Galen Low is joined by Christian Banach—an agency veteran and fierce entrepreneur who grew his own agency into 7-figure revenue—to explain why having a business development mindset can be a game changer for project managers and walks us through his proven framework.
- Christian shares what drew him into the advertising agency world and what led him to create his own consultancy. [2:29]
- Christian talks about some of the biggest challenges that their clients come to them to solve, and one of them is unpredictable pipeline. [5:56]
- Christian believes that business development is everybody’s responsibility, and that it’s a mindset of constantly thinking about what’s best for the customer and what’s best for the organization. [9:25]
- Christian shares some of the benefits of getting involved in business development, and one of them is learning and development. [12:19]
- A project manager who’s on the front lines has the ability to know what’s current and real and provides that perspective back to the BD team. [16:23]
- PROPEL is a framework that Christian and his team have developed. It stands for: Pivotal problem; Right to win audience; Offer value; Professional persistence; Engaging in your communications; Launching and optimizing. [21:31]
- Pivotal problem: understanding the client’s pain points first and foremost. [21:54]
- Right to win audience: understanding who the right people within the organizations that might be experiencing pivotal problem. [22:00]
- Offer value: instead of making it about you and what you want, it’s about understanding the problem the prospect’s experiencing, and then how you can offer value or insights into how they could solve that problem. [22:13]
- Professional persistence: understanding that people are busy and if you don’t hear back from them right away, you have to have a sequence of follow up type activities. [22:31]
- Engaging in your communications: whether that be new prospects or you’re going organically and really being cognizant of how people communicate these days. [22:52]
- Launching and optimizing: it’s more about moving forward with activities evaluating what’s working, what’s not working and then optimizing it as you go. [23:08]
People don’t come to your agency because they need a website. They come because they have a problem.Christian Banach
- Christian’s business don’t do too much with the organic growth. They’re more focused on driving new net business. [30:35]
- Christian talks about this notion of the slimy used car salesperson for those that are not in sales and biz dev roles. [32:35]
If you don’t hear back from somebody right away doesn’t necessarily mean that your idea is bad and they’re not interested. It’s just they’re trying to balance the day-to-day responsibilities that they have.Christian Banach
- When you are doing the follow up, if you continue to add value, then that goes into the mindset of you’re not bothering somebody, you’re actually sharing some additional information. [42:31]
- Your email needs to be focused on the problem, or not just email, whether you’re calling someone as well. It should always be focused on solving a problem and it should be personalized. That’s another part of being engaging. [44:51]
- Another area of engaging messaging is around the call to action. [46:32]
Meet Our Guest
Christian Banach is Principal/Chief Growth Officer of the business development and growth consultancy, Christian Banach LLC, where he and his team guides marketing agencies and martech companies to land 6- & 7-figure opportunities predictably and unlock their full potential.
Christian founded a concert promotion and experiential marketing agency in high school and would grow it to over $10MM in sales.
That company grew rapidly, and he worked with Grammy award winners like Lady Gaga and Pitbull. Not long after, Christian launched an experiential marketing agency division and activated programs for Disney and Toyota.
The business boomed, but the 2008 Great Recession happened. Things screeched to a halt. Like many agencies, his firm had grown through worth-of-mouth and referrals. To rebound, Christian hired a consultant who taught him the fundamentals of business development.
Feeling reinvigorated, Christian closed his company, took what he learned from the consultant, and pivoted to a career in agency business development. Over the last decade, Christian has worked at independent and holding company agencies across marketing disciplines.
Christian discovered that his superpower was hunting and generating top-of-the-funnel opportunities with enterprise companies. He was involved in millions of dollars of wins with companies like Kohl’s and Constellation Brands.
Over the years, he felt an entrepreneurial itch, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But the pandemic started, agencies lost clients, and some closed their doors. It reminded Christian of his agency during the Great Recession.
But this time, Christian had the expertise to help as that consultant did for him. He left his high-paying agency job and launched Christian Banach LLC to help agencies and martech companies build relationships, gain perspective, and grow.
Every follow up needs to add some value.Christian Banach
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Read The Transcript:
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
Galen Low: Business development. For a lot of project managers, those two words instantly conjure up images of a slimy snake-oil salesperson and trying to trick people out of their money.
But business development also means growth. So as the people who are leading the delivery of the work, isn't it in the best interest of a project manager to originate opportunities, help shape new projects, nurture stakeholder relationships, and infuse our knowledge into the sales process?
If you found yourself struggling with the relationship between business development and project delivery, keep listening. We're gonna be exploring how a business development mindset can help you grow your career and create new opportunities within your organization in an organic way that doesn't make you feel icky.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with the Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you want to hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
Today, we're going to be exploring the relationship between project management and business development to answer the controversial question: should business development be part of a project manager's remit?
With me today is Christian Banach, an agency veteran and fierce entrepreneur who grew his own agency into 7-figure revenue and now helps advertising agencies land 6 and 7 figure deals predictably. Christian, great to have you on the show!
Christian Banach: Hi Galen! Thank you so much. Really excited for this conversation. I appreciate you having me on.
Galen Low: I am as well. This is something that's very close to my heart because as we were talking about in prep, I've always been an account manager, project manager hybrid, and then where I took my career is actually into business development.
And it's always kind of been a core part of like what I've been asked to do, but as I've gone through it, I realized that is not always the common case. Like I might be, I might be a bit of an outlier, but I think it's a really important conversation to have. It keeps coming up in terms of what is my responsibility as a project manager to grow the business, you know, to make new projects happen, to make sales happen. Versus just, you know, is my job just to deliver and isn't that hard enough?
But before we get into that, just read it up on you. You've got a really interesting backstory and I'm wondering, could you tell our listeners a bit about what drew you into the advertising agency world, and what led you to create your own consultancy?
Christian Banach: Yeah, thanks for that intro. Well, I, I can't say that I went to school and decided, you know what, I want to go work in business development at agencies. It didn't, didn't work out that way. And I think sounds like your career as well, then wasn't how you planned it out.
