Business Development Strategies for Getting Through Your First Year in Network Marketing

Starting a business is one of the most exciting things you can do. However, as a new network marketer, independent business owner, or product representative, you may not realize that the first year or two in business will be the most challenging. This is especially true if you have never built a business before or worked outside the home. To help you with your business development, here is some advice you can use to maximize your chances of business success.

One thing that you need to understand as a new business owner is that you are responsible for your own success. The company will usually provide training to help you with your business development and your sponsor may offer some advice. At the end of the day, though, you are the one who has to take action to move your business in the direction that you want it to go. No matter what your sponsor tells you, all businesses require some type of active participation on your part.

Business Development Tips for Your First Year

Get Used to Rejection

No one likes to be rejected. As a small business owner, though, you might as well get used to it. Not everyone is going to be a match for the products you are selling or your business opportunity and you will run into a lot more people saying “No” than those who say “Yes”.

Don’t get discouraged. Take each rejection as an opportunity to learn what didn’t work so you can refine your approach. Eventually, you will get to a point where you will be able to ferret out the best business associates and increase your conversions.

Automate as Much of Your Business Development as You Can

A big part of your small business success will depend on how well you handle your time. There are only so many workable hours in the day and you want to spend as much of that time on tasks that will make you money or help you grow your business. Look for ways to automate or outsource those chores you don’t have time to do. For example, you could hire a virtual assistant to help you with email or some of your marketing.

Get Training

Part of your business development strategy must include taking time to get training that will provide you with the knowledge you need to build a successful small business. A lot of business opportunities tout the fact that you don’t need to have prior business experience. While this is true, you must be willing to get the training required to bring you up to speed. Take advantage of what your company has to offer as well as books and seminars offered by business development experts.

Track Your Progress

Tracking is the key to determining what works in your business and what needs to be abandoned in favor of something more promising to your business development. This is particularly important if you are paying with time or money because you don’t want to waste either on stuff that isn’t getting results. While there are programs out there which will assist you in monitoring different aspects of your business, a simple Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet will generally work fine as well.

Learn to Separate Fact from Fiction

When you announce to the world that are in business, you will get a lot of advice from everyone. Some of it will be good and some of it will be plain wrong. In addition to that, other people may try to sell you products and services aimed at helping your manage your business. It is important that you learn discernment and be able to separate fact from fiction. Otherwise, you will end up wasting time implementing bad advice or throwing good money at worthless products.

Build a Brand

There are thousands of people in the commercial sphere selling all sorts of business opportunities. The only thing that will make you stand out from your competition is your branding. Not your company branding but your own personal branding. When you build a recognizable name for yourself, you will attract prospects to you rather than having to chase after them. Additionally, having a personal brand will make it easier to change business opportunities without being forced to start all over again.

Train for Independence

It’s nice to have people helping you with your business development and providing advice or tools to assist you in achieving small business success. However, you are the epicenter of your business and you need to be able to stand on your own two feet. Network marketing is an industry that sees a lot of turnover. It is not uncommon for people to drop in and out of a business opportunity. Keep yourself and your business strong by cultivating as much independence as you possibly can.

Focus on Long Term Success

A lot of people in the network marketing industry try to sell you on the idea that you can achieve instant success with your business opportunity. Overnight success does happen but it is very rare. Usually, what looks like an overnight success is actually the result of years of hard work behind the scenes.

It is best to focus on building a business for the long term. When you focus on attaining quick success, you will become easily frustrated because it won’t be happening fast enough for your tastes. Think of building your business as a marathon rather than a sprint. It may take awhile to reach the finish line but you will get there if you persist and persevere.

Your first year in network marketing will be an exciting roller coaster ride full of ups and downs. However, if you stick with it, you will lay a solid foundation that will contribute greatly to your small business success.

A Golden Nugget of New Business Development

This past year (2009) was tough for most businesses, and 2010 will be tough too. Current account lists have been trimmed (in both numbers and profitability) because of the global economic contraction, and the focus of most business has turned to new business development to drive revenue growth. In fact, the majority of sales job listings on careerbuilder.com and monster.com are for salespeople that can develop new business, rather than organically grow existing business. Because new business development is so important to so many, I thought I would post an article on what I consider to be one of the “golden nuggets” that sales executives should think of to help boost his/her sales organization’s new business productivity.

The golden nugget is your sales force’s ability to QUALIFY NEW PROSPECTS. To better understand the implications of good/bad qualification on new business development, I find it’s insightful to take a look at the sales funnel. There are two characteristics of the sales funnel that I find to be telling about new business development. The first is that as opportunities move down the sales funnel, they require an increasing investment of your company’s resources (time and money). The implication is that if you let an unqualified opportunity move down the funnel it will become very expensive (in time and money) very fast, and you will lose out on the opportunity to invest those resources in other opportunities. The second characteristic is that the greatest number of prospects sit within the first stage of your sales funnel (often called prospecting or initial contact). The average amount of time that your salespeople spend qualifying a prospect in the first stage has a HUGE impact on your sales force’s time. If your sales force reaches out to 100 prospects a week, an average qualification time of 30 minutes versus an hour can free your sales force of 3,000 hours per week; that’s equivalent to adding 75 full time employees per week.

