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Biz Dev: Gauging Progress

Biz Dev: Gauging Progress

February 25, 2010

When I first started writing for a living it was hard for me to gauge how productive I’d been in any given day. Coming off a nine-year sting in public accounting, you get used to measuring productivity in terms of chargeable hours or progress made against a budget.

But measuring productivity as a writer is a much more subjective experience. What are you supposed to do, count your pages? Trust me, any writer would take one great page over 10 pages of slop any day.

I quickly learned how to gauge progress using other guidelines. A good day of research was valuable. Generating good ideas was valuable. Heck…even generating bad ideas was worthwhile. Sorting through my thoughts was extremely valuable. One of the things you learn as a writer is that muddled writing is a result of muddled thinking. If you want to write well, you need to have a clear understanding in your own mind of what it is you want to say.

So how, then, do we measure progress when we’re doing business development?

Many of my clients are wading into the biz dev world for the first time in years–maybe even the first time in their career. I’m no different, and I recognize the difficulty, the frustration and even the discouragement that can come from spending so much of your time on the phone reaching out to people and pitching ideas.

How do you know you’ve had a good day when not one single person you’ve talked to said “Yes, we want to hire you. When can you get started?”

Two things I’ve been telling my clients.

First. Manage your expectations by developing a long-term view of things. Selling services, especially expensive ones like accounting, will take a long time. Recognize that there is a sequential process you need to work through.

1. Awareness. People have to know about what you’re doing

2. Shape opinion. They have to understand their needs and come to believe that you can provide value and help them achieve their goals

3. Call to action. Agree on terms and close the deal

It’s important to recognize what phase you’re in and measure progress against that phase. Work on making incremental progress to get to the next phase.

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The other piece of advice I have is to remember that your communication with clients and prospects is a two-way street. Spend as much time listening as you do talking. Listen carefully to what your prospects are telling you and use that knowledge to better understand their needs and to refine your messaging.

People look to you for advice. More than half the calls I make, people ask me “what are you seeing out there? What are your thoughts on what’s happening?” These are great questions to be getting. It shows that people regard you as a thought leader. You want these questions.

You need to be able to answer them, and the only way to do that is by getting out there, talking to people and listening to their story.

I had a great call with a client yesterday. And all that came of it was a vague promise that we’d talk again in a few weeks. The best part of the call was what I learned from her about her business, her challenges and the direction she wanted to take her firm.

Did I have the answers? No. But I had some thoughts and some things I shared that I’d learned from talking to other clients just like her.

In time, I’m sure only good things will come of all this.