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If only business development in today's world was as simple and as easy as knocking on a few doors before you get the "yes" you seek.

Business development in today's marketplace is a challenging activity like never before. To find that elusive 'yes' you have to first find someone who is able to buy, who is not constrained by a preferred supplier list. Then you need to navigate your way through the internal network of decision makers. Then to find that you are going to have to enter a formal tender process run by procurement.

More challenging still, not only do you have competitors, you have new market entrants that claim to do the sale thing for less, technology providers automating services you used to sell and companies insourcing activities they used to outsource.

The challenge for sales leaders is that the harder a sale is to achieve, the more elusive that 'yes' is to find, the harder it is to motivate their sales professionals to be proactive in finding new prospects.

More frustrating still for the leader the harder a manager wants to push proactive sales activities to be performed. The harder they push the more passive-aggressive resistance they find.

As a generation Xer, I come from a time when if I showed too much reluctance to be proactive in business development my manager would wave a McDonald's application form in my face. Yet, this instinctive response is not the right approach when trying to motivate millennials.

What Millennials (and quite a few Xer's) need, is to be engaged in what they are being asked to do.

What does engaged mean?

It means that they want to be part of creating the solution to finding a way to attract, nurture and develop clients. Rather than be told this is our operating model, this is what you do. Execute or leave.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I will give you a simple definition of engagement. ASK, Yes just ASK for their opinions when seeking to overcome challenges.

In my book Business Development Culture, I give an example of an exercise called "How Do You Solve A Problem Like..."

This simple exercise encourages managers to sit with their teams, lay out a problem and ask for ideas of how they can solve this problem.

Sounds simple, and you would be amazed at the creative ideas that come from individuals in the sales team. So far, so simple. The hardest part for leaders is to be open to the ideas and suggestions that come from their team. This is because "what works" in a managers mindset is often limited to their own experiences. Yet, often sales professionals are managed by managers who have little or no understanding of how social media, email can be integrated into a sales process.

The greatest sales success stories I have seen, come from companies where the sales teams and marketing teams have responsibility of redesigning the sales process. They change the process to reflect how tools like social media, email and instant messaging can be used to increase attraction and conversion of leads.

If you think that your team are out of ideas, there are also other ways of engaging them in solving challenges you have with the sales process.

You could set them a challenge of finding a Youtube video, or blog article that solves a specific problem. It could be that you ask them to conduct some market research by asking a group of your clients what approach they think works best.

Another approach is attending an event together and use the ideas from the speakers as a catalyst for improving how you approach your sales process (I hear the National Sales Conference is very good for this type of thing :-) )

My challenge to you is, do you have the courage to ask your team for their ideas of improving the sales process? And are you brave enough to put in place some of the ideas?

Pitch time…..another way to engage your team into changing what they do is to bring them along to a conference where they get exposed to new ideas that you can use as a catalyst for change. The National Sales Conference has co-located events on the same day that allow Directors, Managers, Sales Consultants and the Training team to be exposed to similar ideas on the same day. Just image the number of ideas you sales team can bring to the table after a day of worldclass sales and marketing insights……see you there.

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Posted here with permission of our 2018 Sales Learning & Development host, Alex Moyle.