Bite-Size Business Development


You know the old adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Do these phrases sound familiar?

  • I wish I had time to focus on new business
  • When things slow down I’m going to start calling on new business
  • Next quarter, I’m going to call on one hundred new businesses a week
  • This year, I’m focusing on growing my existing client sales

If you find yourself repeating these phrases quarter after quarter, year after year, to no avail, you need to come to grips with two sobering conclusions, you either:

  1. Don’t really intend to call on new business or grow your book of business. What you’ve expressed is a “wish” that falls into the “someday/maybe” category. Like most wishes, these rarely come true because it is merely an expression of your emotion (not part of a declarative, actionable plan).
  2. Don’t fully realize you work in a brave new world, a new world teeming with interruptions, an industry consumed with last minute orders and a business cycle with (more often than not) dramatic fluctuations.

The pipeline for business development in the promotional products industry is broken, (perhaps it always has been due to the fact that, as distributors, our DNA is more marketing than sales). Add to this, the attention deficit caused by the internet and the reactionary nature of what we sell (that extends back to the client) and you have a recipe for a lifetime of wishful thinking.

Your lifestyle, as a promotional products professional and as a human being in the information age, is consumed by disruption. Disruption in a good sense: those disruptions lead to business which (eventually) leads to a paycheck. Problem is, developing a lifestyle of always reacting taints every other aspect of our business life, including business development.

What you need is a better response.

Rather than fight it (for it is, largely, a losing battle) you need to learn how to eat the elephant, one bite at a time. Gone are the days where you could work in protracted periods of time with no interruptions.  Gone are the days where you could dedicate one or two full business days to new business development. Gone, too, are the “seasons” you look forward too, those days or few weeks of respite when you can “finally get around to doing something about new business” because, if you’re lucky, your downtime won’t last long and you’ll begin the wonderful, vicious cycle all over again.

The real solution for the professional is to focus on bite-sized, actionable-today type of goals. Some examples:

  • I’m contacting one new business per week. Every Monday, before 9am, I will mail a creative campaign to one new contact and follow up by Thursday.
  • I’m creating one spec sample (virtual or physical) per week for one of my top clients and sending it to them by Friday.
  • I’m attending one networking event in my market every month (every week, preferred) so that I’m at least shaking hands with new people.

Goals sound too small? Of course they do. The problem is, some people live their entire careers paralyzed by bloated goals rather than energized by small, bite-sized actions. Overinflated goals, or wish-dreams, lead to inertia. Tiny actions lead to greater action. Rather than being frustrated by year-end (again), you can be invigorated by the fact that of the fifty-two weeks in a year, you contacted fifty-two qualified new leads that resulted in two new accounts. You can also look back and realize that you created fifty-two virtual or physical spec samples that led to a 15% increase in existing business and solidified your relationship with the client as a creative, proactive idea generator.

The solution for today’s harassed professional is to take elephantine goals and break them down into snack-size actions.