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At the risk of being controversial, what I’ve noticed over the past 20 years working with individuals around business development (BD) is that if there is one particular reason why their BD efforts don’t always achieve what they’d like, it’s because of a lack of follow up.

How many times have you finished a great conversation with a prospect which goes along the lines of:

Prospect: “I’d be really interested to hear more about what you do.  I can see how it would help us, so why don’t you give me a call in a three or four months’ time when we’ll be ready to have a more detailed conversation and see how we can move things forward?”

You: “Of course, I’d be delighted to have that conversation with you.  I’ll make a note to drop you an email then.”

You go back to what you were doing and get caught up in the next urgent priority.  That’s ok, because you’ve made a mental note and will write yourself a reminder when you’ve finished. Or perhaps tomorrow; at the very worst, the day after.  But, despite your best intentions, because there’s so much else going on, you never do quite round to it and the conversation slips your mind. Fast forward to your next interaction with the prospect (assuming there is another conversation):

You: “I was wondering about that piece of work we talked about last time and whether you still need some help with it?”

Prospect: “When was that?  Oh yes, I remember. You didn’t give me a call, so I thought you weren’t interested. I gave it to someone else.”

Sound familiar?  If that has never happened to you, you’re an exception; unfortunately, in my experience, this is a scenario that’s played out all too often.  Other, more important, tasks often get in the way of carrying out BD activities.  It’s very seldom seen as the top priority at any given moment and, as a result, opportunities - ‘low hanging fruit’ – are missed.  Even in cases where a note is made to contact the prospect again at a point in the future, work also gets in the way of actually engaging again with them. As you’ve been reading this, how many situations have come to mind where it’s happened to you?

There’s no simple solution, but here are some of things you can do to reduce your chances of missing those opportunities:

  • Keep a list of your contacts and prospects, and make it a habit to note down when you spoke with them and will contact them again.  This doesn’t need to be a sophisticated piece of software: a spreadsheet will do.
  • Review this list regularly to check who you will contact that day or week.
  • Forward diarise when you are going to send the email or make the call.
  • Get in the habit of doing a few little bits of BD activity each day in between your other tasks. Don’t try and carve out half a day or a specific time each week. It seldom works.

These actions may sound simple, but it takes a great deal of patience, effort and determination to be doing them regularly as second nature (if it were easy, we’d all be capturing those opportunities).  So, if there is one thing that will make a significant difference to your BD efforts, it’s this: be diligent in how you follow up!