Let Your Competition Put You In Your Place by Ann Quinn

Every organization has competition, and those competitors will always have attributes and capabilities that make them shine. While it’s tough to admit your competition might be stronger than you – even beating you in the marketplace – those organizations are actually doing yours a big favor.

They’re giving you the chance to see where you stand and then learn exactly how to beat them.

That’s because understanding each of your competitor’s advantage is the first step in figuring out how to overcome it. In fact, smart organizations continually examine and learn from their competition in order to determine where the opportunities and pitfalls are, as well as what story to tell and how to tell it in a more compelling way.

ACTION FOR THE MONTH

Construct a competitive matrix that will help you monitor and navigate the competitive landscape. Include both stronger and weaker competitors in your analysis and make sure your matrix has space for data on offerings, pricing, partners and go-to-market strategies.

This will help you understand two things:

  • How you rank against all competitors

  • How to reorient the playing field to highlight your own advantage

Additionally, if you have a friendly relationship with a competitor who is doing something better than you, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There is room in the marketplace for able competitors and plenty of leaders enjoy mentoring others in their industry – even if they’re competing in the same geographic market. In fact, you might be surprised by how open most organizational leaders are.

Finally, use all the information you collect to improve everything from offerings and pricing to partnerships and your go-to-market strategy.

Building a Competitive BD Strategy

Early in my career, I learned the valuable lesson of building a competitive advantage and using business development strategy to do so.  In the mid-90’s I was the advertising and marketing director for a small daily newspaper in Troy, NY. If you've ever been to the Capital District of Upstate New York, you'll know that Troy is the smallest of the three major cities in the region which also include Schenectady and Albany.  Because of the competitive nature of the market I learned that being different, being determined and understanding niche markets was a great way for me to compete.

Dealing with the competition isn’t the same for everyone of course however being different, being determined and understanding potential niche markets can prove to be an excellent strategy.  In that market, all three organizations competed for the same business. We all tried to undercut one another on rate. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Overall it was difficult for me because the circulation of our daily was considerably lower than my competition and there was nothing I could do about that so instead getting into a rate war I decided to go another route.  I created a niche product division to target specific revenue markets that the other newspapers weren’t targeting but had significant revenue potential. I developed a business development plan to identify those markets, understand the revenue potential, the cost to entry and a timeline to success.

That basic plan included:

  • Staff reallocation and hiring

  • Developing processes and procedures

  • Setting goals on revenue and activity

  • Developing KPI’s (key performance indicators)

  • Developing multiple tactics to reach prospects & partners

  • Setting Accountability measures to ensure success

I hired a sales person to specifically target those niche markets outside our regular products so they could brand themselves as the expert in those areas.  I trained them how to prospect, sell, close and build relationships with the right prospects, partner organizations and associations. We were determined to make it work and after 9 months and following the plan we produced 3 new niche publications that brought in over $100,000 in new business.

As I mentioned, everyone is different when looking at their competition and how they should proceed with a plan, the point is you should have a plan, you should think differently, you should be determined and have an understanding of niche markets that can move the needle in your organization.


SEPTEMBER EDITION - OCTOBER BEST PICKS - 1.0

Wednesday, October 3

Business Opportunity Network/Catholic Business Network of Baltimore
Guinness Brewery Tour Networking Event

5:00pm - 8:00pm
Guinness Brewery

WHY?  It's at the Guinness Brewery!  I recently joined a BON group and have found it very helpful.  This event will bring out a lot of business owners, c-suite individuals
For Details, Click Here

Thursday, October 4

Betamore
Beta City

3:00pm - 11:45pm
City Garage

WHY?  This is one of my favorite events of the year.  I love the Venture Capital Pitch Competition, there are tons for great sponsors and a crowd of heavy-weight tech entrepreneurs.
For Details, Click Here

Wednesday, October 17th

Linkedin Local Baltimore
Meetup Networking Event

6pm - 9:00pm
Spirit Cruises

WHY? Hiring strategist, CEO & Founder of Jeffrey Agency and University Recruiters, Jeff Martin will keynote.  Good networking and very relevant topic
For Details, Click Here

Tuesday, October 30th

Executive Alliance
Women of Excellence - Celebrating 25 Years: The Power of Change

5:30pm - 9:00pm
Martin's West

WHY? Beth Comstock, author and former Vice Chair of General Electric will be the keynote.  Expect a great crowd of women business owners and entrepreneurs
For Details, Click Here

Performance, Attitude & Development Drive Sales by Alan Dobzinski, Founder, Accountability Experts, Inc

Business development is activities driven. Seems simple. The more emails, calls, and meetings you set equal a higher probability of closing a sale. Although as business leaders today know, there’s more to it than that. To truly measure a successful business development person, we use a rating scale called P.A.D. P is for Performance, A is for Attitude, and D is Development.

