As I write this post, it's the last week of August and many business managers are catching that last bit of relaxation before they start the mad dash to hit their year-end revenue goals.
But the fact that it's August doesn't really matter. There are 3 business development basics that you should periodically review to keep you on track towards hitting your year-end numbers.
1. How far off are you?
This is the fundamental question that everyone who is responsible for hitting a revenue goal should ask.
If you're on track to hit your annual business development goal, now is not the time to pat yourself on the back and take the rest of the year off. Unless you've already hit your year-end goal, there's one question you need to ask yourself.
Do I have a sufficient sales pipeline to carry myself over the finish line?
In the professional services industry, many of us have low deal targets with high deal values. The nature of our business is such that revenue generation is less predictable than an SaaS business, for example. Just because you're sitting pretty at the end of the third quarter doesn't mean it's a lock to hit your goal. But if you have a healthy pipeline, you can focus on closing enough of it to hit your number.
If you don't have sufficient pipeline to hit your number, that's an entirely different matter. You have to think about re-focusing your lead generation tactics to fill your pipeline as quickly as possible. For most knowledge-industry businesses, this means investing more in PPC advertising and/or paid social media advertising like LinkedIn sponsored updates.
Another thing to consider is seasonality. For example, 70% of corporate insurance policies renew on January 1. Insurance brokers know that they need to get deals in place prior to January 1 as businesses start working through the renewal process.
2. Which of my marketing channels have been most productive?
This is something that should be part of your monthly business review process. It's particularly important as you close out the year and reach for your goal.
In my business, I've defined 5 marketing channels:
- Inbound lead generation
- Outbound lead generation (primarily email prospecting)
- Networking channel that I'm deeply involved in
- Paid social and PPC
So the questions are:
- Which channels have been most effective?
- Which channels can I impact in the short-term?
Inbound lead generation, which primarily consists of content marketing, is something that takes time to build. In my case, I have a consistent inbound lead generation channel developed over 5 years of consistent content marketing. I can't really change much by the end of the year. But it's a consistent source of leads for my company, so I will continue my content marketing to ensure the leads keep coming in.
Outbound lead generation is something that I can ramp up in the short-term. It has lower conversation rates than inbound marketing, so the return on my increased effort is not guaranteed. But I can go out and send highly targeted emails to qualified buyers to help fill my pipeline and hit my revenue goals. The emails will contain links to my inbound content that relates directly to the buyer I'm approaching.
My trade association networking group is an important element of my business development plan, but it's not something that can be counted on to fill my pipeline in the short-term. I will continue to be active in this group and will hopefully generate some opportunities.
Referrals are an important source of business for most knowledge-based businesses (professional services and technology.) Now is a good time to go out and ask satisfied customers for referrals. In most cases, you have to ask to get referrals. I recommend strategizing a way to maximize referrals. One tactic is to reach out to customers to do review their satisfaction with your service. If that process determines that they are happy with your service, it's a great time to ask, "do you know anyone else who might benefit from working with us?"
The paid advertising channels are something that can be ramped up very quickly. It's like a spigot, pay for the advertising and the water starts flowing. Stop paying and it turns off. This is the go-to method if you really need to fill up your pipeline quickly. Proceed with caution! If you don't strategize your paid advertising carefully, you can waste a lot of money quickly.
This is the kind of analysis you need to undertake in your business development process to raise your chances of hitting your year-end goals.
3. Are my SMART goals realistic?
One of the biggest dangers of goal-setting is to set unrealistic goals. The unavoidable consequence of setting unrealistic goals is that you're not going to achieve them. And if you base other decisions on hitting unrealistic goals, this is a big problem.
For example, if you hired three new customer service employees based on your unrealistic goals, you're probably going to have to let somebody go. The best case scenario is that you will need them later than you thought and you may have to pay them when they're not at full capacity.
At this point, there's not much you can do about that unrealistic goal besides evaluating the potential consequences and how to deal with them. Learn the lesson as you work through your goal-setting process for the upcoming year.
The best way to avoid year-end problems is to have a well-defined sales process that is reviewed monthly. This keeps you from needing to make radical adjustments and investments in paid advertising at the end of the year. Need a little help hitting your year-end goals? Schedule a free consultation with me.