So my journey, I mean, I've always been entrepreneurial. I mean, I was the kid that was, you know, buying and selling baseball cards in, you know, grade school and cutting, you know, and mowing lawns and all of that.
And really where I started with in business, you know, a more serious business was in more of a concert promotions background. And it started off really as a bunch of friends renting out banquet halls, booking local DJs, and, you know, inviting people in our neighborhood and schools and whatnot.
But that did grow into a, you know, full-fledged concert promotions business. We had worked with Lady Gaga and Pitbull and some really big artists. And it was more events, you know, driven our own events. However, we had gotten approached by an experiential marketing agency and they wanted some help with an activation in Chicago where I'm based.
And, uh, since we had the concert promotions business, it was a good, you know, synergy between our capabilities and what they needed. So we did the event with them and it went off really well and that led to another opportunity, another opportunity, and really exposed me to experiential marketing.
And then the light bulb sort of went off in my head and said, well, why are we working with this agency? Why don't we go and try to find, you know, brands ourselves that we could be doing this type of work for. So fast forward, um, the business became kind of half a concert promotions. The other half was these experiential event marketing programs.
We'd worked with Allstate and Disney and Toyota, some big, big, big corporate organizations. And really, again, exposed me more to the advertising and marketing world there. And in about 15 years actually into the business, the recession 2008 hits. And what ends up happening is my business on both sides of the house starts to dry up.
And like a lot of the clients that I work with now, I did not have a sales process, a new business program. It was really word of mouth referral driven. So I'd gone out and hired a consultant to help me. And I really, really loved it, so much to the point where I decided to pivot. And I closed down my firm and went and started work at agencies for doing business development with them. Spent about 10 years doing that and discovered my super power with business development really is kind of top of the funnel generating those big, you know, corporate type of clients with those 6 and 7 figure deals.
So again, kind of fast forward to how I started this in a particular consultancy is I was working at an agency, but I, I had that entrepreneurial itch still. I wanted do something on my own again, and like a lot of people, the pandemic hits and makes me re-evaluate where I want to go with my career.
And I saw agencies going out of business. Just like I was, you know, about to do 10 years prior with the recession. And I decided to close down my, or not close down, but I started to leave that position and start this consultancy and help agencies. And I felt like I was now in that role, just like the consultant helped me, you know, 10 or so years prior that I could help others.
So that's, you know, the kind of the journey into what led me into business development and led me into the advertising marketing space in particular.
Galen Low: There's some really bold moves in there, like starting your own thing, deciding to shut it down, right? After, after 15 years going and like, you know, being a employee in business development and now striking out on your own.
I think that sounds super cool. I mean, and then like today, I mean, you're working with a lot of ad agency clients. Like what are, what are some of the biggest challenges that they come to you to solve? Is it all business development and what specifically within that?
Christian Banach: Yeah. So we are definitely focused more on business development, but there's a lot of facets and aspects to it in the first place.
So generally speaking, clients are coming to us for one or more of these reasons. A lot of it is they have an unpredictable pipeline probably because they're grown through word of mouth and referrals. So those are great when they come in, but there's no control of them. So you never know when or how or who they're gonna come from.
So we help, you know, kind of smooth that out and provide more of a predictable system. So that's a big challenge. We have other clients that come to us because they are tired of this time consuming and ill fitting RFP process. And they're really looking to try to build relationships with, you know, C-suite executives and hopefully bypass that RFP process.
We got some clients that are really looking to go more up market. They maybe work more small and mid-size businesses and they're trying to crack through and get those bigger deals. Others that are just, just not getting enough of the opportunities that they, that they really want. So, or maybe they've launched a new division of the company or, new service offering something like that.
And they're not known for that. So they really need to take a more targeted based approach to get their, their name out there. So generally speaking, it's, you know, it's one of those problems and you know, how we solve it for them kind of depends where they're at. You know, there there's some clients that we need, you know, that we're ready and, and they're ready to just kind of jump right in and do more of a, a lead generation type program.
There's others that we need to work more foundationally on them to, you know, hone in on their positioning and their overall go to market strategy. So, um, you know, it kind of ranges, you know, across all the different firms we work with.
Galen Low: There's so many things there that are resonating with me because like, I've seen all of those different stages, especially the like word of mouth barrier when you're like, okay, well, what happens?
Like we don't actually have, we haven't built the muscle to do business development. It just happens to us. And then what happens when we want to grow or scale or when the business dries up, and then, especially the like owning the relationships at a more executive level. You know, in places where I've worked and people that I talked to, right, your point of contact is you know, maybe a VP, or somewhere in that midsection, but to like actually get ahead of it and be part of that higher level strategy for your clients and entering into those bigger, bigger projects, bigger deals. All of those things are like different, they're different aspects of the game.
You need to like build muscle around it, if you haven't got it. And then it takes a lot of time and energy to like, have that thought and have that strategy of how you want to grow it. That's super interesting. I love that.
Christian Banach: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, and I think most of companies that we work with, there's a combination, you know, thereof. You know, I, I would say most of them have multiple, you know, challenges and, and, and problems, you know, and some may be more glaring than others.
But usually everybody can benefit from sharpening, you know, their knives, so to speak in this area.
Galen Low: A hundred percent, a hundred percent.
All right. Let's dive in. Let's get into the thick of it. I get asked this question a lot and I wanted your take on it.
So from your experience, could you tell our listeners why business development is relevant for project managers? Isn't that somebody else's job? Isn't that somebody else's problem?
Christian Banach: Yeah, well, I would, you know, the first thing I wanna reference is, you know, Peter Drucker, the management consultant. You know, he really said that, at the end of the day, a business is to create and service a customer.
And so I think, we need to keep in mind that that is ultimately what everybody's role in the organization is to do. And, and business development is certainly part of it. I think sometimes we get too stuck on job title and not necessarily what we're all really there to do at the end of the day.
