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9 Somewhat Radical Ways To Shape And Shake Up Your Business Development
by Tom 'Bald Dog' Varjan

1. Eliminate Commissions From Your Compensation Structure

When you hire salespeople on commission basis, you're hiring the wrong type of people. For commissions you're likely to get the know-it-all glib hotshots with all the answers who are impossible to work with in a team environment. They are the prima donnas and are not interested in being part of a team. They are the people who suck it up and when the time is right to quit, they do and get into business to be your competition. They are motivated by money and driven by their own hidden agendas to compete with your company and win... even at the expense of your clients.

This is harsh, I know but you just can't run a team based on individual compensation and internal competition.

2. Make Sure Most Of Your Prospects Faint Upon Hearing Your Fees and Fees

Considering Pareto's 80/20 principle, make sure you acquire only "20% calibre" clients. And to do that you have to make sure 80% of your prospects scream, choke or even get a heart attack when they hear your prices. In this world there are two types of people: 1) People who get bogged down with the investment and are too financially stupid to evaluate the potential return and 2) people who first look at the potential return and decide whether or not they can justify the investment to achieve it.

There is a good chance that 80% of your prospects are the financial idiots in search of cheap, traditional, conventional, comfortable and convenient solutions, giving you and your people nothing but headaches and stomach ulcers. Get rid of them before they can drain your people and your resources.

3. Develop a Standardised "From First Contact to Signed Contract" System

Consider flying for a moment. When is the highest level of risk for a plane to crash? Yes. On take-off and landing. Why? Well, there are many factors but this is one: That's when pilots have to work very precisely, in a very standardised way with the control tower staff. And if in the middle of the landing process there is personnel change among control tower staff from the day shift to the night shift. What happens then?

One controller who knows the approaching plane's situation inside out hands over the plane to another controller who knows nothing, except for some codified information. To avoid this, it's vital to have a "First Contact to Signed Contract" system which where your prospects can go through your sales cycle without major humps and bumps. And this requires an integrated business development department as opposed to a separated sales, marketing department and client service silo which often work against each other.

4. Set Up And Strictly Adhere To Your Ideal Client Profile"

Some say bad business is better than no business, but I disagree. Bad business actually attracts more bad business. Bad clients drive out good clients and bring in more bad clients, which, in turn gives you headache, stomach ulcers or even the dreaded green lurgy. Good cardiac surgeons reject prospects that come to them with their toothaches or ingrown toenails. But the best of them differentiate not only by symptoms and health problems. They select clients based on personal character traits. And you can decide in the first two minutes of chatting with prospects whether or not they are up to snuff for you.

They know that the character of the patient defines and end results. Flake patients who can't commit to the healing process or fall off track prematurely, tend to fall short as your clients too. They fail at their ends of the agreement, and often end up blaming you for the lack of results. Just remember the Red Queen's favourite phrase in Alice in Wonderland: "Off with their heads!" No. You don't necessarily have to decapitate inappropriate prospects. Just stay clear of them.

5. Stop Measuring Success Using Quotas And Gross Sales Figures

Managing a sales force by sales quota is just as retarded as managing an army by a "kill quota" or managing hairdressers by the total length of hair they cut. For an army to kill enemy soldiers to fulfil its quota there must be an enemy, and someone, usually a politician, has to actually declare war. It's similar in business. The sales force can only fulfil its quota if the upper management of the company made the right choice with the services and the target market.

The other problem is that quota measures the wrong thing. It's easy to fulfil your quota. You simply drop your price and sell enough volume to hit your quota. And many salespeople all over the world are doing exactly that. And their companies are going deeper and deeper into the red. The volume is there. What's missing is the margin. Never mind quota. Focus on margin. As Alan Weiss puts it in several of his books: "It's not what you make but what you keep that counts."

