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  • Alan Prowse

Who is responsible for prospecting new business and relationship management?

I ran a quick poll last week here on LinkedIn and over 90% agreed that ALL customer facing employees have some level of responsibility for prospecting new business and relationship management. So why is it that most non-business development people take a hands-off view around this function?

I think there are a combination of reasons why this happens:

· Lack of training or there is a skills gap

· Absence of accountability, targets, and measurement

· SELL – can be a 4-letter word to some

· Nonexistence of process

Let’s look at the lack of training or skills gaps first. Very rarely, are employees outside of the business development team, and sometimes even within the business development team, trained on how to prospect and use some basic complex selling skills to uncover and start to qualify opportunities or build strong relationships. Many times, their soft skills aren’t great either. So, we agree they are responsible for prospecting new business and relationship management, but we don’t provide them the skills to be successful? Hmmm….

Second, most customer facing employees outside of Business Development are not held accountable for prospecting new business and relationship management in their roles and responsibilities. They are not set annual targets and therefore their performance is not measured. Now, we all know we focus on what we are measured on, so this lack of performance shouldn’t be a surprise, right?

Third, some feel the responsibility of prospecting is beneath their role and something only Business Development should do. Combine this with a lack of targets and we are just reenforcing this behavior. Or they default to prospecting with only their peers, Engineer to Engineer for example, rather than with decision makers or mobilizers within the client. This can lead to chasing down many a rabbit hole on pet projects that the client decision makers have no interest of funding.

Finally, is the nonexistence of a process. This process must be a coordinated effort across the business. The coordination of this process could, in my mind should, be facilitated within Business Development. The process must include everything from who we need to prospect with, especially within strategic accounts, where there are multiple clients and stakeholders. This must be aligned with our strategic plan, account plans and business objectives. The process must include how we manage new prospects within the sales funnel, prioritize them and qualify as quickly as we can.

If you want your customer facing employees to be successful in prospecting and relationship management, you need to put the right processes in place, provide the appropriate training, set targets, and measure performance. If you need help with any of these keys to success don’t hesitate to reach out.


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