Fixing Business Development With CRM

It’s the catch-all department in many companies where top sales funnel activities like lead and demand generation are found, or lower sales funnel strategies including pre-sales support, pricing exceptions and team selling are found. It’s team selling on enterprise-class ERP applications. It’s also another word for a telemarketing staff. Defined by its functions more than its measures of performance, business development is, in many companies, the glue that connects customers and prospects with sales.

When business development works it becomes transparent, and when any part of the selling chain breaks in either direct or indirect selling strategies, it’s the first place where everyone looks for a fix. In short, the lack of accountability in business development for direct sales is what makes it a frequent scapegoat for any part of a selling chain that is broken.

On the Same Team

What’s clear is that business development as a function needs to change. It needs to become the glue between the prospects and returning customers on the one hand, and sales on the other. One business development center I visited this week books appointments for sales reps and gets paid on the completed appointments and resulting sales.

These business development reps are so sales-focused they see themselves as inseparable from the sales forces they serve, and both they and the sales force they serve celebrate when a deal closes. It means a major step for both of them toward a bonus and quota. That’s the way business development needs to be — on the forefront of sizing up the sales opportunity and then bringing in the sales rep to close the deal.

Lessons Learned

The tightness of business development to sales in this particular firm was remarkable. I asked the reps about how they used CRM to make sales, push opportunities to sales and build relationships. The lessons learned are excellent for even the largest business development teams that at times feel disconnected from their sales counterparts due to either political or geographic distances. Some lessons that could help any business include:

  • Quit thinking business development is only part of the top funnel — it owns the sales funnel. Sadly too many companies take a segmented and very myopic view of business development. It is convenient to compartmentalize this function and loosely hold it responsible for just the top of the sales funnel.

    If you want results from business development give this department the entire sales funnel. This includes partnering with sales like never before. When a wall exists between business development and sales, the company will be very lucky to get to 30 percent of quota. Business development and sales must partner if the company is to attain its sales goals.

  • Integrate, integrate, integrate — at the people level first. If your business development reps and sales reps are not talking several times a week, your company is on its way to a very mediocre level of performance. Get these two groups located right next to each other, and structure compensation plans so that sales results weigh equally on both.
  • CRM customer records and sales calendars are the responsibility of business development to manage. What makes this approach work is that the business development reps own the records of the customers they share with sales, and are incented to keep the records current, book meetings and appointments directly for the sales reps, and in short, have a major influence on how the sales reps use their time. Sales reps love it because they are busier with new customers than ever before.
  • Build sales accountability directly into business development’s compensation plan. This isn’t the large, often difficult to track, massive sales goals that companies have of reaching $1 billion in ten years or something else so far off it’s not worth even discussing. It’s about saying in the next three months there will be 120 sales calls, conference calls, Webinars, and customer visits by the sales reps that the business development manager supports. This is tough but achievable, and it sure gets the teamwork and focus going.

    On top of this, add in a sales target, as this business development center did. The target in this case was selling US$20 million of software in a specific time period into small and medium businesses. It’s working because the business development and sales reps have the same goal; they feed off one another in terms of focus and the teams bounce ideas off each other on how to sell more daily.

  • Use your CRM systems’ analytics tools to create a dashboard that shows how well business development and sales are working together. This is what the best-performing companies are doing today. They generate dashboards that quantify the strength of the relationship between business development mining opportunities and sales closing them. Choosing just five or six measures of performance is an excellent start. Best of all it gets business development and sales on the same team fast.

Bottom line: It’s time for many companies to step up and bring business development and sales to the forefront of their efforts, using CRM as the tool to combine efforts into an aggressive new series of strategies for mining and closing business.

Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He has worked with enterprise clients on defining solutions to their channel management, order management and service lifecycle management strategies. Mr. Columbus also teaches graduate-level international business and marketing courses at Webster-Loyola Marymount University and University of California, Irvine. He is the author of fifteen books on technology and two books on analyst relations. His book, Getting Results from your Analyst Relations Strategies, can be downloaded for free.

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