KRC Learnings #7: Open Doors with Decision Makers

February 26, 2021 Jeannie Ruesch

The partners at Klein, Rowe, & Co (KRC) have done an excellent job growing the business over the years. But, like most motivated and driven entrepreneurs, they hit the “growth ceiling” at about the five-year mark. There were many issues that attributed to the firm’s growth stall, including staff unrest and turnover, failure to adopt a true cloud-based tech stack, and lack of focus on building a structured, targeted prospecting strategy within the overall business development program. 

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Join Klein, Rowe & Co, our fictional case study firm, as they learn from our Automating Success webinar series.  In each webinar, our thought leaders will share their expertise on how this firm might address those challenges.  In each KRC follow-up, we'll share with you what our fictional firm has learned and the next steps they might take to reimagine their firm.   Please note: this case study and follow-up articles are fictional and intended for entertainment and educational purposes only.   

In this week’s Automating Success webinar, “Prospecting strategies to open doors with decision makers,” KRC partners looked forward to picking up key tips and strategies to enhance their prospecting efforts. The main goal: redefine the firm’s business development and sales model to better engage decision makers and convert them to clients with more ease.

Realizing the need to improve the firm’s ability to engage key decision makers, KRC partners Martha and Martin focused on the following areas of improvement:

Define target markets for outbound prospecting—The key here is to build your prospect lists (or refined existing lists) so you target the clients you both like to serve and want to serve. The days of taking any client who walks through the door are over; it’s time to engage and attract clients that adhere to your firm’s business model. This can include a specific vertical (e.g., law firms, non-profits), those who meet a set revenue threshold (e.g., you only take on high-net-worth clients), and/or those willing to work within your technology platform. It’s important to define the type of clients you want to attract before you ever start outbound efforts.

Adopt strategies to improve prospecting results—Improving prospecting results relies heavily on intelligence. That is, the intelligence (or data) you collect about your target market. The more you know, the easier it is to start the conversation with decision makers. For example, do you understand the prospective client’s vision, challenges, initiatives and annual goals? Do you understand the trends occurring within the given industry? The more you know upfront, the more likely you are to not only attract the right type of clients but also to engage decision makers. 

Refine messaging to open doors with decision makers—This is tied to improving prospecting results. Once you’ve done your homework and have gathered prospective client intelligence, you can better develop messaging that will resonate with your target audience. Messaging should speak to your audience’s pain points and provide deeper insight into helping them resolve common challenges. By refining your messaging, you are far more likely to be “heard” and open doors with decision makers.

What KRC learned…

The partners walked away having picked up five key strategies to enhance the firm’s business development and sales initiatives as well as a few major lessons:

Five strategies:

Focus on verticals: Defining specific verticals has many benefits. First, it allows you to focus on select niches (e.g., law firms, non-profits) and then corner those markets. Second, it enables you to build expertise and offer services that are scalable across the entire vertical, helping accelerate growth. Finally, it allows you to align everything from prospecting and marketing messaging to higher-level thought leadership so you begin to realize a lower opportunity cost with a higher return on investment.

Build strategic alliances: Building alliances helps firms get further faster by building single sources for multiple referrals. To build alliances, start by looking at complimentary industries that support your chosen verticals and those within them that can serve as trusted sources. Alliance partners can deliver prospects to your door via “warm” introductions.

Define your process: Failure to build a sound business development program can often be attributed to process inconsistencies. To correct this, consider adopting tactics such as: creating a uniform outreach structure (e.g., 3+3+3 = three calls, three emails, three times per week), blocking chunks of time to devote solely to business development efforts, implementing a CRM (Client Relation Management) system to track progress and follow-up with prospects, and monitoring trigger events that offer an opportunity to continue conversations.

Monitor trigger events: A trigger event is a significant change to the status quo that indicates the need for a conversation. Trigger events are important because they offer an opportunity to overcome a prospect's innate resistance to change. Such events can include a shake up in the industry, a change in leadership within an organization and current world events. The pandemic is the most notable trigger event of recent, offering a huge opportunity for firms to advise on PPP and other economic assistance loan programs.

Work to earn conversations: The combination of the above strategies help you earn conversations time prospects. This includes leveraging those warm connections from strategic alliance partners, maintaining a focus on solving common pain points for prospects (specific to the client and the vertical overall), and building relevant and timely thought leadership to pique interest in continuing conversations.

Top lessons:

Business development is not an afterthought. The partners stated: “The firm’s history with prospecting efforts is best described as fractured. Our record has been to send out a few infrequent emails during the year. We now understand that data holds the key to deeper client insight and building alliances opens up major lead channels. We need to make changes in this area of our business model.”

Prospecting requires a strategy. Prospecting should be thought of as “intentional outreach.” The firm must be intentional about the process of gathering intelligence and developing messaging that will spark conversation with decision makers.

The partners added: “It’s our job to get to know our prospects before we ever send that first communication or make initial contact. Going to prospects with messaging and thought leadership that is spot on is how you open doors.”

Progress requires adopting a mindset for success—Adopting the right outlook is important as you start outreach efforts because prospecting is not easy. The most successful firms have transitioned to a mindset of agility, structure, optimism, persistence, competitiveness and emotional management. Agility requires firms to do their homework so they can answer prospects’ questions quickly and confidently. Structure ensures your process and messaging are organized. And because prospecting comes with its fair share of rejection, maintaining a mindset that is optimistic, persistent, competitive and emotionally balanced is also critical.

KRC action items…

Continuing down the path of renewal, KRC partners developed another list of action items. To enhance their business development program, the following represents the next set of to-dos:

  • Identify a business development task force that will meet weekly to define the firm’s new broad strategy.
  • Identify a champion within this group to ensure goals are set and progress is made throughout the year.
  • As part of task force duties, define the sub-strategy for collecting intelligence on ideal prospects (e.g., specific vertical markets). This can be used as a template across verticals.
  • As part of task force duties, define the sub-strategy for identifying and building strategic alliances.
  • Once prospect strategy has been defined, communicate the firm’s updated messaging and goals to all staff.
  • Assign one of the partners to oversee this effort, meeting with the task force champion at least monthly.

Check back regularly to learn how KRC is progressing. In the meantime, feel free to use any of the ideas listed above to help improve your prospecting efforts and open doors with decision makers.

About the Author

Jeannie Ruesch

Jeannie is the Director of Marketing at Bill.com. Jeannie has over 20 years in brand creation and strategy, design, social media development, demand gen and customer marketing. She has taken companies perceived as local businesses to attention-grabbing national and global brands. She's a tech geek at heart and loves finding ways to help customers solve problems. Jeannie is also an author and award-winning graphic designer.

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January 2021 - Release highlights