What Works and What Doesn’t in Business Development


A compendium of advice from our Principals and Advisors on tried and true tactics and new trends

There are numerous trends impacting the sales process or the ‘path to purchase’ in all businesses today. There is an old quote which states that “nothing happens until a sale is made”, which reflects a simpler time when competition was less, technology was restricted to a land line telephone, and you just needed to hire a slick talking sales person who could pick up the phone or knock on doors. Times have changed dramatically, to the point you could argue, that today everything happens before the sale is made!! Knowing your product, your competition, your target customer, your pricing, your distribution channels, your supply chain, and so much more needs to be in place before making the sale. The sale is really one step near the end of the path to purchase for most companies. The sale is really just a confirmation or affirmation that the engagement you have established with a client is valued. The client will continue along your company’s cyclical path to purchase model after the sale is made, by sharing and bragging about their purchase decision with friends and family, referring new business to the company, providing testimonials (content for your sales efforts) and then becoming a knowledgeable and predisposed buyer who again enters the front end of the path to purchase as another need arises. - Randy Williams, Principal

In today's world, we are losing human to human contact as technology advances. If a client asks you for help, sit down with them and listen. You might solve the issue in the meeting, and if you can't, you will know what they want. Having them explain in an email can be time-consuming and confusing. You can’t be everything to everyone, so focus on what you can solve. If you can’t help them directly recommend someone that can. If you don’t have the product, then send them to someone who does. They will respect your honesty, and this is the cornerstone of trust. Trust is the hardest thing to achieve; it takes years to build and only seconds to lose. - Jade Alberts, Sr. Advisor

Lead generation. Knocking on doors and cold calling still works but to a much smaller degree and is becoming frowned upon. When was the last time you were happy when someone came knocking on your door or calling you out of the blue on your cell phone? Lead generation programs should be designed around knowing who you are targeting and knowing what they are interested in. Effective digital marketing and lead generation is becoming very powerful and can even carry the customer through to conversion/fulfillment. - Pete LaFontaine, Sr Advisor

Asking the right questions is fundamental at any stage of the business development process. Throwing enough at the wall with the hope that something sticks should have disappeared decades ago but I still see it with those who try to interact with me as a buyer. As a seller, I don’t want to waste my time or my clients. By the time I reach the proposal stage I want to be 80% assured that a services contract can be generated. Along the path to proposal I am careful to ask if anything has changed for the client. This is a week to week economy. Personal and personnel issues could also quickly alter the dynamics. I want to understand what options the client could be considering so that I can position my service appropriately. - Mark Olson, Principal

If one defines BD as "sales and marketing” of existing products/services, then the use of customer relationship management platforms, efficiency of same and integrated data systems and processes are all key dynamics. Take for example the new border control process at the new Calgary international terminal where you scan your passport in a kiosk and then hand the print out to the officer as you walk out. Another “self-serve” example is McDonald's kiosks to order your favorite burger, or the checkout scanners that have been in place at the Canadian Tires and Safeway for years. To build on the “trust” theme, there’s a tradeoff and some type of marriage between digital platforms and the human element (see first point). I see a trend in the demand for speed and efficiency. Quality is still required at some point in the process, as a lack of quality eventually creates inefficiency, so perhaps quality is table stakes. Digital platforms have enabled mass customization. Consider dating services (will be interesting to see stats over the decades). Consumers can gather huge amounts of data before they go into the trust and validation phase where the human element comes into it. Think of how one buys and sells houses now. You explore the market online, visit show-homes etc, then engage an agent, and perhaps a number of them until you find one you “trust”. Once that trust is established it’s game on!  -  Norm Dreger, Principal

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What's New

We are pleased to announce that Osborne Interim Management will be providing services to Habitat for Humanity - Red Deer. Osborne’s Principal will provide interim Executive Director services on a fractional basis and assist with the recruitment and transition to a new full time ED.

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