Barbara Weaver SmithBarbara Weaver Smith is founder and president of The Whale Hunters, a strategic sales coaching company that helps small businesses grow fast by selling bigger deals to bigger customers.

What are you doing to be a post-recession winner?

Historically, we know that recessions spur innovation, big ideas, new products, and new services that propel small companies to greatness.  Small companies benefit more than larger companies, simply because many big companies survive by cutting costs and dismissing personnel–not great innovation strategies.

So, if you’ve survived and (I hope) thrived during the recession, you should be poised to take your company to a much higher level of performance in 2011.

But it’s not automatic.  It’s time to adopt a whole new perspective on business development.

First,  three key pieces of investigation to complete:

  • Where is your industry, post-recession?  Take a cold, hard look at the big-picture opportunities and threats.  Marketing is one of many industries undergoing seismic changes, much like financial services did a few years ago.
  • What’s going on with key prospects in your market?  Be sure you understand the recession fallout that has affected your target customer base.  Know the winners and losers.  Markets have been topsy-turvy, and you need to know what that means for your positioning.
  • What are your competitors promising?  How are they positioning?  Like you, they’ve made many changes—possibly radical changes—in their business model, their brand promise, and their target customers.  Some of your big competitors have chased much smaller deals than they did pre-recession; maybe that’s made you more visible to them and you’re no longer under their radar.

Second, three internal changes to institute:

  • Get your whole company focused on business development.  BD is not a job; it’s a philosophy.  If you have any tension between the people who sell and the people who deliver services (and who doesn’t?), you need to make it go away.
  • Involve your subject matter experts in sales.  I mean seriously.  Train them well for customer-facing presentations and conversations.  Your team will learn more from the prospects, develop better solutions, and make more compelling presentations.
  • Increase your customers’ trust in your team.  When you are in a growth mode with new business coming on board, people get busy, and sometimes cranky, and that can lead them inadvertently to damage trust by blaming small errors on other people or departments on your team–“Oh, I heard that training was running three weeks behind.”

If you’ve been living in the recession doldrums, all this may be a tall order!  Maybe your employees are grumpy—tired of making do, tired of working harder with no new rewards, tired of doing more than one job, tired of just surviving.  If so, they need a big picture and a big plan to recapture their energy.

If you’ve been thriving, your team may nevertheless need a new reality check.  The recession is over; the rules are changing.  Take the time to look around, see what’s going on today, and determine where you will play and how you will fit.

It’s an exciting and particularly challenging time to be an entrepreneur.  I would love to hear the post-recession strategies you are adopting and hope you will share your advice by commenting.

Barbara Weaver Smith is founder and president of The Whale Hunters, a strategic sales coaching company that helps small businesses grow fast by selling bigger deals to bigger dustomers.  She is  host of the Pier9 onlinecommunity for business development and blogs at Whale Hunters Wisdom.