Like hurdlers who look far ahead as they clear each hurdle, business developers plan each step toward their ultimate goal: closing the sale to the satisfaction of all parties.

 

The recipe for sales success

 

Patrice Gouin, directeur du développement des affaires chez Prodeval Canada, analyse de très nombreuses données
Patrice Gouin, Director of Business Development at Prodeval Canada, with all his data at his fingertips!

 

Sales require communication—lots of it. As in life, communication serves as a bridge between parties, both internally and externally. It’s also about sharing information and trends; learning and negotiating; listening well and asking the right questions. Sales reps know this. Good sales reps excel at this.

Like hurdlers who look far ahead as they clear each hurdle, business developers plan each step toward their ultimate goal: closing the sale to the satisfaction of all parties.

 

It’s about speaking the language of the listener

In sales, it’s not just about selling a product, it’s about selling a solution. And speaking the client’s language is key to achieving this. For example: Clients looking into boilers need to be told about BTUs per hour, production and safety codes, licensing requirements, and the different standards for each Canadian province or U.S. state.

 

It’s about understanding calls for tenders and drafting proposals

When it comes to biogas, calls for tenders are often hundreds of pages long. Knowing how to pick out relevant information, and ensure that a sentence on page 20 does not contradict another one on page 120, is crucial. As in other sectors, these documents are often the result of multiple copy‑paste operations, such that Appendix 1 may in fact be Appendix 5. Hence, part of a business developer’s work involves reading through the calls for tenders.

Business developers also help create business plans. To this end, they must actively engage with clients, asking them questions and reaching an agreement on all project conditions and timelines. They become the liaison between the client and the parent company’s team in charge of preparing the bids.

 

It’s about knowing the existing standards, codes, and programs

At the time of a sale, developers are responsible for ensuring that all documents are properly filled out and all information is effectively transferred. They must check that none of the codes or manufacturing standards have changed during the negotiations, between the negotiations and receipt of the PO, or even between receipt of the PO and the delivery date—which can be one or two years later.

As you may have guessed, frequent amendments are commonplace. Whether a law has changed, or there has to be compliance with a new code requiring fewer emissions and thicker piping systems, or there now has to be greater clearance to ensure the safety of users, the result is the same: The financial and technical proposal must be revised.

It’s about adapting to different markets and practices

To work in Canada, the parent company must tailor its calculations and products to the numerous national standards (CSA). Since the biogas industry is relatively new, the applicable codes are those from the natural gas sector, with exceptions and additions for biogas, all of which are updated every five years.

Here’s a shining example. European products are not always suitable for Canada. Physically, the biogas purification systems are installed in closed containers, which must be vented to avoid any build‑up of chemical fumes. So, when it’s ‑30°C over here, heating and insulation obviously become important issues. On the sales front, clients need to be reassured that we always comply with current standards and take their unique requirements into consideration, and that there won’t be any issues with freezing or service delivery.

 

It’s about letting go of after‑sales support, aligning with the rest of the team, and handing over the reins

Why? Because even though sales reps are the ones who build the client relationship—relationships that they likely cherish—they cannot be involved in the implementation process or receive and handle calls regarding a problem. They’re not responsible for resolving issues; their work is elsewhere, on another project, perhaps even with the same client. The after‑sales team will take over and deal with any potential problems. This is what makes the entire team effective and ensures the best possible service for each client.

 

It’s also about imagining the future

Some might say that the key is to keep learning continuously. Others might counter that it’s all about listening. And about passing on their knowledge, either by training other reps or by informing management of market trends.

This forward‑thinking insight stems from business developers who are in tune and involved with what’s happening in various markets.

 

Business development in the era of teleworking

 

Nicolas Bruyas, ingenieur commercail export chez Prodeval
For export sales engineer Nicolas Bruyas, there’s no room for routine when requests pour in from all over the world.

 

Project follow‑ups

Business development, trade, and sales are all words that are synonymous with being very organized. Sales reps have all the time in the world when they’re with you, but they never waste it.

Did you know that a hurdler’s success depends on how well they control the time spent over the hurdle, and not on increasing the jumping distance?

Imagine that you’re overseeing 200 projects, which represents a considerable amount of work. Some are at the government announcement stage, while others are at the bidding stage. With the former, you have to build and maintain the relationship over several years; with the latter, it’s already too late to make a name for yourself!

Just five canvasing calls a day can quickly generate huge amounts of information and follow‑ups to manage. Before each call, you have to prepare and do research, create overlay maps of gas lines to get an idea of the site, identify all programs by region and their end dates—in short, everything that needs to be monitored—and then you have to introduce yourself and capture (and keep) the attention of the person at the end of the line. You then need to document the discussion, sorting useful information from noise. And, of course, reminders and follow‑ups, either in writing or by phone, must be scheduled.

