B2B International

October 9, 2013

In a downturn, you have to adopt the right state of mind, says Renne Botham at Touchstone Growth

Running a business is a challenge, like no other. Chances are you spend more time at work than you do at home; you can at times be more in touch with your colleagues than with your friends; and with modern technology, a need to know what is going on when you are not at work, may give you little space for ‘you’ time!

Who said it would be easy? And to compound it there is the ‘R’ word! Recession is very real; however, it can also be a mantra for failure! Some of you will recall the recession 20 years ago; I certainly do. Can we compare this with the last? It certainly didn’t have the global implications; personally I think it is a very different kind of recession, however, just like then, there will be survivors – those who don’t just make it through, they also use this as a way to grow their business – and losers. I recall Lord Kalms, founder of DSGi, saying that he used the time when things were tough economically to really push ahead, because once the waves calmed he was way ahead of his competitors. I consider this to be sound advice from one of the UK’s most pioneering, formidable and successful businessmen.

So my call to you is: what is your plan to be? Because make no mistake, it is about planning.

Plans don’t stop at reducing headcount or wishing/hoping for a pick-up in your profit margins. What is required is careful consideration of what you want your business to look like. How big do you want your business to be – the shape of it, what are your plans for the business; grow to sell, plan for an MBO? Whatever this is, it must be in the forefront of your mind, should shape your actions and be actively discussed with your colleagues and stakeholders.

I thought it might be a good idea in this article to provide a checklist of just some of the important considerations needed to win new business.

What’s my plan?

Here, I would recommend you think about the following:

  • Who are our current clients?
  • What sectors (if appropriate), geography, size/turnover do we currently work in?
  • Who are our most profitable clients and why?
  • Why do they work with us?
  • Formulate who we want to be working with and why (some clients may be prestigious – can you afford this as a criteria right now)?

Setting time aside – weekly

Each week an hour minimum must be set aside, religiously.

Too often I hear these meetings being postponed for the ‘here and now’ – not good enough! If you are well organized and colleagues clearly understand their responsibilities in maintaining a great relationship and are on top of your clients’ needs, this shouldn’t happen.

Nor is a weekly meeting about assessing who you are currently pitching (bidding) for. This needs to take place, but not within this time. What you should be discussing needs to include:

  • Who are our competitors and who are they working with?
  • What are our distinguishing features? Note I do not use the term USP (unique selling point); they disappear as soon as your competitors get wind of them. It’s more about what makes you special.
  • How the business is positioned in our market space; are our customers/clients and potential clients clear about what our brand stands for?
  • Having clarified who you wish to be talking with, what is your ‘story’ and is it strong enough for someone to say ‘you know what, I really think it would be useful to set time aside to meet with you’?
  • How are you going to reach the list of contacts/companies that you have identified as potential clients?
  • How are you talking to them? Your message has to be ‘with’ them not ‘to’ them – think about the difference and review your own literature!
  • Are your messages consistent throughout the business?
  • Review of activity adding further intelligence regarding all the points above – what’s working, what’s not? Is your message strong enough or does it need adapting? Is it current – fulfilling the issues that your potential clients are facing today and tomorrow?

Who is responsible for all of this?

New business is not only about having great interpersonal skills. The person responsible needs to be brave (to face rejections), tenacious (yet knowing when to back away), vigilant and persistent (because sometimes this is about getting the ‘timing’ right).

How you keep track of your activity is vital

There is nothing worse than:

  • a prospect getting five different messages from five different people within your organization;
  • contacting someone who already has a relationship with another person in your company – or, even worse, is a current client;
  • there is a ‘history’ that you are unaware of;
  • you miss a deadline when a buying decision is being made;
  • you don’t keep a track of the history of the call to be made; including any personal data that is useful in the whole relationship-building process.

To conclude and returning to the introduction to this article, ‘Business growth is a state of mind’.

To be successful requires all of the above and something more. It needs YOU.

Your people, stakeholders and clients need to truly believe in you. Surround yourself with positive-thinking people who are as passionate as you are about what your company stands for. If they are not, are you partially to blame for not providing them with the necessary tools or not listening to what their individual needs are? Have you and your top management the ability to delegate, or are you spreading yourself too thin to a point where nothing gets completed? And finally, for now, are you taking time out? A problem walked away from for a time can often be seen in a new light. I set up my business over 20 years ago and my concept of ‘work-life balance’ was revolutionary at the time. The reality is that taking care of yourself, your people and your family, makes you a much more effective, ‘real’ person to work with. In an age of cynicism, wouldn’t you rather be working with, surrounded by, people you trust, enjoy and are confident with – because that is the key to understanding why people will work with you.

About the author

Renee Botham is chairman of Touchstone Growth. She established the company 20 years ago to create opportunities through strategic advice and practical implementation (making meetings). Her empathetic team has strong corporate backgrounds; all are articulate and engaging. Touchstone supports clients across a wide range of B2B business sectors, including Top 3 management consultants, professional services, marcomms and the IT industry.

Her special field is consultancy in supporting clients to build the foundations before carrying out their business growth initiatives. Contact: renneb@touchstonegrowth.com.