P is for Performance. Performance is about the employee. The first question to ask yourself about each of the BD people that you manage is, on a scale from 1 to 10, how well are they performing? The average we hear is a 6. Let's break that down into dollars and cents. If you answer 6 out of 10 then you’re getting $0.60 on every dollar that you spend. If you’re paying them $100,000 a year, $40,000 is being washed down the drain. Maybe you say that seems high, well cut it in half. That’s still $20,000.

A is for Attitude. Attitude is about the employee. Have you ever had a top performer that was less than pleasurable to work with? How would you rate their attitude on a scale from 1 to 10? They complain all the time, create problems, and drag other employees into their drama. Attitude is just as important to your bottom line as performance is. The key is to have a hungry salesperson who needs development over a top performer with a bad attitude.

D is for Development. Development is about you, the leader, asking your employees what you can do for them to help them be successful. Right now, how well are you developing your employees on a scale from 1 to 10? The best way to develop your employees is through regularly-scheduled accountability meetings. More often than not, business leaders fall short on developing their employees and then wonder why their performance is lacking. They tell them what they’re not doing right but don’t ask how they can help. Employees, especially sales people, are thrown out there and expected to succeed. When leaders spend time developing their employees the number on the scale is guaranteed to go up and that’s when you see the results fall straight to your bottom line.

You can’t change someone's attitude but you can ensure success by helping them develop areas that need improvement by asking open-ended questions about how you can help them. An example that comes to mind is an employee who had a great attitude, they came to work energized and ready to go. Although they just couldn’t quite close the number of sales they needed to hit quota. After asking some open-ended questions in a regularly-scheduled accountability meeting, this business leader discovered that they really didn’t understand one of the product lines being offered. Therefore, they didn’t feel comfortable selling it. The solution was simple, and they received some additional training and shadowed another salesperson in a few meetings.

If that business leader hadn’t asked the employee how they can help, they probably would have ended up firing them and hiring another, which inevitably would cycle through the same process and fail. That employee is now a top performer, has a great attitude and is a role model for the rest of the sales team! When you hold your employees accountable for their activities, hire for attitude, and invest time developing them, success is inevitable.

Accountability: Critical To Any BD Strategic Plan

I learned the power of coaching from an early stage in my career and you can't coach anyone without accountability.  I think some people view accountability in a negative way or relate it to micro-managing. It shouldn't be that way. Accountability to me is simply helping your team members, in a positive way, reach their personal and professional goals.  So, when you start to build that business development strategic plan, whether it's for the end of the year push or for 2019, accountability measures have to be a part of the program.

I usually include accountability in the last section of my plan so that once the team knows the vision, the goals, the tactics and KPI's (key performance indicators), you can establish accountability measures.  That simply means how you're going to help your team achieve the set goals.  For a simple example, let's say that, as the leader in your sales organization, one of your strategic plan goals for hitting your end of year number is for your sales people to attend 5 appointments or pitch meetings per week.  One of the tactics is to go networking. One of your KPI's for that tactic is for your sales people to attend 4 events per month. Your accountability measure for your sales people can then be a number of things including having them document those events on their calendar or in your CRM, holding weekly meetings with your sales people to review networking activity and its effectiveness or helping them select the best events to attend.  Keep accountability positive. Your ultimate goal as a servant leader is to is to help them with ideas, tactics and methods to hit their goals.

 Accountability takes work and time, there's no doubt about it.  However without it, you can't measure success and more often than not your sales people will be left feeling they don't have direction or support.  I've seen it too many times and have been guilty of it myself in the past. As hard as it is sometimes, it's also one of the most important management tools you can use.

AUGUST EDITION - SEPTEMBER BEST PICKS

It’s the dog days of summer and networking has slowed but there are so many good events on the horizon for September.  Use the time now to prepare. Make a list of prospects that you want to invite to events coming up or arrange a meeting with a channel partner.  Now’s a great time to plan and organize how you’re going to use good business development tactics to finish out 2018.