So where does qualification fit into the sales funnel? Qualification is the process by which your salespeople identify the quality of the prospect, and determine if the prospect is worth pursuing. In the sales funnel this is reflected by the movement of a prospect either from the first stage (often called “initial contact”) to the second stage (often called “needs analysis”), or the elimination of the prospect from the sales funnel altogether. Qualification has a profound impact on both the number of expensive bad opportunities that leak into the advanced stages of your sales funnel, as well as the time your salespeople will spend trying to qualify prospects. If you could use 75 new salespeople, or would love to have invested more resources in a big opportunity that got away, here are a couple tips to help your sales force qualify opportunities efficiently and effectively:

–Define Qualification: Generally speaking, a qualified opportunity is one in which the salesperson has spoken with someone involved in the decision making process, has found that the target company has a need, and is certain that the target company has an interest/commitment to take action to meet that need. As I am sure you know, there are different degrees of quality and you will want to invest your resources accordingly. I generally find that there are roughly three characterizations that businesses gravitate to once a prospect is deemed to be over the quality threshold: 1) Good enough to let a salesperson invest their time. 2) Good enough to assign local resources (engineers, regional marketers, local sales managers) to the opportunity. 3) Good enough to assign corporate resources (regional sales VPs, directors of product management, C-level suite) to the opportunity.

–Create Qualification Questions: After you have defined what a qualified opportunity looks like, you will need to determine the key questions that your sales force must answer to determine the quality of the prospect. I’m a big believer in looking at my best employees for insight, and almost always find that the best new business development salespeople will have a good understanding of the questions they ask to determine if the prospect is worth putting more effort into. For example, a good qualification question I see elite salespeople answer is “Does your prospect have an assigned budget for the project/product/service?” That might give you insight as to whether the prospect has made a commitment to meet their need.

–Answer Qualification Questions: Once you’ve determined the right questions to ask, it’s time to ingrain these questions in your sales management, sales process, coaching priorities, and CRM software. The key here is to emphasize the importance of answering these questions in as many places as possible; this will help to create an environment (as opposed to a “flavor of the week” initiative) that exudes the importance of answering qualification questions. You can always just require that they answer them, but unless they see those questions as important they are likely to game the system.

–Training!: As a manager and a leader, whenever you set a strong direction for your people it is important to surround them with the resources they need to do accomplish their goals. Seek out an internal or external sales training group that specializes in helping salespeople qualify, and follow up with support: here are a few tips that will help you with sales training.

–Set Goals and Measure Results: As with anything, measuring progress towards your goals is crucial. If you aren’t sure about what goals you need, set-up your qualification infrastructure (steps above) and then start to gather data to help you set a baseline. Set up your goals so that they are consistent with the other goals for your sales force.

One important note: The reason why I see most companies struggle with qualification is that they over rely on one of the two different types of questions they make their sales force answer: objective and subjective. An objective question requires a black and white answer, such as “Is there an assigned budget for the project/product/service, and what is the amount?” Customers have never fit neatly into objective boxes because they are all unique, and a salesperson’s value often lies in their intuition. Holding back your investment in all prospects unless the answer to this question is “Yes” might be a mistake. A subjective question relies solely on the perspective of the salesperson, which often varies from salesperson to salesperson. Of a ten prospect account list, one salesperson might see five qualified prospects while another might see two. This makes it very hard to truly see the ripe opportunities that you should invest resources in winning. In order to be as accurate as possible, it is vital that you use a mix of both subjective and objective questions.

Business VoIP Solutions and Its Advantages For the Businessman

Every business tries to cut costs and increase profitability. And with the ever-increasing pace of technological development, there are many new possibilities open for the forward-thinking businessman. Among these possibilities are business VoIP solutions.

VoIP is the abbreviated version of “Voice Over Internet Protocol.” And as you can tell by the name, VoIP is a telephone technology that utilizes the Internet instead of the traditional telephone cables to connect callers to each other. For this reason, you can make telephone calls at a much reduced rate, especially on long distance phone calls – less than half the cost of a regular long distance phone call.

With VoIP, your savings come from combining your data traffic (your Net connection) with voice calling capability (telephones). When you make a call, your voice is turned into digital data that can travel through the Internet. Upon reaching its destination, this data then returns to its original state, as a voice. This conversion is performed by either a special adapter attached to your phone and modem, by a special VoIP phone, or by software on your computer system.

If you have a business with several locations in different states, communications between these offices is much cheaper. Business VoIP solutions also offer some useful business communication features. Like regular phones, VoIP has caller ID, fax capability and call forwarding. It also has conference call capabilities that can accommodate three or more people, depending on your provider.

