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Learning to Elevate Business Development Strategies at BD Live

Well known industry leader, Aurora Cammarata, Director of Business Development at NELSON, moderated the annual SMPS BD Live event held May 2nd at the Revere Hotel.

Thanks to Aurora, the BD Live client panelists, and program sponsors, Auto Desk, Traveler’s Insurance and Frank Monkiewicz, nearly 75 attendees were able to ask questions and elevate their business development strategies.

The esteemed client panel included Amy Prange – Development Project Manager at WS Development, Paul Asmar – Head of Real Estate and property services at EMD Millipore, Timothy McKenna – Manager Facilities Design & Construction Dept. (former), Yale-New Haven Hospital, and Christopher Petryshin – Managing Director at VVA Project Managers & Consultants.

Fielding questions from Aurora and the audience, the panelists offered a lot of valuable advice on building relationships, proposals, interviews and the effects of outsourcing on relationship building.

Building Relationships

Aurora kicked off the conversation with a question on the most difficult aspect of relationship-building: getting started.  How do you start a relationship with someone you want to know? The panelists had the following to say.

People like working with people they know.  The importance of building relationships has not diminished with the advancement of technology.

Before the internet, we used newspapers and trade publications to collect information and then make cold calls.  In today’s environment, there should be no such thing as a cold call.  Don’t send cold emails either.  Most people are too busy to get to their important business, so why would they respond to emails from strangers.  People don’t appreciate strangers clogging up their inbox.

Do you remember the six degrees of Kevin Bacon?  Small-world phenomena suggests that we are all linked by short chains of acquaintances, or “six degrees of separation”.  Go to LinkedIn and find out who you know that can make an introduction. The best person to talk about you is someone else.

Again, do your homework on Google and LinkedIn to learn about people before you meet them.  Find something interesting in common so you can make a more meaningful connection.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

And keep in mind that prospective clients are looking you up on LinkedIn too so make sure your profile is professional and up to date.

Outsourcing & Relationships

Aurora asked the client panel to discuss how outsourcing is affecting relationships.

The panel acknowledged that even without outsourcing, there are a lot of layers on the client side.  Outsourced owner liaisons make it even harder to connect the dots and get to know people.  From an executive or owner and procurement to HR and facilities, many weigh in on the decisions.  It is important to create relationships with everyone involved whenever possible.  Don’t be afraid to ask your contact questions, for advice and how decisions are made.  Try to understand and respect their process.

Going over your contact’s head is a risky move.  Our panelists provided examples of both outcomes, one that was successful and the other backfired.  Still, they suggest getting to know as many people on the client’s team as you can.

Proposals & Interviews

When asked about proposals and interviews, the panel had some definite recommendations.

First, on proposals, follow the instructions and the format provided.  Include content that matters to the client and not why you’re so great.  Tell them what you are going to do for them.  Customize your proposals and keep them succinct.  Make it easier on the reader.

In the team section of your proposal, clients want to see who is on the project and who they will be dealing with day in and day out along with their experience on similar projects.  Including a project team org chart with what their responsibilities will be on the project will also make it easier for the client to know who to call for what.

Regarding interviews, panelists suggest that you bring the people who are going to do the work.  Everyone that you bring must have a role on the project team and at the meeting.  The senior person on the team should not do all the talking.  And don’t bring people just for diversity sake and yes, it was said, “no token women”.

Review your agenda at the beginning of the interview.  Then ask the client side if there is anything else that they would like to cover.

Know who you are talking to and take visual cues to engage them in conversation.

PowerPoint is the most common way service providers present to clients, but it should only be used to guide the conversation.  The use of technology makes it easy to show up but doesn’t always work as it should so make sure you have a backup plan.

Telling stories about past projects is a great way for the client to learn that the team has previously worked together.

Team dynamics is a consideration during the decision-making process.  Though it may be difficult to determine during the interview, the client side and service provider teams should click.

Even when you don’t win the project, look at it as a chance to continue building the relationship.

A debrief is an important part of the process as you can learn what you may be able to do differently in the future.  You may not always get a debrief, but you should always ask.

Wrapping Up

BD Live was a great event providing the opportunity for marketing and business development professionals to learn from people with real client perspective.

To close the event, Aurora played host to a panelists-versus-audience game of BD Feud.  Each team of four had a chance to pick the most popular answers to survey questions focused on the best practices for business development.  Sitting on the sidelines, I was amused to watch the service provider audience team, Anna, Ed, Matt and Michael defeat the client panelists.

Joann Durette

Author

JoAnn Durette is a Client Partner at JVD Marketing.

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