So, you know, we're firm believers, you know, and this is true in our own organization, as well as what we advise our clients is that, you know, really sales business development is everybody's responsibility. Whether that's the name of on your, on your business card, or, or not.
So, and beyond that, it's really, I think a mindset as well, and, and constantly thinking again about what's best for the customer, what's best for the organization. So, you know, again, I, I think whether you're the receptionist down to the principle, business development is in our eyes, you know, your responsibility and, and we do. And we, we see organizations where there's the principle, even of the organization doesn't really wanna be involved in business development and they just hire someone to do that.
And, you know, I think the firms that we see that are doing the best, you know, definitely the principle, but it starts at the top and it moves its way down, you know, really to everybody in the organization.
Galen Low: I love that notion also, even just because, you know, arguably, it cuts both ways.
On the one hand, I talk to a lot of teams and they're like, oh, we just do the work, right? We just do the work and, you know, we're interfacing with the client as we do the work. And I'm like, that's the reason why this is developed and is so important in that role, especially for project managers where, you know, not every project manager is like as client facing as an account manager, per se.
But every interaction and their closeness to the work and how the delivering value like, is something that can be just packaged a little bit into something that is really clear value. That's going to lead to a better relationship with that client and, you know, conceivably, new projects down the road. They're like, they'll want to continue working with you. And, and, and the same thing, what you said, like if you're at front desk and you're, you know, you have these relationships with people that are your customers.
And like you said, we're all here to deliver value to our customers in that sort of client services environment.
Christian Banach: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And you know, at the end of the day, if there is no new business coming in, you may not have a job to do the project management work. You know, so I always wanna keep that frame of reference.
I mean, when things are going great, everybody is not really focused and thinking about that, but then when things are not going great, it's, you know, well, where's all the work? Well, you know, I think everybody's got a responsibility to contribute and where you contribute and how you contribute, you know, to business.
Like, you know, I'm sure we're gonna get into this, can certainly range. However, I think, again, it is the mindset more so than anything else that is first and foremost important.
Galen Low: Oh, I love that. I love that. And I, I guess, you know, for the, for the folks who are like, yeah, but my job's already busy enough. It's hard enough. Like if, if we were to be like, kind of selfish about it, especially from a project manager lens, like, what are some of the benefits of getting involved in business development?
Other than the, the thing you said, which is really important, right? The benefit is, you know, as long as new business keeps happening, you will continue to have a job. But even just thinking about this, like business development mindset, how does that benefit project managers? What's in it for them?
Christian Banach: Yeah, I think, um, I think there's a couple different areas. You know, one is learning and development, I think is something that maybe you're, you could be overlooked, but typically maybe if you're in a project management role, right, you're more executional. You know, you're here is the SOW and you go out and you help, you know, implement it on behalf of the client.
When you're working more on business development, you know, you are helping shape what the scope of that project is, and you are involved in thinking through what the strategy is gonna be and, and why are we doing what we're doing. So I think there's a, you have a different type of seat at the table than you do, you know, when you're just executing at the project management level.
So again, which it kind of blends into the next one, you know, but it's, it's really for career advancement too. You know, the more you get to know and, and, and, and work on that side of the business, as well as the executional side of the business, you're gonna grow in the role and grow within the organization as well.
So, you know, you become a much more valuable piece to the team that you've now got this, you know, this mindset and, and I think it also makes you a better project manager, right? Cuz you can help shape what those engagements potentially could look like, which then will make those engagements better and, and easier for you to implement.
So I think it kind of goes both ways. You know, you can help the, the, the, the project management side and you can also help the business development side. I think too, depending on what your BD team looks like and who you're targeting and all of that, it could potentially lead to more interesting work.
And it could lead to bigger clients. You know, I, I'm assuming then that your organization is trying to level up and, and, and work with, you know, bigger clients and work on some more interesting types of projects. So if you're involved in that and you can bring your perspective and, and your efforts, you know, to landing that, again, it, it would obviously help the organization, but also helps you. You know, who knows if you help close Apple or Nike or some, you know, really interesting project or, you know, doesn't have to be to that scale.
Um, it's certainly, again, it can bring some more interesting work to the table.
Galen Low: I love that. And I love that sort of mindset and perspective on like the business, right? Which you can, it kind of, you know, like you said, it's like, it goes both ways in the sense that, yeah, you can filter up some of the things that you're doing in the sort of executional realm, because there's innovation happening all the time.
There's new methods, there's just, you know, things that that team is learning that they can feed into the business development process. And then, yeah, just the other way, you know, we're, we're huge. At the Digital Project Manager, we're big on this notion of like casting a vision for your team. You're leading a team of people and the better you understand that vision, the better you can cast it.
And if you were involved in shaping that, then a, I mean, everyone I've talked to in a project management role or who has delivered a project has had that moment where they inherited this project, then they're like, I can't, I can't deliver this. Who thought of this? So I love having them that sort of involvement in shaping.
And then using it to help be part of creating that vision so that you can do more interesting work. From the other side of it, I talked with a lot of organizations, especially agencies who are like a little bit hesitant. They don't really want to get project managers involved in, in business development. And I think part of the reason, some of the reasons for that would be, well, I need them focused on delivering.
Like I, I can't have them take their eye off the ball to get involved with business development. That's why I have a sales team. That's why I have account managers. But, in some ways I feel like there might be something that they're, they're missing out on there. So from an organizational perspective, like if, yeah, for, for some of your clients who are like, yeah, I don't think, I don't think PM should get involved in business development.
What are they missing out on?
Christian Banach: Yeah. I think we, you know, you touched on this a little bit earlier, but they're missing out on the perspective that they, that they have being on the front lines and actually doing the work. I think sometimes those folks in the more the sales and biz dev roles, you know, they might be a little disconnected for what, what is realistic. You know, what is, what is, um, from a timeline standpoint, a results, you know, standpoint, because they're not in it day to day and things are changing and things are evolving all the time.