And because VoIP works independent of the traditional, fixed telephone lines, it works anywhere you can get a good Internet connection. You can make low-cost calls as long as you have your VoIP “hard phone,” or your laptop with VoIP software installed (a “soft phone”).

These business VoIP solutions may benefit certain kinds of businesses more than others. The money saved by VoIP depends mainly on the number of long-distance calls made in your company every month. The quality of your phone connection also depends on how fast your internet is on slower connections, dropped calls and low sound quality may result. If your business internet can handle the load of both your VoIP and regular data traffic, then VoIP is a great choice.

Business Development Advice from the Chair of the ABA Commission on Women

Pamela Roberts, Esq., a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, has cracked the code to becoming a rainmaker: get active in a big national organization, focus on public service and let the referrals come in. Her story illustrates how any lawyer can do the same; and her questions at the end of the article can stimulate your own success story.

She is no ordinary lawyer. Roberts is the Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, a prominent national position that gives her frequent exposure on the wide range of issues facing women lawyers. And she does it while being a mother of four, wife of another partner in her firm and full-time business litigator at a 400-lawyer firm.

Only 17% of women lawyers are equity partners, and most firms have just a lone woman rainmaker – statistics that Roberts finds distressing. “Becoming a rainmaker always been somewhat challenging. It’s so much more challenging for a woman,” she said.

But she herself is active in four local charities, which brought her referrals. She is a regular public speaker before audiences of clients, and she attends trade association meetings in the industries of her clients.

How does she do it all? “I gave up on sleep,” she joked. “Seriously, my husband and I made the decision that by having two people working full time, we have to pay for nannies and support help.” Help is essential, especially when one of your kids is on two traveling soccer teams.

Getting Business from the Bar (or other Organizations)

And so is focus. Roberts pursues activities and passions where she can build relationships. For her it’s been the American Bar Association, where she began more than a decade ago by working her way up the Litigation Section. Her husband gave her an early demonstration of networking.

“I was attending an ABA Litigation section meeting. My husband, who is also a lawyer and avid golfer, was with me and he went out for a round of golf. He came back to lunch with another couple: one, a potential client whom he had been golfing with, and his spouse, who was a litigator attending the ABA meeting. She and I had never spoken though it’s only a group of 200 people! Meanwhile, these two guys played one round of golf and had already exchanged business cards and followed up with notes to each other,” she said.

Roberts devoted herself to the ABA and today is a member of the ABA House of Delegates, the ruling legislative body. She served on the Board of Governors – the ABA’s board of directors – from 2002-2005, and is a former member of the commission on what is today named the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. She was Chair of the Young Lawyers Division and served on the ABA’s Nominating Committee and Special Committee on Governance.

She was following a key rule of business development: to join an organization and become visible in it. “My continuing motive always has been the underlying work,” she said. “I’ve always been a believer in the public service aspect of the ABA.” At the same time she started seeing immediate business benefits, because South Carolina is a small state and lawyers around the country would refer local legal matters to her. “I’m not aggressive about business development in the ABA,” she said. “But certainly, yes, the ABA is a good arena to get referrals. Just like golf or trade association activity, once you’ve worked together with other lawyers you can build relationships.”

To achieve her success, she advises other lawyers: “You must treat bar association membership as you would treat a client: honor deadlines and respect other people’s time and input. It is not only rewarding, but you’ll succeed and will be around a long time and get the opportunities.”

Roberts uses several specific techniques to generate new business:

  • Speaking engagements. “A speech is absolutely a business development opportunity,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what you’re speaking on.” She said it impresses clients if they merely see their lawyer on a panel discussion at an industry event. “The ideal setting is when a client is in the audience and you’re speaking on something important that directly affects the client.”
  • Niche building. The bane of litigators is one-time engagements. Lawyers typically will work with a client on litigation for years, but when the case concludes, so does the relationship. To overcome this problem, Roberts built a niche practice to offer the same service to multiple clients. “I did a lot of securities fraud class action defense work. A lot of them were one-time cases. What I did was parlay my expertise so it worked for other clients. I can say to one client that I did this particular work for two others. That’s how you build a type of expertise into a niche practice,” she said.
  • Referrals from civic boards of directors. Roberts is on the board of the Trinity Housing Corporation, Claflin College, the local YMCA and the local children’s museum. “All four of them are outside the legal profession. They clearly introduced me to civic leaders and opportunities to talk about what our firm did. Those opportunities also led me to meet decision-makers of current clients. Board membership is a great way to solidify both the firm’s relationship and build my own expertise,” she said.

Rainmaking is the key to breaking the glass ceiling that stops women from moving up in law firms. See the other feature articles this month on the same theme. Lawyers who want to smash through the barrier should emulate Roberts’ example, starting with her