All this combined with maintaining and engaging the extensive network of some 20,000 LinkedIn contacts that an experienced developer will have accumulated throughout his or her career!

 

Customer relationship management (CRM) software

Nowadays, of course, we have access to powerful work tools, including customer relationship management software. But what hasn’t changed is the importance of relational intelligence, attention to details, and the ability to make meaningful connections.

The advantages of such new tools include the possibility of multiple inputs feeding a single CRM, and thus enriching it, but also of building ties between ecosystem stakeholders who, like the client, have a role to play in a project’s success.

Patrice recounted his daily ritual: “Before I call people, I do research on what I can offer them, what they’d be interested in. This morning, I found the 1‑800 number of a large Vermont farm that I want to contact and which also produces maple syrup. . . When I called to speak with the farmer, I got the following recorded message: ‘If you want to buy maple syrup. . .’ People don’t realize that making cold calls takes an incredible amount of time and that you can’t happily do this job without management software. CRM is my peace of mind. When my work day ends, I can forget everything and go for a bike ride, because I know that tomorrow morning, a small notification bell will remind me of the follow‑ups I have scheduled. I often program an alert one hour before a call so that I can prepare like it’s the first time.”

 

The quote‑sales duality

Sales reps don’t just pull numbers and proposals out of a hat! They work closely with colleagues who are responsible for sourcing quotes and who are every bit as much involved in the sales process. That’s the job held by Nicolas, a multilingual engineer who completed his end‑of‑studies internship in the sales department. People say he has the memory of an elephant.

Nicolas, who also works in commercial exports, responds to requests from everywhere and anywhere, does sales prospecting, and draws up proposals. He’s well versed in business development.

Costing a proposal requires comprehensive knowledge of the company’s services and products, an understanding of the client’s technical requirements, and an ability to make convincing arguments that are backed up by figures.

As we have seen, costing estimates will vary depending on the applicable standards in a given context. All these different standards and ways of providing input put pressure on the estimator, sales rep, and client to be extra attentive and to communicate openly and regularly. Oftentimes, the parties involved think they’re talking about the same thing when, in fact, they’re understanding things differently! Sound familiar?

A telling example is the heat output and flow measurements. In France, they’re expressed at 0 degrees under normal conditions, whereas in North America, also under normal conditions, that figure is 15 degrees. . . And yet, in both cases, we’re talking about heat output.

Together, the estimator and sales rep provide clients with as much information as possible to ensure they’re fully informed of the initial assumptions, which can then be confirmed or rejected.

Hence the back and forth between sales rep, estimator, and client until the proposal is entirely in line with the standards and needs, and is clearly understood by everyone.

 

Taking advantage of the virtual era

 

Le vendeur a le monde en tête, devant ses écrans.
Endlessy gathering information.

 

It wasn’t that long ago that people travelled extensively and attended major national and international trade shows. It was a way of life. They would meet potential clients in the elevator, at breakfast, at their booths, in the hallways. . . The many opportunities for discussion created direct ties. Promising encounters would then be followed up with phone calls or emails.

All of this was suddenly replaced by a deluge of virtual meetings and remote trade shows and conferences. While the tools were fairly basic at first, they developed very quickly and became more sophisticated. So much so that we can already attest to the undeniable benefits of virtual meetings, such as:

  • financial savings: hotels, booths, airfare, accommodations, etc.
  • time savings: no more jet lag; no need to walk a kilometre between each appointment; meetings can last a mere 15 minutes.

On some platforms, chat rooms are already being used for way more than simple exchanges between participants. Imagine a virtual room with roundtables which you can approach. When registering for the conference, you simply provide your name, that of the company you represent, your title, and a photo of yourself. Hence, when you approach a table, the other participants will see your picture, which they can hover over with their cursor to display the rest of your information. The only way to participate in a discussion is by entering the table’s circle. And when you do enter, you’ll be able to hear the last sentence that was spoken. In short, when you quickly pop in, you can catch the last bit of a conversation very much like what happens in real life. That’s pretty impressive.

Future developments are also expected to increasingly mimic natural behaviours, such as:

  • making jokes;
  • jumping into a discussion, leaving, then coming back;
  • saying to your neighbour “come, let’s go sit over there” and then walking away together towards a small coffee area;
  • once alone, you can ask the other person a question about a piece of equipment; the person can then turn on their computer and introduce you to the workshop manager who will show you the machine they’re working on.

The challenge for sales reps is to stay in touch with every ecosystem stakeholder and to keep abreast of any changes or innovations, despite evolving practices.

Like Olympic hurdlers, business developers must learn to stay active and alert throughout the day while making the right moves. And for that to happen, they must look beyond the hurdles that can trip them up.

 

Want to know more about our work at Prodeval and Prodeval Canada? Click here.

Developing business in a fast moving industry

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