How to develop your business-to-business operation

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Contributed by Mac Mackay

The sales team from one company meeting a potential client

If you really want to be successful in developing your business-to-business operation, here are the five smart things to focus on right now. Mac Mackay explains

1. Keep improving your business

Ask your customers how to serve them better - what they'd like you to do more of, what less of? Listen to (and do) what they say. Don't accept "you're OK" as an answer. You can ask customers for feedback in person and via email or on social media but it’s also a good idea to use regular customers surveys so that you can identify specific areas for improvement that come up time and again. Asking for testimonials and referrals is also a great way to market and grow your business.

2. Work on your business relationships

Invest heavily in your existing business customers by demonstrating an interest in their affairs. Meet with them regularly to discuss their business; attend key events; keep up with developments in their sector; follow them on social media, connect on LinkedIn and share useful content with them.

Do this consistently so that you become their favoured supplier and you get the overwhelming majority of their business. Yes, existing customers do represent the best source of new business, but to deserve theirs, you have to earn it by being willing to invest sufficiently in the relationship. Don't invest anything at all in winning new customers until you're sure you've captured all the best opportunities from your existing client base.

3. Focus on your dream customers

If referrals aren't providing enough new business to meet your needs, go back to steps one and two, and make sure you're doing all you can to follow them. Then do this: Decide which new customers you would be willing to serve for free. You won't - but think about which ones you would serve for nothing if you had to.

Why this crazy thought? Simple! Customers want suppliers who are enthusiastic about them, interested in them, committed to them and dedicated to them. If you're not willing to be enthusiastic, interested, committed and dedicated, your marketing will fail. And if by chance you do win the business of someone you don't feel enthusiastic about, you will have to spend your days serving someone whose business doesn't interest you. Is that what you really want?

Remember that the results of your marketing will determine whatever fulfilment your career will offer - which customers you'll get to work with, what professional challenges you'll be exposed to, how much fun you'll have in your work, and so on.

Don't aim your marketing only at low-hanging fruit - dream a little. List who your ideal customers are and then set a plan in motion to win them over. If you aren't convinced yet, ask yourself what percentage of your customers you really like and what percentage of your work you find intellectually stimulating. Are you satisfied with those percentages?

4. Target your marketing

Once you've decided who you want to serve (and I do mean serve), develop a targeted marketing strategy to demonstrate that you have a special interest in them, that you have something of value to offer them, and that you are willing to work to deserve and earn their trust.

Untargeted marketing is like standing on a street corner and saying "hire me, I'm good!" You're better than that. Use your sales strategy to target key prospects with specific messages that demonstrate what you can offer them. Prove your interest and your worth by giving your prospects something useful: an article, some new data or research or hold an event. Prospective customers don't want empty promises; they want you to give them the evidence on which to base a sensible decision.

5. Listen, don't talk

Once a prospective client shows some interest in considering you, forget about talking about yourself and your firm. Successful marketing has less to do with you and your capabilities than with your abilities to find out what customers want. The key is listening, not talking. The key talent in good selling is being good at getting the client to tell you his or her problems, needs, wants and concerns. Treat your prospect like a client from the minute you meet: react, give ideas, explain options and provide an education. Don't wait until you're being paid before being helpful.

Above all, remember that professionalism is defined by a dedication to being of service and helping people. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People: "You'll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want, and start helping other people get what they want."

Written by Mac Mackay.

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