What you can get from Sponge NB

Everything we do is done to find you new clients. We do the obvious things (I’ll list some of them below) and we do some less obvious things (I’ll list some of them below). We cost the same as hiring a full-timer and you get a fully-functioning business development department.

THINGS WE'LL DO

-    Research your prospects properly before contacting them.
-    Research you properly before contacting anyone for you.
-    Make really smart, non-salesy calls. Ask questions on those calls. Listen a lot on those calls. Not make too many of those calls.
-    Write readable, snappy, professional emails. Individual ones. Not some bulk-mailer “look, we’ve discovered Mailchimp” email/newsletter that any prospect deletes immediately. 
-    Consult properly for you. We have a vastly experienced project manager and sales trainer to make things work well. We have an ex-Global Marketing Director and Copywriter here, so your written communications are remarkable. We're not bashing out calls here.
-    Build sensible, well-managed databases. Refresh them often. Update them constantly.
-    Report honestly and usefully. 
-    Never enshroud our efforts in meaningless stats, graphs and numbers designed to provide false reassurance and keep the project running, even if it really needs reviewing/improving/sacking off. If it needs fixing, we’ll say so. Loudly.
-    Make sure you never think “I wonder what Sponge are up to?”. Speak to you regularly, but concisely. You don’t have time for fluff. You do have time to know what’s working and what’s not.
-    Conduct a really enjoyable and informative briefing day. We don’t need to learn “what you do”. If that’s not clear on your web site, we’ll be helping to make sure it becomes clear. We want to know your people, culture, language, highs/lows, hobbies, least favourite client. The stuff we’d know if we worked there.
-    Offer the benefit of our owner Steve’s experience – 15+ years of agency business development.
-    Find opportunities worth having. If it’s a meeting, one with an agenda, where we’ve asked about budgets. We average a couple of those a month for clients (that’s a historic number, so it might not be what you get. Some very large clients have seen fewer, some clients have seen far more).
-    Help you follow up those opportunities. Not pester, just keep up to date with.
-    Offer training if you want it. You might not need it but we can help polish even a decent business developer’s approach.
-    Give you a chunk of code for your web site so we (and you) know which companies have been on your web site. 
-    Think of smart things to make things happen for you. For example, we found a way to increase the number of senior marketers at larger companies with whom we could secure conversations. It takes an hour or two and you can then use it every day forever. 
-    Sell you actual things we’ll really do - however fuzzy - rather than impossible promises. Whatever you think of our web site, our size, our clunky logo, our address or our team photos, give us a call and you’ll only ever be sold the things we do every day. No inflated outcomes, no crazy KPIs . Honesty. 
-    Celebrate the wins we find for you and genuinely beat ourselves up when we don’t win. Our culture is to give a hoot. 

If you’re doing well in your business development endeavours, call us. Don’t’ wait until things are going badly. We can’t wave a magic wand, nor will we be likely to find really quick wins. If things are going badly, we can help you plan the right next steps. When things are comfortably plateauing, or growing nicely, we’re in a great position to help grow your company using a sensible, sustained approach.
 

How did Business Development get such a horrible reputation?

Whether it's the band of Business Development Agencies (of which we're one), the endless Business Development freelancers or the super-keen in-house new business person, the choices an agency's MD has when choosing the right business development route are fraught with danger (in terms of more than just the money it costs - when it doesn't work out, it costs time and nudges an agency's plans back further and further).  There are many reasons a new business effort can fail, but there's one that is easy to solve and makes a big difference. It's a big part of the reasons than business development has the reputation it currently "enjoys". 

What is it?

Targets. Well, inappropriate targets. Too many Sales Managers, company bosses and Business Developers believe that the numbers game is how results are achieved. There are rooms full of talented, intelligent people being bellowed at, instant-messaged or emailed the same sentiment: MAKE MORE CALLS! I worked for a large membership organisation where 150 calls a day were demanded. That’s at the lower end of things. One of the Sponge NB (my Business Development Agency) team worked in a role where 300 calls a day was the task that greeted them  as they approached their desk. Hardly the sort of thing that’s going to result in motivated, enthusiastic workers. Numerical targets are of course the simplest way to measure a salesperson’s success. If they’re generating direct sales, selling memberships (or any other transaction) there and then on the phone, then counting the numbers at the end will of course tell you whether they sold a lot or a little. The problem is that they are unlikely to have achieved anything because of an arbitrary "higher is better" target. Intelligent, motivated business development people strive for more whether a target is there or not. They don't look to meet targets, they look for outcomes and then find the route to that outcome. 

The owner of a new business uses enthusiasm, relevant questioning, malleability of proposition, confidence, speed of speech, tone of voice and willingness to close. That's on every call, email or contact with a prospect. It barely matters how many times a day that happens, but what's certain is that "as many times as possible" isn't necessarily the right approach. Entrepreneurs finding their first few clients do things like "clear their head". They make time to research and understand each prospect. They build relationships with prospects until they don't really like calling them prospects (I've never thought of the little band of people I stay in touch with and show a genuine interest in as "prospects"). The progression from lead, through to client can often go via "friend" in some cases. Retrospectively that'll look just like "sales", but the term seems to sully the relationship that's there. Nonetheless, "sales" is what happened.

There's a problem - that can't happen 150-300 times a day. And so "prospects" don't hear the sort of approach that comes from someone actually giving a monkeys about them or their company. That awful approach will be the 10th one of the day. What chance do you think you've got?

But Business Development Agencies, freelancers and in-house Business Developers want to show the Agency boss that they're busy, so they smash out 150+ calls, filling reports with things like "Left a voicemail, calling back on Tuesday", as if that's any sort of outcome.

Targets need to be longer term and focused on outcomes. There's no point worrying about call stats beyond a fairly conservative number. We once resigned a client who called our Account Manager three times to find out how many calls they'd made since the last time they'd called her. It sounds extreme, but it can be seen in a great many agency owners. Targets are there to guide and then measure, not to destroy enthusiasm and morale, or to decide in isolation whether something/someone is working out. If the very targets you've put in place lead to irritated prospects and business developers, then what chance do your calls and emails have? 

Many people talk about "winning without pitching". It's essential to have an outbound sales effort, but it doesn't have to look like "pitching" often does. Sales shouldn't be adversarial - it should be conversational. Your outbound endeavours are tougher to convert than referrals, incoming leads or "little black book" wins, so make each approach count. If everyone's approach was well researched, properly qualified and as interested in what a prospect wants as it often is in blowing its own metaphorical trumpet, sales wouldn't have the horrible reputation it has.