And the project manager who's on the front lines really has that ability to know what's kind of current and real and, and, and provide that perspective back to the BD team. So I think that's, you know, a huge one right there. I would say another huge one is, again, every organization's a little different, relationships are different, but oftentimes the project manager is working with the client on a day to day basis. Right?
And they have a relationship that they're building up and if you're properly kind of nurturing those relationships and, and every, then you're able to potentially leverage them to help grow those accounts. And it could be everything from just the project manager of just being a good listener and hearing and identifying what potential opportunities could be and reporting back, you know, to the BD team on, on what some opportunities may be.
It could be them, you know, taking more of an account direction type of role and actually now proactively hearing what the client's saying. And then providing some insight using that relationship that they've built into here are some ideas, you know, and, and being kind of a conduit to start those conversations going.
So there's a lot of these kind of conversations and things happening, you know, and if you're not having your project managers involved in new business at all, you're, you're missing out on these types of communications and these types of insights that they could be helping with.
Galen Low: I love that word conduit.
Like I think it like sums it up perfectly, because you know, project managers, like we're pretty close to the work. And there's no way that all of that knowledge of how work is getting done can filter up to the business development process or sales process, or even up to account managers. Like they're not as close to it.
And some of those things are the compelling things for clients in terms of, oh, wow. That's really interesting that that's the way you work and this is the way you deliver results. And this is how we measure success. And it, it, I think a lot of people, when I talk to them about it, and a as individuals they're like, I don't wanna do sales.
That's like slimy, right? You're gonna have to like put on my sales suit and be like, you know, peddling watches out of my jacket. You know what I mean? And just like, doesn't have to be that like, just being valuable and likable is a great reason for a client to continue working with an organization because they like the people, they like the team, they like the way things work.
Like that is also business development. And arguably from the other side, right? It's like, no, as an organization, you don't need to like make project managers part of your sales team and train them as sales people and use them as a sharp tip of the spear there. And like actually another channel to keep work and business coming through by virtue of the fact that they're just delivering value, delivering great work that people, that people wanna work with.
Christian Banach: You know, something that's often times overlooked as well is a lot of times in the new business process, a client will ask, you know, Hey, I want to see who's gonna be the team that's gonna be working with me day to day. And if you're involving your PMs on these, in this process, you know, they're gonna seamlessly be able to go to that conversation and be able to speak, you know, to the client.
However, if you're not involving them, and then you get this type of request, and now you're asking someone to do something they've never done before, you're putting yourself in a vulnerable position on whether or not they're gonna be able to provide what the client is ultimately looking for.
That, that confidence that they're, that, that this individual and this team, you know, is gonna, is gonna be able to deliver on whatever's been promised. So, you know, that comes up a lot in the work that we do as well. So I, I think, you know, there's, there's a kind of a short term and a long term benefit from this as well.
Galen Low: I think it's huge. especially when you're talking about like 6 and 7 figure deals, that question, like, I wanna meet the team, like, what's this gonna be like, can you paint a picture of how this project is gonna go is so important. It's not like a, you know, at a smaller scale, it might not matter as much, but if you're gonna be working with a group of people for potentially a year, maybe more than a year, or on something that's just so high visibility and so high risk, and such a high value that yeah, you do wanna trust that.
And of course you and I both know in the agency world, it's very difficult to guarantee that the people in the room are gonna be the people who are gonna work with them. But again, like you said, the conduit aspect, please paint a picture for me of how this project is going to go, is a really valid question for a client who's gonna spend that much money with you.
And having that conduit of someone who can be like, Hey, here's some of the good work that we do and our methods and why that's important for you in terms of how this project is gonna go and why it's gonna be successful. that's kind of like that, that's the trick. It's like, it's not all this, you know, sales strategy.
It's just being a conduit to communicate information up and, and then being there at the table so that you can grab that vision and communicate that, you know, back down to the executional level as well.
Christian Banach: Yeah, definitely.
Galen Low: That's super, that's super cool. I mean, all of this, we keep coming back to this notion of like mindset, right?
Like a business development mindset. And I know you've got a bit of a framework for this, the propel framework. I'm just wondering, could you tell us a bit about your propel framework and what it means for folks in like a project management role?
Christian Banach: Yeah. Great. Yeah. So propel is, is a framework that we've developed.
It actually started, I mentioned earlier, that consultant that I hired and this is where it started to form and I've really, you know, tweaked it and evolved it over the last 10 to 15 years now. And it's, it's been a really great repeatable type of process, uh, and, and I'll tell you kind of real high level, like what, what it is.
So it is an acronym, propel. The P of propel is pivotal problem, and it's really understanding the client's pain points first and foremost. The R of propel is what we call right to win audience. So really understanding, you know, who the right clients are for this, who the right people within these organizations are that might be experiencing that problem.
Then we have O which I think is, is very critical, which is offer value. So, and we can unpack this a little bit further, but it's really like, instead of making it about you and what you want, it's about understanding, again, that problem the prospects experiencing, and then how can you offer value or insights into how they could solve that problem?
And then the PEL of propel is a little more tactical, but, um, the first P is professional persistence. And it's really, you know, about understanding that people are busy and if you don't hear back from you right away, like you, you have to have a sequence of, you know, follow up type activities in order to stay, but do so very professionally. Being persistent, but professional.
The E is, is being engaging in your communications, whether that be net new prospects or you're going organically and really being cognizant of, you know, how people communicate these days. They don't wanna read a 500, you know, word email, how do you say and just get right to the point with things.
And then L is more of our launching and optimizing is, is part of propel. And that's really more about as you, you know, move forward with these activities evaluating what's working, what's not working and then optimizing it as you go.
Galen Low: I really love that because I mean, a) it's very customer-centric, isn't it? It's like it's an empathetic approach that is not, you know, I think anyone who's like done sales training, maybe, you know, within the past two decades, like there's always that aspect of like, I don't know, it's just that, that sliminess, that greasiness, that people having aversion to.