Tuesday, September 11 - Baltimore Business Journal - Future of Howard County - 7:30am - 9:30am - Two Merriweather

WHY?  I always loved the BBJ’s Future of...events.  You can count on great panelists, lively discussion and a good crowd representing various local companies and industries

https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/event/161670/2018/future-of-howard-county

Wednesday, September 12 - Baltimore Metro Business Development (BMBD) - 6pm - 8:30pm - Sheraton Baltimore North

WHY?  Excellent panel of local nonprofit leaders moderated by Casey Baynes.  Expect a good crowd

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/baltimore-metro-business-development-bmbd-tickets-48314283322

Thursday, September 20 - MD Tech Council - BIO + TECH 18 CONFERENCE - 8am - 7:30pm - Hilton Baltimore

WHY?  Attendance of 400+ tech and bio tech professionals with day-long networking, panel discussions and keynote speakers including Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III and Jay Perman.

http://bio-techconference.com/conference/

Thursday, September 27 - Better Business Bureau - BBB One Hundred and One Signature Event - 5:30pm - 8:30pm - Baltimore Museum of Industry

WHY?  Great annual event highlighting BBB’s Spark Award & Torch Award Honorees as well as special guest, Commerce Secretary Mike Gill

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/events/18054-one-hundred-and-one-signature-event

JUST FOR FUN!!

Saturday, September 29 - Building Congress & Exchange - 7pm - 11pm - Maryland Science Center

WHY?  Annual fundraiser is sure to bring out top level executives in the constuction and development fields.  Great list of sponsors too!

https://www.bcebaltimore.org/hard-hat-bash/

Executive Networking by David Gertler

Many years ago, I was approached by an executive coach who took me to lunch to convince me of the value she could provide. I had just landed a great job as a senior executive in a software company and she thought there were several ways she could assist me in my transition. While I ultimately didn’t move forward with her, one part of the conversation was striking, and I recall it vividly nearly 20 years later.

At one point, she asked me how I landed the job and I told her about the extensive networking I had conducted. As an introverted math geek who didn’t find networking easy, natural or familiar, I was forced to quickly master the secrets of networking to land my new position. At the height of my job search, I was meeting 15-20 new people each week, spending roughly 60 minutes with each person talking about both their interests and needs and my own search for a new opportunity. Those 15-20 hours were in addition to the many hours of follow-up with existing connections. Networking to find a new position had become a full-time effort for me and we discussed many of the details about my approach, successes, and lessons from my job search.

Then the conversation turned. She asked me how many hours each week I was networking since landing my new position. I told her I was putting 100% of my effort into the new role and had cut my networking completely. This is when I was schooled…
“Senior executives network 20% of their time,” she said. “If you’re not networking while working, you’re making a big mistake.” I was shocked - how can anyone work full-time and spend one day each week networking?

She told me that networking is a lifetime activity. Not something you do just to find a job. Sure, when you’re looking for a new opportunity you naturally increase your networking activities; but you should always be networking at least a some of the time. Make time to help others, catch-up with past associates and keep your valuable network active. Your network can be a great asset; but, like many things in life, it takes some level of effort to maintain, nurture, grow and leverage it for mutual benefit.

After this conversation, I decided to make networking part of my normal routine. While my level of networking varies, hardly a week goes by without some degree of connecting with people in my trusted network to catch-up, see how I can help them, make introductions or meet new people. Realizing that a trusted network of business professionals who have expertise and connections and are willing to help offer advice (and vice-versa) was a game changer for me. I now spend a lot of time helping others learn this too.
 

Why Face-to-Face Meetings Are Still Better Than Technology When Building Relationships

We live in a digital age where most things are now at our fingertips and technology keeps getting better and better.  The one thing that technology can’t replace is building long-lasting relationships through one-on-one connections.  A study done recently by Randstad polled workers in 34 countries around the world to ask them about technology and communication in the workplace.  Over 50% of the persons polled stated, “technology makes them feel less connected to people in the real world.  Furthermore, “over 90% believe that face-to-face meeting(s) is the best way to interact with someone.”  I’m out with business owners and CEO’s every week on multiple occasions and I can tell you that nothing replaces that one-on-one experience.  When I meet with people, that conversation starts a bonding process that helps me understand my prospects  likes and dislikes, commonalities and differences.  It’s what makes meeting face-to-face so valuable to the sales process.  

