The art of business development is identifying and creating relationships that lead to increased revenue for your business.
Relationships may include business organization memberships, partnerships between one or more entities or simply one-on-one referral relationships.
For most successful businesses, business development is a combination of all the above. Here are 10 business development activities you should be doing today.
- Ask for referrals, from your clients (current and former), non-competing peers, friends, neighbors and other influencers in your network. Acknowledge your appreciation by thanking all of those who refer business to you.
- Join an organization (i.e., Rotary Club, industry/trade association, local chamber of commerce, etc.) where your target clients are likely to be members.
Get involved with the organization, beyond just attending meetings. Join a committee, become a leader in the organization and network often with members.
Once members get to know you and build a relationship with you, they are likely to contact you when they’re ready to do business.
- Become a good networker. Networking is about getting to know others and their needs so you can connect them to potential clients and influencers that will help their business grow. They will return the favor!
- Become a good social networker. Create business accounts and participate in the big social media sites (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter). Publish great content that is helpful, informative, insightful and relevant to readers. Engage with your followers.
- Always carry current, clean and organized business cards in ample supply.
- Use easy-to-review infographics as part of your sales arsenal. Infographics are memorable and easy for prospective clients to refer to when calling you for more details.
- Remember important dates, including client business anniversaries, vacation trips, births and other important happenings in your network’s business and life. Keep a calendar to help you remember to send them a short note or bring it up in conversation when you see them.
- Host an open house at your business. Invite an eclectic group of people who will benefit by meeting and conversing with each other.
Think of helping others to connect with prospective clients and influencers, as well. Develop a brief welcome to “break the ice” and get the conversations started.
- Have a clear understanding of your business offerings and be able to confidently and concisely share at a moment’s notice.
- Be curious. Get to know your prospective and current clients, their goals, their fears and their reason for existing in business. When you know them, you are in a great position to help them.
One additional note: Remember Alliant National is a great resource to advise and educate independent agents on business development best practices.
You are looking at a photo of a house on Mexico Beach, Florida which was the location that Cateogry 4, Hurricane Michael, made landfall on October 10, 2018.
Almost all of the homes surrounding this home were built to 1970s Category 3 hurricane standards set by the local government. You can see what happened to them. Catastrophic destruction.
This particular home was built “for the big one.” In this case, a Category 5 hurricane standard, able to sustain winds of 250 miles an hour and very high storm surges.
The owners of this home took the time to think for themselves and choose to work with different standards, higher standards, so they could cope more effectively with the new set of threats being created by climate change.
Given the picture above, here’s the question to ask yourself as an independent title agent: What standards am I building my business to?
Where am I getting those standards and what is the motivation of the source that is giving me that information? How reliable are they? Is it appropriate?
As the Independent Underwriter for The Independent Agent, we at Alliant National think for ourselves.
What should those standards be considering that our agents success is our success, that we don’t compete with them by having direct operations and our entire business model is organized around helping our independent agents thrive?
As you may have summized, our standards are higher.
Alliant National is the independent underwriter for THE FINEST Independent agents in the industry, and we have evidence to prove it.
From 2013 through 2017 the title insurance industry had an average loss ratio of 7.7 percent. Alliant National’s loss ratio for that same period was 3.4 percent. That’s performance!
How do we do it?
We offer quality assurance certifications to help our agents meet the needs of regulators and bolster their credibility with REALTORS and lenders. And we have our own processes verified and certified to be the finest in the industry.
AUTHORIZED SERVICE PROVIDER
The Authorized Service Provider designation is determined by an audit using the stringent SSAE 18 Type 2 (SOC 1) examination process. We send a formal letter and seal to each agent for every year they carry the Authorized Service Provider distinction, which can be shared with third-party vendors.
CERTIFIED SERVICE PROVIDER
The Certified Service Provider designation also comes with a formal letter and seal, which can be shared with third-party vendors. To achieve this elevated distinction, an agent must submit additional documentation for review while satisfying Authorized Service Provider and ALTA Best Practices standards.
SSAE18 TYPE II CERTIFIED
Alliant National was the first title insurance underwriter in the nation to obtain an SSAE18 Type II compliant status and is the only title insurance underwriter to achieve compliant status for four consecutive years.
ISO 27001 CERTIFIED
We’re also the only title insurance underwriter in the industry to receive an ISO 27001 certification, validating that we adhere to the most rigorous International Organization for Standardization (ISO) requirements – just another example of how Alliant National assures quality and helps manage risk for our agents.
So choose your standards carefully. Know the motivations of your underwriters and why some set standards high and why others set standards low so you’re more at risk.
Our standards are built to last, built for the big one, and built to help our agents thrive.
Why you? What makes you special? What makes you different? What makes you better?
When you speak or write about your title company do you bring up what is different and better and trigger immediate interest? Do you elaborate on what is new, unusual and of great value to your customers? Or do you speak and write about what is ordinary and common and trigger immediate indifference to your value?
