Selling: Not enough or too much?

How much time are you spending developing business?

I was speaking with a very busy non-profit executive the other day, discussing how he’s juggling all of the demands on his time.

“How much time are you spending on fundraising?” I asked.

“Not enough,” he answered.

After a pause he added, “but too much.”

I immediately understood what he meant. He must not be spending enough time on fundraising, because his organization still needs to raise more money to meet its goals. But fundraising is swallowing up a significant amount of his time, keeping him from doing other things.

This non-profit executive could have been a lawyer, architect, banker, CEO or just about any other type of executive, professional, business owner or entrepreneur who includes business development in his or her long list of responsibilities. Most of our businesses have the need for more customers and the need for more business from existing customers. And it is always a struggle to allocate the right amount of time to developing business.

We feel we’re not spending enough time selling. But we also feel we spend too much time selling.

So what is the “right” amount of time to spend developing business, from both new and existing customers? How do you balance “not enough” and “too much?”

The answer has little to do with spending more or less time. It has to do with the way that time is spent, and how effective someone is at using that business development time. Here are four key ideas to help find that balance:

1. Know what you are trying to accomplish

Yes, this seems pretty basic, but most people who say they want “more” have not articulated what “more” means. The first step to effectiveness is to create a clear picture of success, so you can be sure that all of your efforts are aimed in the right direction.

If our non-profit executive wants to raise $5 million, he first needs to determine if the optimal, most-likely scenario is five $1 million donations, 5000 $1000 donations, or some combination thereof.

If an attorney wants to bill $1M this year, he shouldn’t start spending time on selling until he gets an idea of the optimal mix of cases and matters that could make up that $1M. What is most available in the marketplace? What matches his skills, interests and competitive advantage? What kind of business is most profitable?

I have learned much from Yogi Berra’s aphorism, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Amen.

Watch my video “Unleash Your Latent Profit” for more information on this topic.

2. Know who your customers are,
and who they aren’t

A sales call with a bad prospect takes as much time as a call with a good prospect. It’s that simple.

Yet many (most) people waste time on other people who should not be their customers. An alarm goes off in my mind every time I hear someone say, “Anyone could be our customer.” Yes, it may be true, but what are you going to do about it? Spread yourself a mile wide and an inch deep, and connect with nobody?

3. Know your story

Time isn’t your only scarce, rationed resource. Your customer’s attention is a resource that is extremely limited. When you have access to a customer’s attention, use it wisely.

Be very clear about the brand impressions you want to leave with a customer after a meeting. It is a shame to expend all of the energy and time to set up a meeting and have the meeting, only to realize that the customer doesn’t have a clear idea of what you can do for him when the meeting is over.

4. Ditch the pitch

The biggest way to waste your time once you are with a customer is to bore them and lose their attention. Talking to someone who isn’t listening is always a bad use of time.

Truth: People don’t listen to sales pitches. If you present a pre-scripted monologue about yourself to a customer, she will not be engaged. If you want to engage a customer, and have her develop an interest in doing business with you, you must engage her in a sales conversation. Don’t throw a sales pitch at her.

Sure, there are many other things you can focus on to help you find the balance between “not enough” and “too much.” But if you practice the ideas presented in this article, you will not only find that your time is better spent, you will also find that you are developing more business.

My hope is that you, and the non-profit executive I wrote about above, are soon saying, “Just enough, and not too much.”

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