6. Get Rid Of Your Sales Presentations Once And For All...

...and replace it with diagnosis. Look, everyone and his kitchen sink are doing presentations. You can't differentiate your offer from the competition by doing a fancier Powerpoint dog and pony show on a larger projection screen out of multiple projectors. Tell me, how come that people, without a shred of objections, pay hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors without one single minute of "sales presentation?" Hm. I believe Powerpoint has its place in education, but not in sales.

While do most technology salespeople present like crazy and repeatedly end butting their heads against insurmountable objections? After the success of the Three Piglets, Disney executives recommended to make a sequel. Good ol' Walt wisely said, "You can't topple pigs with more pigs." Similarly, you can't sell more by presenting harder and longer and using more colours, objection-handling- and closing techniques. You have to do something drastically different. That drastically different thing is diagnosis.

7. Become Proficient In Project Management

If you sell any kind of service, demonstrate your expertise from the beginning by demonstrating strong project management skills. If you don't sell services, start selling them right now. As former IBM big boss, Lou Gerstner said, "You're headed to commodity hell if you're not selling professional services." And the most profitable chunk of your professional services is your ability to proficiently and efficiently manage your projects.

The better you demonstrate that you have a sequential step-by-step process of implementing your solutions, the higher value your prospects will perceive in your services. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, only some 25% of projects deliver the expected value to clients. With technical projects this rate is about 16%. Is it surprising that technology consulting is often perceived as a commodity. It's up to you to break this paradigm in your prospects' minds.

8. Replace Your Eye-Candy Type Brochures With Well-Written Sales Letters

This is funny and sad at the same time. Technology companies willingly pay $10-25,000 for a bunch of printed full colour brochures that produce precisely dick, but plainly refuse to pay the same amount to a good copywriter who could write a sales letter that would flood the office with qualified prospects ready for doing business with the company. Every time I get hired to help with low response, I recommend to get rid of the corporate brochure and write a proper sales letter with a touch of humility and humanity as opposed to cold, impersonal self-aggrandising corporate speak. And it always works. And while I contribute to that letter too, it's the method that works.

And the response is almost always the same: Shock, horror and rebellion: "We paid a fortune for those brochures. There is no way we change them." Then I ask fellow VeraSage member, Ed Kless' (Senior Director of Partner Development and Recruitment at Sage Software) golden question: "And how is it working out for you?" And I grin like a Cheshire cat. The rebellion instantly turns into an eardrum-shattering silence. With a little attention you can even hear the cry of joy of the spiders in the corner making love. And the typical answer is, "Like hell." So, look at your response rates to your brochures, and stop wasting your money on them.

9. Stop Hourly Pricing And Start Value Pricing

Let's face it no one buys your time. Your clients need your unique expertise and solutions, and the more quickly you solve their problems, the better you are, thus the more you deserve. Hourly pricing penalises proficiently and efficiency, while rewarding incompetence. Clients also hate uncertainties like, "My rate is $180 an hour and have no idea how long it will take to fix your problem. But don't despair. I'll send you a bill finally, so you'll know it." Learn to quantify the cost of the client's problems and set your fees commensurately with the value of the solution you deliver.

And forget about random retarded measuring units like number of hours or poundage of deliverables. You have the right to work elegantly and paid well. And prospects who insist on seeing you slave, sweat, starve, suffer and struggle to earn your money, so by the time you finish the project, you're battered, bruised, bashed, bloodied, beaten, crashed and crushed, so you actually deserve your fees, should be rejected. Absolutely and positively no exception, no appeal, no reprieve and no mercy. And remember the Red Queen, "Off with their heads!" Well, you don't have to go so far.

Tom 'Bald Dog' Varjan may be contacted at

Using battle-tested military principles and strategies, former computer engineer and soldier Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan helps privately held technology companies to sell their services at the highest possible margins through systematic, consistent and predictable business development initiatives and systems. He helps his clients to build “minimum headcount and maximum firepower” commando type business development teams and precisely designed and implemented processes and systems. Visit his website for a broad range of business development tools, white papers and articles at


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