Whatever they say is a commitment from them, and they tend to stick to it. Also asking the client and not pushing your message is the ultimate way to do BD without selling.

9. Meaningfully keep in touch

Share relevant and interesting stories and industry updates with clients and contacts. This is a great way to build rapport and show you are thinking about them. These could be an article from a trade publication, a blog post, or a news story.

The key is to make sure that the information is useful and relevant to your client’s business. Take the time to personalise the content and provide your own insights or comments. The great news is, you can then also post these as updates on LinkedIn to give your personal brand a bit of a boost.

Conclusion – the Best Way to do BD Without Selling

Admittedly, there is more you can do than these 9 steps. However, if you’re forming a new routine or habit, keep it simple, and then build on that with new skills. The art of doing BD without selling is really to make sure you do it regularly, and also to shift your mindset to one of curiosity and trying to help your client in any way you can, not just with the services you provide. Following the 9 steps above will see you on that path.

If you need further help in creating your own BD habit, then please download a copy of our BD Playbook. It contains everything you need! If you or your organisation would like help learning how to do BD without selling, or need assistance with anything in a related BD or Marketing field, then please book a no-obligation 15-minute chat with me here.

The BD Playbook download


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