The arrival of the Covid virus in 2020 was a huge spur to brands to digitise processes and operations as much as possible for efficiencies and to provide an end-to-end solution online for their customers – from research to purchase.
Likewise, technology is increasing its role to play in business development. It does not supplant the skills of a talented BD expert but rather provides tools to help performance by speeding up and streamlining the processes for identifying, engaging with and converting clients.
The importance of using digital tools to optimise business development processes and operations is reflected in a recent survey of BD leaders carried out by Propeller Group , with 45% of respondents stating that increased dexterity with tools and technology is the most important additional BD skill they are looking to develop this year, far ahead of other choices..
More than 44% confirmed they are looking to increase investment in digital tools in 2021.
Tools like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems allow BD’s to intelligently manage prospects as they move through the pipeline, while Content Management Systems (CMS) allow users to build and tailor relevant content for use in engaging prospects.
Teams can monitor what articles grab attention and are read by the target audience – showing which content themes should be further developed. CMS systems are usually used in tandem with marketing automation solutions to help drive and capture leads.
Lauren Futter, Senior Partner Acquisition Specialist at Hubspot, had some sound advice for evaluating tech needs at Winning Together and said: “First thing to assess is if the team is using the tool properly. You need to implement a system that your team can use – so adoption is the first key metric. Then we measure it against our goals, such as client acquisition.”
“Tech stacks are like a business fingerprint. There is no one-size fits all solution. But whatever solutions you use, they need to be able to integrate and talk to each other. Business development is a team sport, and this is as true of the tech as it is of the team themselves.”
Getting to grips with the technology that allows your agency to hold and host its own virtual events like round tables and webinars is also important.
Zoom is the obvious ‘go to’ platform but there are plenty of more sophisticated platforms available for an agency to use that can help replicate some of the ‘feel’ of a live event. An agency can control the narrative and own the follow up process if it mounts its own events – be they real or virtual.
It’s not necessary to house all technology and support within the agency. Outsourced technology services can also keep the wheels turning when a BD team has to drop everything for a pitch.
Andrew Nicholson, Co-Founder and CEO of Kulea.MA, which offers managed automated business development services, stressed at Winning Together: “The most valuable tools are the ones that save you time. As a business developer you want to spend your time having conversations and building relationships with prospects – and this is not a process which you can automate. You can use automation to prompt conversations, but the real work has to come from discourse between people, not robots.”
Gareth Evans, Growth Director, Cogent, added: “The pandemic accelerated what was already growing – particularly in terms of adoption of technology. This [tech] transformation will benefit both clients and business developer’s as it broadens the range of possibilities to engage, pitch and connect.”
- Constantly review what is available in the marketplace that might give you a competitive edge
- Make sure that there is continuous support for your tech investment and you are not just handed ‘the keys’ and left to it
- Most technology is now sold as a subscription – ask for a free trial run for a month so you can judge if it is the right software for your business
- Understand the full capabilities of the package you sign up for – many people don’t know the full potential of their tech stack
This is an edited extract from a forthcoming guide for BD teams. Look out for the full report entitled New Tools, Tactics and Takeaways: The Business Development Handbook shortly.