This is a guest post from Craig Kavicky, Vice President at Big Red Rooster, an independent research, strategy, and design company in Columbus, Ohio.
In recent posts, Todd has referenced the business development axiom relationship-building and compared it to dating. Nothing is more true than the dating reference, and like identifying good prospective dates, identifying good prospective clients requires that you know your type.
All too often, collaborations are doomed by the same difficulties that have felled many a date: bad chemistry, poor communication, and misaligned expectations. We’ve all gotten into these situations (particularly in lean times) while seeking any work, rather than the right work.
Your first, best goal is to find the best dates in the least amount of time. It all starts with your contact in the prospective client organization.
Asking some simple questions at the start can make all the difference:
- Is your contact a change-agent?
- Do they invest in the value you bring per hour or discounts?
- Do they share full disclosure and provide time for informed responses?
- Are they a details person or do they look for comprehensive help to champion their cause?
- How is your contact’s role integrated into the organization for budgets and what’s their criteria for decision-making?
- Is your contact chasing trends or making them?
- What other programs is your contact working on and how does this fit in with their annual goals?
- What’s their past experience with firms or agencies? Preferences?
- How does your contact view his/her competition and the moves they’re making?
- What’s their vision for the success of the program and its impact on their role within the organization?
- Do they believe in committing to one firm or do they intentionally spread work out?
Keep in mind that the compatibility of organizations plays a significant factor in the harmony between them. For example, if an agency represents Hustler, it may have difficulty meshing with Wal-Mart. Recognizing this, you can easily translate the answers to these questions into all the criteria you need to evaluate good dates from bad ones. The questions take a little time to ask and answer, but it’s time invested at the front end that will save much more later. And, as we all know, time is at the core of what business development leaders try to save every day.
We assume that skilled business developers already know their best fit within verticals or in targeted specialty roles, so the goal of talking to the right people becomes one of disqualifying the wrong ones. However, in my experience, most business developers will try to over-develop a poor fit until the end of time.
The right thing to do is to use these questions to identify prospects who aren’t a good match. It’s not always easy to do in one conversation, but then again, that’s the nature of courtship.
If you don’t know your type, you may not be their type.