The opportunity  to physically get in front of your prospects and channel partners can open doors where technology cannot.  For example, body language can tell us many things.  When you’re face-to-face with a client body language can tell us, among other things, if the client is interested or not interested, engaged or not engaged.  With technology, even Skype or FaceTime, body language is diluted and in most cases not even present.  There are other examples as well.  One study’s findings  stated, “the lack of physical proximity decreases brainstorming and other communications that use a personal touch.”  Through face-to-face meetings, other opportunities arise and impromptu brainstorming sessions can lead to new discoveries about your client, their business and how your products and services can help them achieve their goals.

Now, by no means am I completely dissing technology.  Several technology platforms (including this one) have afforded me new ways to interact with clients that just weren’t available a decade ago and that of course can lead to opportunities as well.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t depend on technology to help run my business, track my clients and communicate with my audience.  It’s a necessary part of your marketing and business development planning.  At the same time, there’s nothing better for building relationships than sitting down with someone to share a good meal, take in an O’s game or simply share a beer. 

Don't Forget to Build a BD Strategy!

Last week I was having lunch with a couple of friends at the Capital Grille (I love that place) and like many of you, I love to get a fresh perspective on things, especially when it comes to sales and business development.  It's the beast that feeds the engine and as we all know it's not easy.

So after the difficulty of selecting one of many tasty lunch entrees our discussion lead to strategy and our thoughts turned to the fact that in most organizations, there's usually a sales or marketing strategy but too few in business development. And I mean, a strategy behind building executive level relationships with their prospects and channel partners.  It seems easy enough, right? Yet many companies don't take the time to build out a plan that can get them in front of decision makers using multiple tactics to build solid, long-lasting relationships. It's a necessity at the highest level and in my experience I don't see many companies give it the time or attention it deserves.

Look at it this way...think about how much time and money you spend in marketing your products and services compared to the time and resources your spending on the activity to get your team in front of the right decision maker.  Is your marketing helping you develop relationships? A good business development strategy can leverage your marketing efforts to ensure you're not wasting time or money reaching the wrong people while using specific tactics to build high-level relationships with prospects and channel partners.  We all know, clients buy from people they like and trust and you can't build a trusting relationship without a good business development strategy.

I encourage you to take a look at your marketing and sales strategies to see if you have the tactics, systems and accountability in place to build deep relationships with your prospects so you too can close more business.

JUNE EDITION - JULY 2018 EVENTS

It's the height of summer and although things have slowed down on the networking front, there are still some good opportunities to expand your network.

Here are my picks:

Wednesday, July 18

Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) - Construction Tour & Happy Hour - 4:30pm - 7:00pm - Sagamore Spirit Distillery and Rye Street Tavern   WHY? Opportunity to meet with executives in CRE  and affiliated industries.

https://crewbaltimore.org/events/special-events/2018-07-18-members-only-with-invited-guests

Thursday, July 19

-Baltimore Business Journal - Corporate Philanthropy - 7:30am - 9:30am - Martin’s West .      WHY?  BBJ will be honoring top corporate givers and Corporate Citizen of the Year.  Always a great event to mingle with the nonprofit community

https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/event/161667/2018/corporate-philanthropy

Tuesday, July 24

Bisnow - Baltimore-Washington Industrial & Logistics Forecast - 7:30am - 10:30am - Four Seasons Baltimore.  WHY? The industrial market is booming in Baltimore and the surrounding area.  Hear from a great panel of local experts on this topic. Also, learn what’s next in the world of logistics and its labor market.

https://www.bisnow.com/events/baltimore/Baltimore-Washington-Industrial-Logistics-Forecast-1017

Tuesday, July 24

Cybersecurity Association of Maryland - July MD Cyber Breakfast Club - 8:00am - 9:30am - Secure Offices.  WHY?  Speaker Tim Kulp, Director of Emerging Technology for Mind Over Machines will be talking about AI, the workforce and how they collide

https://www.mdcyber.com/events/july-md-cyber-breakfast-club/

Wednesday, July 25

World Trade Center Institute - Tast of Business-Australia - 5pm - 7pm - Spark Baltimore.        WHY?  Attended the last Taste of Business and it was good. Lots of great people, interesting topic

https://www.wtci.org/events/taste-of-business/

Thursday, July 26

The Daily Record -  2018 Reader Ranking Gala - 5pm - 8:30pm - The Assembly Room            WHY?  Come out and see who the readers of The Daily Record chose in their annual reader rankings contest

https://thedailyrecord.com/reader-rankings/