But all of this is kind of just like good empathetic communication to help somebody solve a problem that they have. When we're talking about having a business development mindset, it's not like, okay, well, you know, you're wearing all these hats.
And one of the hats is to like go and pound pavement and sell. It's actually just woven in to the way you conduct yourself. What I love about the framework is that it's not go learn a whole bunch of new skills. It's like hone some of the skills that you have and package them together, see them as a package because that's what's going to be compelling and be engaging and deliver value to, you know, frankly, anyone you talk to. And we're talking about business development.
But a lot of this stuff, I'm like, yeah, like professional persistence is, is something that I think a lot of our listeners will be like, oh yeah, I, I should get good at that because also sometimes we're following up on tasks. Sometimes we're, you know, following up with our leadership team or other project managers and yeah, there's a, there's a, there's a lot here. Can we dive in deeper?
Christian Banach: Yeah, let, let let's do that. I think, you know, let's start from the beginning and, and I think, like you said, when you're talking about the, the mindset, you know, and why this pivotal problem is, is such a, a key component to that. And, and it's always, it's that customer centric mindset, right?
So you're always considering first and foremost, you know, people don't come to your agency, let's say your web development agency, they don't come because they need a website. They come because they have a problem, right? And that problem maybe sales are down or they're not getting enough leads. That's the problem that they're experiencing.
And I think, especially when we're talking maybe on the project management side, you know, they're thinking we build websites. Well, you help companies drive leads, you help companies drive sales. That's really what you do.
So in sales, they always say that, you know, people don't buy a drill, they buy a hole. And I think when you take that type of mindset as what is the end result that they're trying to solve? And so I think you're, whether, this is true whether you're doing new business, if you're working with existing clients or even just internally, just always having that frame of reference of like, what is the problem that they're, that, that they're trying to solve?
And, you know, if we're thinking about this a little bit more from a new business lens it's, ideally then you're also trying to hone in on, you know, all right, you're starting to think about how can we help this, this person solve that problem. And then that kind of blends itself into the next phase.
I, I'll pause there though. See if you, there's any follow up questions with the problem.
Galen Low: Well, like, and what I love is that like it's like, it's part of the job is you got handed a scope of work and you're gonna deliver it. So you need to like report on the progress of building the website because you're deliverable at the end is a website, but then that double click on like, why? so as project managers we're often guilty of measuring success as, oh yeah.
You know, we're 50% of the way through the schedule and we've made 50% progress. We're good. Which doesn't mean that the end product is gonna be something that actually solves the problem, like the actual pivotal problem.
And just understanding that mindset is just, it's very helpful, again, as that conduit to be like, actually, I'm not just a representative of delivering this work. I am a representative of delivering a solution to a problem. And that kind of it's, it's also empowering for the team. It also can, can get you more creative about, well, along the way, you might find ways to solve that problem better versus just following what it says that we're supposed to do.
So I think that's, yeah, I think that's, uh, it's a hugely important, sort of mindset shift for any project manager.
Christian Banach: And I think when we think about business development, you know, I want to be clear that we're talking about, yes, it could be net new business, right? So new clients that are not currently working with you. It also could be expanding clients that are already working with you more organic growth.
And either way, I think, especially if we're talking about, if it's more on the organic site, so existing clients, you're interfacing with those clients and you're hearing some additional, hopefully you're hearing some maybe additional opportunities, some different challenges that they're experiencing.
So that information then that is really what becomes the, the link then to bring that information either to the BD team. And, and, you know, Hey, here are some challenges, some problems that we're hearing. We could open up some doors or again, if you're, you know, comfortable with it and you have that relationship, you then identifying and talking through some of those challenges or problems.
So that's really where everything starts is, is here in the problem.
Galen Low: I love that. Just kind of like being tuned into just listening. And we have this notion of walking the halls, right?
Where it's like, okay, if you can get more embedded with your clients and you're overhearing and seeing some of the problems that they're facing and that you might have solutions to, maybe there's this gray line into. Okay, well that seems kind of like, you know what some people might characterize as slimy sales, but at the same time with this, especially like around this framework, it is customer centric.
It's like, well, I see these problems that you have and I can solve them. And I think it is a helpful thing. And from that standpoint, business development is not like in this, in this model, it's not landing the next deal, per se. It's helping.
Because I see some of these problems that you're facing, like, you know, day to day. And yeah, this is something that we can help with.
Christian Banach: And I think that's a good segue, you know, you mentioned the term walking the halls. So, we call it the right to an audience and I think it's understanding then who, you know, who are the right people you should be speaking to about these problems, right?
It very well could be your day to day contact that you have. But you know, you may be working with more junior level people. Maybe the job came in through a VP or C-suite, you know, type executive, but now the project's on their side, and they may not be decision makers that can move the needle on new projects, you know, but you can learn from them.
However, if you are, maybe you're have an onsite opportunity to meet with the team, the client. Right? So it is walking the halls and understanding then, you know, trying to get some face time perhaps with that VP or that C-suite executive, because they may then be the decision maker.
And you may have a way to get in front of those, right, to win audience members more than your sales or business development team does, cuz they're not in the office with those individuals in most cases. So, but you have to, they tuned in and consciously go after and understand who some of those decision makers or influencers may be.
Galen Low: I've seen it where people get overly enthusiastic about the business development mindset. They just wanna like land a deal and like sell the next thing. But actually it's kind of like just the wild west people are stepping on each other's toes. Nobody knows what's, you know, coming through the pipeline and it doesn't have that rigor, but I'm just tying it back to the consulting that you do, is part of what you do sort of setting up those processes to be like, listen, if you can get in front of a VP as a project manager, like yes, please do.
Christian Banach: Yeah. And this concurrent from that we're in right now, you know, we don't do too much with the organic growth. We're more focused on driving new net, net business. We sometimes will however, help companies because we do work with some very, you know, companies that are working very large companies.
