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Business Development in the 21st Century

Business Development in the 21st Century

Business development in the 21st century… when you started in the 20th! It is amazing that you can really teach an old dog new tricks when it comes to ways to search out clients, stay in touch with past accounts, and it is somewhat easier than in the “past” – but a few of the tried and true ways still work and can be married to new technology – you just have to get past the argument “but this is how I’ve always done it and it’s worked well” or “our products and services don’t lend themselves to the impersonal connections”.

I used to have a ritual that some of you may have used – the business magazines would include “bingo” cards in certain issues during the year – publications like Forbes (always a great source for gleaning info on corporations, business trends, who was merging or acquiring other firms – remember, that was big in the 80s) would offer to send you annual reports – you just checked off which ones were of interest. You had to be careful to not ask for too many at one time or the fulfillment staff would cut you off – it was a little game you played. It would be exciting when your package arrived in the mail several weeks later, so you could devour the leadership info, what companies they had added over the past year in their portfolio that made no sense together –pest control products and candy, or snack foods and RV trailers – that’s another story for another time – and see where there might be a need for your services. You can see the pattern – a lot of time consuming research and waiting for information – now you follow key publications on Twitter and download only what you want to read or go the company website and download any info you want – score one for technology and social media – definitely not something to go back to the old ways of doing it.

Then there was all the fun of a file folder for each client that you manually put into a follow up system with a trace card – you indicated when you wanted that file pulled – possibly timing it for the end of the company’s annual meeting so you could get their attention when beginning plans for the following year, or if you read that something was going to happen at the firm, they might need an executive meeting – lots of staying on top of the business world in a timely fashion and all done manually. An old expression was popular if you were overwhelmed by the tediousness of staying on top of things – “if you can’t face ‘em, just trace ‘em”. Today, you just have an electronic trace system with all the info at your fingertips for next steps – yikes, why didn’t we have this sooner? Score another one for technology.

With so many ways to be connected – there really is no excuse to not know key moments for your clients, those folks that already work with you and those people you want to get to know. LinkedIn, for example, is a favorite for learning where your clients are if they’ve made a transition – remember how hard that was if they didn’t let you know they moved to another firm – a lot of time wasted tracking them down. Now, there is no reason to ignore acknowledgements of birthdays, work anniversaries, company changes, marriage, retirements – all those things you had to chase by phone and put in your paper filing system. Another big score for today’s media programs and technology – I think by now you see this trend for embracing all the new tools to continue to build strong relationships – it doesn’t eliminate the human touch or your ability to stay personally involved – it makes it even easier!

Harvey Mackay wrote a book, Swim with the Sharks, that shared a 66-question customer profile – a great tool in its day to really get to know your clients – time consuming to capture this info – now so much is at your fingertips – material that you can include in your working knowledge of your clients – shows you care enough about them – and the bottom line is people like doing business with people who genuinely care – today’s tools are a wonderful support mechanism. You still have to make the calls and write the letters or emails – but you are armed with so much more knowledge – no excuses!

Shirley Decker
Drawing on over 25+ years of experience in the hospitality industry as a certified hotel sales executive and several years as a Disney executive, Shirley is responsible for directing business development at IDEAS.