Even though the bad business development habits of B2B and B2G companies are different, in many cases the cure is the same.
Some of the bad habits that B2B companies tend to fall into include:
- Thinking that if they just build a great product, customers will happen. This is especially true of startups, who have a tendency to think about what they want to do or build instead of who is going to buy it. More businesses fail for this reason than because they had bad products.
- Not developing a pipeline because they see everyone as potential customers and they reach out to them all. A pipeline or a funnel works by reducing limiting the number of potential customers to the ones who are most likely to buy through a process of qualification. Once you start paying attention to your pipeline, it becomes clear that you don’t just want to feed it anything. It teaches you to become selective. More focused. Better.
- Thinking that advertising and marketing are the same thing. Marketing involves picking your potential customers out of the crowd and bringing them into contact with your sales force. Advertising is only one of the techniques that marketing uses to identify who the potential customers are.
- Thinking that sales and marketing are the same thing. Marketing is about identifying and attracting customers. Sales is about closing the deal. While they must work together, they use different messages and different techniques.
Some of the bad habits that B2G companies tend to fall into include:
- Looking for RFP releases instead of customer relationships. Businesses that do this do not define themselves. The RFPs they stumble across are what defines them.
- Not developing a pipeline because all they think they need is a list of upcoming RFPs. For B2G companies, a pipeline can quantify the success of your lead qualification efforts. Companies that don’t pay attention to their pipeline tend to have poor lead qualification.
- Thinking that marketing means name recognition. B2G companies can often get away with not working to attract the customer. Instead they go to the list of RFPs and pick which ones to bid. They put little or no effort into marketing, and never develop any knowledge about it or expertise in it. What they call “marketing” is often limited to brochures and trade shows. At the same time, they have risk-averse customers where trust is critical to winning and an information advantage is a competitive advantage. Understanding marketing, especially relationship marketing, is important for B2G success.
- Being whatever they think they need to be to win the next RFP. Companies that offer services are especially prone to this. They can bid anything they can hire staff to do. This often results in the capabilities of the company being defined by what they bid and happen to win.
What both B2B and B2G companies do and what is at the heart of their bad habits is that they jump straight into prospecting as a way to find customers. The cure for both B2B and B2G companies with these bad habits is the same. They need to look at getting customers as more than a single step. They need to develop customers through more than random contacts or picking RFPs to bid.
It starts by looking strategically at where your customers will come from. Out of this analysis you select targets. You prospect for new customers within your targets. If your company jumps straight to prospecting, then not only is it missing a few steps, it's risking its future effectiveness. Your strategic goals and targets act as a filter, and focus your customer development efforts so that your relationships, capabilities, and presence reinforce each other. Your company will grow and best fulfill its potential when instead of randomly adding customers, you add customers better.
You can improve your focus by charting and annotating your pipeline. When you chart how many customers you've identified, how many are lost as you qualify those leads, how many remain when it is time to submit a bid, and how many bids you win, this forms your pipeline. Just simply having a pipeline forces you to ask: Where do you get the leads you start with? How many leads do you reject, and why? How successful are you at bidding what’s left? Those questions provide vital feedback for improvement.
The Readiness Review methodology that is in the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase expands on those questions and shows you how to set up your pipeline. It also takes it further to show you how to turn it into a sophisticated metrics system to really get scientific about bidding.
But simply charting your pipeline will force you to identify your customers and go after them in more effective ways. If you look at business growth as just a matter of getting more customers or submitting more bids, you never come to terms with how to do it effectively. If your company is struggling with its identity, is unfocused, or is too opportunistic, don’t try writing a new mission statement. Instead, try creating and understanding your pipeline.
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