So they might be working with Procter & Gamble, for example, but they're doing business with one small division of Procter Gamble, you know, whatever that brand might happen to be. Well, there are a whole lot of other brands within that. So how do we all talk together so we're leveraging that relationship we might have with a certain brand of Procter & Gamble to try to help us get our foot in the door with other brands and divisions within a, a big company like Procter & Gamble.
So in that regard, we do kind of help our, some of our clients just figure out what the strategy would be to start some of those conversations. How do we get everybody talking? What type of relationships can we leverage? What insights might we have from about the organization and the account? So yeah, so a little bit of that, yes.
Galen Low: I love that because it is, like that is the, I'm just gonna say disentanglement, right? Where, especially when you're working with a big account and there's different branches and you actually, especially if you yourself are actually quite a large agency or consultancy. You kind of have to figure out all the pieces of work that have been done for various branches of this large client, so that you can have that higher level conversation, especially if you're going into the C-suite.
You want to be able to say, you don't wanna get caught off guard and be like, oh, but that project over there, you know, that didn't go well, don't you remember? Didn't you know that, right? Like, but that was like this other branch. And like you said at the beginning, right? Like if someone, especially in a project manager role, you're close enough to the work you are that conduit and you can add value. And likewise, as an organization, you should be asking your project manager, how did that project go?
What are some of the pain points? Like what, what, what are some of the things that went really well that I can incorporate into this conversation? And what are some things that we should be wary of based on your experience day to day with this client?
Christian Banach: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I would say the other, you know, when we talk about the O of propel, offering value, I, I think you, you had mentioned something earlier that made me think about this, but I think for those that are not in sales and biz dev roles, there is a notion of the slimy used car salesperson, right?
And I get it, right. I think, uh, I've been in roles when I was younger where, you know, it was kind of that, that type of mentality and you do feel icky about things. But I do think what we do is, is different than that. And the approach that we try to take about offering value, I think is that's like the first step. We never, we're not trying to sell anybody anything, right?
We're trying to help them. We come from a position, so whether that be more top of the funnel trying to generate some new opportunities, it's not, you know, we don't advise our clients to call up prospects and say, Hey, we just wanna get 15 minutes on your calendar, tell you all about us.
It's, there's nothing in it for the prospect. Right? So we really advise more about, again, understanding those problems and then coming to then with some insights. Hey, we think you're having this problem. We have some unique perspectives on this. We'd love to sit down and, and share them with you.
It's a very different conversation doing it that way versus again, just a sales pitch that you're, that you're trying to do. So I think from the top of the funnel, that's one thing. And even, you know, when you're talking about project managers that might be working day to day with prospects, or prospects, but with client.
Having that same type of mindset, like you're not trying to sell them anything. You're trying to enable them to, you know, with information, with insights, with a new perspective about something. And, and I, I think just sharing that and thinking about that is, is very key and, and not being so attached then to the sale either.
You're just here to help if they want to, if they want to take it and they want, and they want to go with it, great. If they don't, they don't. And that's fine. But I think like when you're like, oh, I had a, hit a quota and I have to do this, like it does, like you start pushing yourself maybe to places that you don't feel comfortable with.
But if you come from a, a mindset of I'm here to help build relationships and provide perspective, and, and be helpful and add value, it's a very just different mindset. And I think trying to adopt that, especially for those that are in sales roles is to start to think about it that way, I think makes this all more easy and, and fulfilling in many ways. Because, you know, you, you, your idea may actually help this agency or this, this company that you're, that you're dealing with, achieve some goals that they might have not reached if it wasn't for you.
Galen Low: I love that. I wanna return to something you said, because I've seen both things happen together in, in the same organization where yes, please go and be helpful and offer value. You know, you're not a salesperson, but also there's this kind of unspoken quota of, if you land $3 million this year, you're probably gonna go up the ladder next year.
Like, what, do you recommend that and how do you, how does this fit into the framework? Like, should it be that you are being helpful and organically offering value and it might be part of your job and your quota, or is part of the purity of it that it's not?
Christian Banach: Yeah. Um, yeah, there's a lot of chat on, on how these folks should be compensated.
I still do believe I want someone that's still motivated to, you know, to get out there and have these conversations, cuz it is. It's, it's grueling. It's, it can be challenging and tough. So there, there has to be some incentive, I still believe for it. However, I think the best way around it is to just have a, you know, a full pipeline, so you're not desperate.
I think when you, you know, when you're desperate cuz you have no leads, then you do start getting pushed into that area where maybe you're not comfortable in and it is more about the sale. But if you've done your homework and you do and execute more of a proactive type program and you have a strong, you're not relying on those word of mouth referrals, you're not relying on an inbound RFP.
You can be selective in the types of companies that you work with, the projects that you take on. And it's a much better position for you to turn down business because it doesn't fit what you want for whatever that reason happens to be. Versus you being so desperate that you're just going out there and, and, and begging people for work.
I mean, it's two totally different things and you can solve it, again, by having a more proactive based type of approach.
Galen Low: Yeah. I love that. And actually, like, as you're saying them, I'm thinking through some of the organizations I've worked for where, yeah, like you know, not, not in a, this sounds mean, but not in a mean way, like tiering your accounts. Where it's like, okay, well, like this account is the big Procter & Gamble account or is the big, you know, Nike account.
And that's where we do wanna incentivize walking the halls because, you know, there's more work that we wanna do with these folks. Versus maybe there's a tier two where like, it doesn't necessarily makes us, make sense for us to invest. So much time, you know, trying to win work. Maybe it's a client where they have like every agency in consultancy, you can think of working in different parts of their pie.
And it's, it's, it's gonna be like a tough go to like, you know, try and make any headway in terms of like getting that like "market share" within that account. In other words, yeah, maybe not every account is the one that needs to have a really focused strategy on, you know, offering value and then identifying that as business development. Some might just be, yeah, be helpful if you can, but otherwise just deliver great work because that also sells itself.
