Identifying new business leads is not too much different from mining for gold – except that you have to dress nicer, carry business cards and should probably take a shower.
Both require an entrepreneurial spirit, patience, commitment and some luck.
Two of the most critical steps are: (1) to become familiar with the company’s products or services and, (2) to be open to what is going on around you by increasing your situational awareness. Both of these steps are necessary for you to be able to match your capabilities with a potential client’s needs.
Regarding situational awareness…50% of new business success involves gaining an understanding of a government manager’s needs. This can be as simple as introducing yourself to government employees in your area who you do not normally meet with to gain a better understanding of their responsibilities and problems. Or, through dialogue you might discover your current client has a new requirement the company can fulfill. Sounds obvious, but it is amazing to me how few industry professionals actually do this, preferring instead to stay well within their comfort zone. But, faced with a rapidly changing and highly competitive marketplace, playing it safe does not usually result in career growth.
Where possible, knowledge collection about a sales prospect should begin before any actual client contact is initiated. Start by identifying the client’s organization, mission and the specific people you should call. Gather relevant information from agency Web sites, news and trade magazine Web sites, agency strategic plans, internal and external agency audit reports and individuals who are familiar with your target prospect. In other words…do your homework.
In many larger companies, BD leads have the primary responsibility for the identification of new leads in target agencies assigned to them by the BD executive. Other line managers also identify leads within designated agencies. Business unit managers and project managers support the identification of new leads, in particular, within existing client organizations (cross-sell).
Useful information to gather includes:
- Agency mission statement
- Administration initiatives that relate this agency
- Issues/considerations (agency management hot buttons)
- Key decision makers
- Incumbent contractors/vendors
- Existing technology infrastructure/preferences
- Major agency programs
- Agency budget
- Existing company projects and follow-on opportunities
- Company strategic or specific opportunities
- Call plan and action plan
Any staff member may uncover a new lead through discussions with existing or new clients. Staff members are also encouraged to identify new agency initiatives that might result in new business opportunities.
– M. Lisagor