There are fundamental principles of economics at work here. The simplified explanation is that people assess value at the margins or edges of common offers. It’s called the Principle of Marginal Utility and Marginal Value.
For example, when you see an ad for a new smartphone does the ad inform you that you can store telephone numbers and text and email people from it? Or does it focus on things that make the smartphone an extraordinary camera, with face ID, and with uncommon face recognition that allows you to mirror your expressions in 12 Animojis so you can reveal your inner panda, pig or robot?
Whenever we as human beings are introduced to something NEW we are hardwired to make an assessment of its value. That’s what you want to do with your sales conversations and the content on your website and social media – provide compelling explanations about the extraordinary value of what you offer that your competitors do not offer.
So are you speaking and writing about your differentiatiors and separating yourself from your competition or are you speaking and writing about what is common and ordinary and triggering people into an assessment that your company is ordinary and should be “priced” (low) to differentiate itself?
When you are common you are priced. Margins are low. So you have to focus on VOLUME. When you are different and your customers value that difference, margins are higher. You can focus on VALUE instead of volume and think of ways to increase your customers’ willingness to pay a premium by inventing new ways to enhance the customer’s experience.
It’s more than just a buzzword or a banner on your office wall. How do you make your customers the center of your business operations, culture and reason for coming to work each day?
How do you make it your sole focus to anticipate and take care of their needs? How do you create a base of loyal fans who refer you to everyone they know?
Of course, you do need to display your customer-centric core values prominently on your walls and make those values part of your daily vernacular at work.
You also need to immerse those values into your company culture every day. Make those values come to life in the eyes of all employees.
One way to bring the values to life is by tying them to employee performance within your company. Options for marrying performance to a customer-centric value system include:
- Creating a customer survey process and inviting customers to review employees based on a number of metrics (all tied to your customer-centric core values);
- Create a “living the values” award and ask employees to vote for their peers;
- Develop a “secret shopper” system to periodically test employee responses to typical customer requests;
- Build the customer-centric core values into each employee’s annual review rating guide.
Another key means to bring those customer-centric values to life is to lead by example, such as:
- Make the values at least a small portion of every single internal meeting in your company;
- Follow the customer-centric approach you’ve created—for your external customers and internal customers (aka employees);
- Make yourself available and approachable any time an employee has a question related to the core values;
- Create a “daily devotional” core value email to hit employee inboxes at the start of each work day;
- Communicate best-practice examples when you see other employees “living the values” during their daily jobs;
- Offer constructive feedback when you see opportunities for employees to improve on their customer-centric approach.
Additionally, research shows time and time again that employees stay in jobs where they feel connected, valued and engaged in meaningful work.
Breathing life into customer-centric values, along with the tips offered above, offer employees that chance to feel like they belong. Research also shows that happy employees provide the very best customer service.
So, remember that your customer-centric core values statements are just that—words—until you bring them to life with action.
What’s the story of your title company’s value? What’s the story about who you are and what you stand for? What has your title agency accomplished? Why should you be trusted? Why should your prospects listen to you?
What’s your story? And how do you deepen your story to make it more effective, strategic and competitive? Here are five essential things to look for to deepen your story and make it more compelling:
Your Big Why
Why does your title company exist? Why do you go to work every morning?
Of course, we know you need to make a living, but going deeper than that, what drives you and your company? What is the purpose behind you and the company you lead?
Look for a BIG why (not a small why), something like you believe that home is the most important place on earth or that you believe in homeownership as part of the American Dream.
What you’re trying to do here is demonstrate your sincerity and passion for what you do – and motivate your employees and customers around a unifying cause.
Your Title Company’s Achievements
These have to be highly-valued to be effective. Giving to charity, being in business for 10 years, serving the community, and producing happy customers are not highly valued achievements.
What have you done that is great? Unusual? Look for that.
Your Title Company’s Principles
What matters to you most? What values guide your company’s behaviors?
Pick three and have some wonderful “specific” stories about how your team was influenced by your principles and acted in ways that really helped your clients get ahead.
Your Value Story
Why is your title agency more important, useful and worthwhile to use? What do you offer that other title companies do not? Remember that people assess value on the edges or margins of common offers.
More convenient office locations? 24/7/365 closings anywhere, anytime? Best follow-up? Higher tech? CE classes for REALTORS? E-closings?
Your Reason to Act Now
What bad things could happen to the people who do not use your services? What risks are they taking? What compelling reasons can you give without speaking badly about a specific competitor? Learn to bring these forth.
The competitive reality is that a title company needs to be in continual Story Deepening bringing forth the importance of their products and services, speaking their competitive advantages and superior value to customers and prospects. If you don’t, who will?
Your company has an unlimited supply of stories to share. By incorporating a steady narrative based upon your company’s purpose and guiding principles, you can take advantage of strategic storytelling to gain a competitive edge.