You mentioned the, the grueling nature of it. And I think that probably ties into the next P, which I think was professional persistence.
Christian Banach: Yeah. Well, you know, we, you have to also understand that, you know, I think people that have not done a whole lot in sales, they're surprised when we tell 'em the number of emails that we have to send and phone calls we have to place to each individual in order to get their attention.
And the bottom line is we're busy. Everybody is busy. And, so I think if you don't hear back from somebody right away doesn't necessarily mean that your idea is bad and they're not interested. It's just they're trying to balance their day to day, you know, responsibilities that they have.
And a lot of times new business is more forward thinking, you know, you're, everybody's just worried about their day to day, and it's hard sometimes for people to take this step back and think about, all right, what's, what are we thinking about for a year from now? Three years now? Five years from now?
So it, you know, you, it, part of, again, it's a lot of this is mindset. It's understanding that this is just a reality. So you, you do need to balance persistence with professionalism, but again, you have to just understand that, that these prospects, you can't take no for an answer, necessarily.
You have to keep trying. However, you wanna make sure that, you know, if you're always adding value, like we've talked about, they're all connected here, it's a different type of 'no' than if you're trying to sell something. Versus if you're just trying to add some value. If they're not interested right now, that's fine, so.
Galen Low: I think like one thing that's, um, like a very, I think it's hard to kind of grasp, you know, early on in your journey of being persistent to be helpful. Where like, especially if you're thinking of like organizational strategy, right? The strategic plan, or like, you know, if it's like, if the conversation's like at that VP, SVP or C-suite level, it's sometimes hard to remember that the problem that you're seeing, that's like literally burning a hole in your brain and you're like, I can solve that problem.
It's a big deal. We need to solve it right now. It might not be the biggest deal in the bigger grander scheme of things. And then sometimes, I mean, like, I, I love what you said about like, yeah, like don't let that like discourage you. It just means that there's a lot on the go and there is, and sometimes like, I, I, I would argue sometimes it shines a light on a bigger pivotal problem and to like, take a metaphor too far, right?
What you said earlier about the hole in the drill, it's like, okay, yeah, we didn't buy a drill, we wanted a hole. We wanted a hole so we could feed cables into it. Okay, great. What are the cables for? Do you know what I mean? It's like, okay, well, oh yeah. We're like, we're rewiring the contact center.
Oh, okay. Well, that's a bigger thing and maybe we can be helpful there too. So sometimes that pivotal problem that, you know, our perspective is very close to the work, but it is, it might not be an unimportant problem in the, but it might be a sub problem within a bigger problem. And, yeah, I just think that sometimes that persistence, it does get to that point, right?
Where you're like, uh, I'm just really just nagging this first and you're just gonna tell me no again. But in terms of like, after having exhausted that, sort of organic follow up, changing the conversation maybe and looking at it going, is it because they're working on a bigger thing that also we can help with?
Sometimes is that, is that switch enough to get attention or to give your point of contact something new, to like bring up to their higher up to say, actually this actually feeds into a larger initiative and then maybe, you know, getting that attention. But I love that persistence. And I just think it's, you know, it's a thing and I, I guess everyone, a lot of people probably get a lot of those like automated marketing emails, sales emails. Like, Hey, I didn't hear back from you.
And you're like, yeah, you're a robot. Like someone just automated a follow up every couple of weeks. Like what are your thoughts on that? Like, actually like, is it something, yes, it requires persistence. But is, is part of it just being a human or is it really just kinda like staying, staying top of mind for them?
Christian Banach: Yeah. Well, we really advise against any of these kind of automated type of emails. Number one, I don't see the results coming from them, because I think things have just, the inboxes are getting flooded so much. So we'd stay away from that number one. And number two, it's all about adding value, right?
So every follow up though, I think this is key, needs to add some value. You know, you, you don't wanna just, Hey, just checking in on this, just checking in on this, right? Just following up, like, you know, you wanna stay away from those types. There's no value again in it for the prospect, or the client or whomever it happens to be.
So yes, I think, you know, when you are doing the follow up, if you continue to add value, then I think, again, it's, that goes into the mindset of, you know, you're not bothering somebody, you're actually sharing some additional information. And I'll share a little bit of a quick story here.
When I was first starting off in, in really heavily focusing on sales, one of our clients that we were working with, you know, really wanted to get in touch with this particular automotive services company. And I sent an email, didn't hear back, I, I made a call, didn't hear back and they were hounding me.
Well, what's happen, you know, what's going on, what is going on with this. And I did, I followed to a T what we're supposed to do, you know, the right number of follow ups. Um, you know, I, I, I added value along the way, but I, I did feel a little strange about the volume of, of content. Well, I didn't hear back after one or two emails?
I don't think they're interested. Um, so I would say I probably followed up by phone five or six times, by email five or six times over a period of, of time. And I remember one day, like it was yesterday, I opened my inbox up and I'll be darn it, there was an email from that individual. And this is actually where the term came from.
He's like, I really appreciate your professional persistence. And they actually apologized to me for not responding and said, you know, they've been busy. I forget exactly what the, what the challenge was at a time, but this is exactly what we've been looking for. And ended up putting the two parties together and some business happened from it.
And had I not sent those second, third, fourth, fifth emails and phone calls, that never would've happened. And, and here I am thinking I'm bothering, you know, the individual. And then I ended up getting a response and they thank me and apologize to me for not responding. So, but I, I think it, a lot of it also had to do with, it was right targeting.
It was right follow up. There was value provided. Like, again, if you're just sending out mass emails that are going off to everybody, it's not personalized to them. It's hard to really stand by what you're saying and doing if it's just sent out a mass level, but it's very personalized and you really mean something. It's well researched.
It's, it's again, it's a little bit of a different game.
