Keep the Business in Business Development

Sales is a delicate art, especially in the communications business. Having played a dual role of CEO and Director of Business Development over the past 16 years, I’d like to think I have a pretty good grip on how to develop relationships and drive business in an authentic and creative way. Though I don’t want to offend anyone in the field or seem like I’m speaking from an ‘ivory tower,’ I just have to call a timeout and provide some thoughts on this new-age sales development I’m witness to dozens of times a day.

This needle in my ‘paw’ is the incredible informality that 90% of those approaching me to partner with their companies are using. Email after email, there is a big ‘hey buddy’ vibe that permeates from these horrible form emails. And I just don’t get it.

When did this happen? Would someone meeting with me to discuss working with my agency high five me before a meeting started? Or fist-bump me? I doubt it. Yet, in almost every email I receive, the approach is incredibly casual.

Call me old school, but this is the last way someone should approach anyone in business. I’m definitely no stiff, but if you really want our business, I’d suggest a few things:

  1. Research the hell out of us. What is our brand? What does our client base look like? Where do you see an area where your company actually could help us? Are we a fit?
  2. Drop the informality. I’m not looking for Dear Sir, but come on folks. I’m in business and I’m not your buddy. We are a serious agency with no time for emails that are filled with bad punch lines.
  3. Consider the power of physical mail. Emails are easy to delete. Physical mail slightly more difficult to throw out. FedEx’s have an especially powerful way of sticking out on my desk.
  4. Keep it short. Whether an email or letter, anything more than 3-4 sentences isn’t going to be read.
  5. Get creative. You’re supposed to be in the communications business. To that end, if you don’t have the ability to stick out from the pack, I’d suggest getting out of the game.
  6. Be persistent. And by that, please stop ‘floating your email to the top of my inbox’ (this is an actual approach I see about a dozen times a week).
  7. Spread the infield. There are a number of ‘Cats here. Are you only approaching the C-Suite? Think bigger, perhaps you might have better luck getting the attention of someone in our digital or design division.
  8. Be specific. Do you see an opportunity to assist us on a particular client matter? To simply cast a wide net that your company is the perfect solution for every client challenge, you’re kidding yourself.
  9. Get out there. Please push away from your desk and get out to networking events. Putting a face to a company only bolsters your presence.
  10. Keep your sense of humor intact. It is a tough business and every success is built from a mountain of ‘no’s.’ Remember the adage, ‘Some will, some won’t, who’s next?’

I wish you luck in your future of developing business the right way – authentically and formally!

-P. Madden, Top Cat