Six Tips for Sharpening Your Business Development Skills

May 24, 2021
Written by: Michelle Yates, APR, EDAC, FSMPS, CREW-St. Louis

With the CREW Network Spring Leadership Summit rapidly approaching, most of us are ready to break free and network, network, network! Have you been working remotely with your head down for too long? If so, here are six tips to sharpen your business development skills, especially as you prepare to join us in St. Louis or virtually.

  1. Do Your Prep. Before the summit, carve out some time to get organized:
    • Go through the agenda to know when you’ll have time to meet with others.
    • Review the registration list and set up a time to meet for coffee/drinks. Even if attending virtually, reach out ahead of time to set up 1:1 conversations or just renew acquaintances.
    • For new connections, research their firm and personal background prior to a meeting. Also, jot down a few questions to ask and what you’d like the meeting outcomes to be.
    • Make sure your CREWbiz profile is up to date, and download the new CREW Network app and v-cards to your Outlook contacts.
  1. Get in the Zone. Prior to attending, take some time to get energized with your favorite BD expert, whether it’s an article, book or podcast. Here’s a quick read on 33 Networking Tips from The Muse.
  1. Maximize Your Virtual Presence. If attending virtually, be sure you are camera-ready. Lighting is one of the most important aspects. Test it out. Photo backgrounds can be distracting since you sometimes lose the image of the person while they’re speaking. For more on “How to Look Better on Zoom and Other Video Conferencing Tips,” check out this article from Vault. Review this article for more tips on maximizing your CREW Network virtual convention experience.
  1. Don’t Stop Conversations Before They Start. I really like this engagement tip. For example, if asked, “How are you doing?” Don’t just say “Fine” and stop the conversation. Or “Good, how are you?” which puts the burden back to the other person. Give your audience something to work with or relate to, such as “Great—I just got back from a few days off with my family.” This gives the other person an easy path to follow with responses like “Did you go somewhere?” or “We’re planning a trip next month.”
  1. Think Quality, Not Quantity. It’s not about counting the number of business cards (or LinkedIn requests), but the quality of the interaction and what happens next. Be a good listener. Learn about their story. Think about how you can help them. And, let your own personality come through.
  1. Have a follow up plan. Schedule time on your calendar to follow up on the all the new and refreshed connections you made. Did you add your notes to the CREW Network app, your CRM or Outlook contact? What are the next steps? When will you connect again either virtually or in person? Again, how can you help them? Some ideas for follow up:
    1. Send a thank you with a Starbucks gift card (can also email or iMessage gift cards).
    2. Make a connection for them.
    3. Email a news item or research that might be of interest to them.
    4. Mail a brochure and fun promo item.

In addition to gearing up for the Spring Leadership Summit, do you also have your personal business development plan in place? If business development is only a part of your role, it can be challenging to make the time. Here are a few more ideas when creating a personal BD plan:

  • Keep it to one page so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Highlight three to five key existing and prospective clients you want to target.
  • List three BD goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound (SMART).
  • Include short-term BD actions to support those goals along with a date for completion.
  • Separately, list a few thought leadership activities such as blogs, social media, and speaking engagements, along with completion dates.
  • Identify any resources or training needed.
  • Leave a little room to note “What’s going well this month?” as a reminder to celebrate success in the many forms it takes.

Be sure to review your plan at least monthly, and make adjustments as needed. Even better, schedule a little time with yourself early in the week to think about BD goals you’ll accomplish later in the week.

With more than 360 attendees, the 2021 CREW Network Spring Leadership Summit will offer plenty of opportunities to practice your business development skills. Happy networking!

Michelle Yates is director of marketing for Lawrence Group, an integrated design, development and construction firm with offices in Austin, New York and St. Louis. She leads the firm's marketing team and works with principals and market leaders to win new business in healthcare, higher education, hospitality, retail, senior living, multi-family housing and corporate workplaces. Yates, an SMPS Fellow, has 20+ years of industry experience and served as the 2019 CREW-St. Louis president.

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