Marketing, sales and customer relationship activities are an essential part of surviving and thriving as a business. BillQuick can help you here.
You need to go after new jobs with the same discipline as with the contracts in hand. You cannot continue to put off business development activities until you have time or you realize work in hand is running low. This results in wide pendulum swings — from head-down delivery of services to massive activity to get more business. It’s a great recipe for schizophrenia . . . or at least, massively inefficient shotgun marketing.
Owners and principals of the most profitable firms (of all sizes) do not turn on and turn off business development. It is part of their everyday plans. In many firms, project managers are also responsible for business development.
To make sure it is clear, business development is more than ‘sales’ (which most professionals hate). It is:
- The building of relationships with prospects and clients
- Being known in a community
- Seeking out opportunities before others realize they exist, such as reading newspapers that announce or describe new plans by companies, governments and others
- Marketing activities, like keeping a web site fresh with new content, working on a new company tri-fold brochure, and meeting with staff to talk about the little things that build your brand and make your firm more inviting to potential customers
Performing business development activities does not mean they are effective. In the case of RFPs, winning them is a low probability. Playing a numbers game and answering a lot of RFPs is not efficient use of your valuable time. Like other project opportunities, you need to be in front of the RFP, knowing about it and, possibly, defining it through your relationship with key people. Successful firms are already doing this, thus setting the stage for them to win. Also, responding to an RFP does not mean you simply fill in the blanks. At best, this is a race to the bottom to see who is willing to do the job for the least profit. When responding, you need to see the real problems behind the RFP, then present a solution that the city engineers (for example) did not foresee.
Tracking Business Development in BillQuick
Follow the steps below to track business development in BillQuick:
1. Set up a project with the Marketing contract type and your firm as the client. You want activities to stand out and be a strong reminder. The alternative, charging time and expenses to your company Overhead project, is not recommended. You want to see Marketing activities front and center. One report for this is the Employee Utilization report.
2. Create a phase for each month. Business development activities are ongoing — every day, week and month. Use the Create Phase shortcut on the Project-General tab to duplicate the main project. This saves a lot of time.
3. Add a budget for business development activities.What isn’t measured isn’t done. Think about your meetings and calls with clients — who should you talk with, when and what will be some of the topics. With customer relationships, it’s not all about business. You want to know the person because that builds trust, and a ‘sale’ does not happen without trust. You might send an article to a customer, showing you are thinking about them. (Same with other firms with which you work.) You need to meet with your web site manager to analyze traffic and to discuss fresh content that potential customers will see.
Note: Copy the January budget to February and on throughout the year. Adjust activities and hours in each month. Then assign a budget to each phase. Remember that each month you always have a minimum number of hours spent working on your business.
4. Track and monitor your activities. Record them via the Outlook Add-In, using a BillQuick Timer, Mobile phone, or on the Sheet View or Simple Time Card screen. Review time and expense reports. Also, use Agent to automatically email yourself (and others) the Employee Utilization and Budget Comparison report for business development.
Tracking Costs of Winning and Losing Projects
To extend the above, you should also set up a project (Marketing contract type) to track time and expenses associated with a specific project you are trying to win. Associate the project to the Client ID. Set it up as soon as you have a sense that there is an opportunity. Time and expenses for any research, planning, proposal writing, prospect conversations and so on should be captured. When preparing the final proposal, many firms incorporate the marketing cost by increasing hours, fixed fee or adding a markup for “administrative overhead” for services and expenses. Some simply increase the hourly rate. The information will flow to the Employee Utilization report, giving you good information.
Tracking time and expenses for projects (opportunities) you lost is just as important. You will know how much you invested in opportunities and focus on why you lost them. This will:
- Spark activities leading to better and more extensive business development planning and activities
- Point out areas in which you can improve your proposals
- Identify where your interactions with prospects (and clients) should be improved
- Point out shortcomings in your approach and technique for pitching your services