Galen Low: Oh, I love that. And I think that's like, I mean, it plays into E, right? This like engaging communications because yes, you could just, you know, send the like, Hey, did you get my last email? But it's also, I'm sure it's bigger than that. Do you think you could talk us through like this notion of like engaging, making your communications engaging?
Christian Banach: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think, you know, we, we talked a little bit about the pivotal problem, so one, your email needs to be focused on the problem, or not just email. Could be, you know, whether you're calling someone as well. But it's always focused on solving a problem. It's personalized.
That's another part of being engaging. So that's staying away again from, from those, uh, automated type emails or those just checking in kind of generic emails. You really want to be relevant, as well. You know, which kind of goes in touch with, with the, the personalization and the, the problem focus, but, you know, be relevant.
Why are you reaching out to somebody in the first place? What triggered you to want to, you know, reach out to them? I think that's also very key. And I think, again, when, if you're thinking about being the recipient of these kind of bad emails, it's like, well, why are they even sending me this?
Or I love getting phone calls from a cable provider. I don't even have cable. And they're asking me to switch to another cable provider, but I don't have the first one. I mean, like the targeting is way off. So you wanna make sure that you're relevant. You wanna make sure that you're short and concise and casual.
That's another key here. You don't wanna write a book. And we talked about this a little bit earlier, but you gotta think about how are people communicating these days? How do you communicate? You're probably reading email on a phone. You're running from meeting to meeting, so you want to be, you know, make it easy as possible for someone to digest your messaging.
You're also not writing, you know, a college thesis paper either. You've gotta stay away from the jargon, make it short, casual. There's actually research out there that shows that the emails that are written at a third grade level actually get the best responses. So you know, you don't always have to write the third grade, but stay away from, you know, anything that's too jargony or too long a sentences. Make it easy, make it a good experience for the person that's receiving it.
And then, you know, another area that we think of with, uh, engaging messaging is around the call to action. First and foremost, have a call to action in, in, in your message. Like, what do you, make it easy for them. What do you want them to do from this message? So if you're talking more on a prospecting side, something maybe, Hey, is this a problem that you're experiencing?
Am I on the right track here? So you're trying to elicit a response from them. If you're working maybe with an existing client, you know, again, make sure that it's clear what the next action is you want to do. I can't tell you how many times I see an email. They send some good information, but then there's no call to action.
And the prospect doesn't, or the client doesn't know what to do with it. And they just put it in their inbox and it just sits there. So, make sure that you have a, a call to action into it. And you kind of combined all of those principles, those elements together, and it'll lead to much more engaging messaging that will yield better responses back.
Galen Low: I like that it ties into like, you know, propel, like as a word, right? Like just like we need to like move things forward. The, the thing is to move things forward. And yeah, that might require some persistence. And yes, you have to make it easy and clear for people to, to help them do their part to move it forward as well.
Christian Banach: Yep. Yep.
Galen Low: It's huge. And then you, the L side of it. Launch and optimize. Tell me a bit about that.
Christian Banach: Well the launch part is just do it, right? You gotta get out there and you just gotta do it. We can sit here and read books and listen to podcasts and, you know, attend training seminars and all. That's great, but eventually you just gotta get out there and you gotta do it.
And that's where you're gonna learn the best. And the optimized part is, is just that. Continuously looking at what's working, what's not working and, and identifying areas then that you can, that you can improve on. And I, I would say like for those organizations that are considering, whether or not they should have their project managers do any of this, I think, you know, approaching it from like a pilot type mindset.
Like maybe, maybe get a volunteer or two, or depending on the size of your organization, a few. And try it out with them and, and see, you know, how, how it works.
But I think going into it, like setting very clear expectations on the number of hours, what the roles and responsibilities should be, doing some regular check-ins like, kind of during the project itself. And then after the project sitting down what worked, what didn't. Again, kind of that optimized piece, how do we improve this for the future?
And, and maybe, maybe in your firm, it doesn't work, but I think those that are doing it were seeing really good success with it and it's just driving the business forward. So I think it's definitely worth the, the risk, if you will. I don't know if there's a huge risk, if you do the right planning with it. I think it's a matter of just putting things forward and, and giving it a shot.
Galen Low: I love that idea of just piling it, like just going, go and start doing it. And also measure to make sure, you know, whether or not it's working and getting that feedback and like having that feedback loop to understand if it's beneficial and whether there's problems that are coming out of it to be solved.
I mean, listen like I love the framework. And I think we talked a lot about, you know, the benefits for an organization of having PMs involved as a sort of conduit to, to feed sales and to, you know, keep, keep a healthy pipeline. I think we talked a bit about, you know, individuals and how they can benefit in terms of like career growth, keep their job interesting.
And just kind of change their perspective on, on, on what they're doing. And the vision for what they're delivering. Maybe not just a website, maybe something, you know, it's, it's, it's for a bigger reason. And I think the, my one hangup that I run to often is that I know a lot of folks who are in any role, but definitely project management roles where they're like, I don't know if I have the foundational skills to just go and start doing this.
Right? Like this is maybe an area, you know, I know a lot of people who self-identify as like introvert project managers who are not really client facing, you know, aren't the type of people who want to like walk the halls. Like that's a very scary thing for them and, you know, I get it for sure. It's like a it's, it's in some ways it's unnatural based on the way that a lot of project managers are trained, but just kinda like round it out.
Like if there's someone who's like, yeah, I wanna build some of the foundational skills to then start like leveraging this mindset. Where do they start? What would you recommend in terms of like a starting point to develop a business development mindset?
Christian Banach: Yeah. I think there's a lot of information.
I mean, this podcast, I think is a first, you know, good step for those that are, that are starting to think about it. So anybody listening here, I think you've already taken a good first step in the right direction. I think, you know, you, you might wanna take a look in your organization and see where do you potentially see an opportunity.
And I think that might dictate where some of your next steps may go. Are you gonna be more, are you talking about more frontline type sales, where you're gonna help drive new business leads. If that's the case, then I think you can focus on, you know, looking into prospecting and outbound sales and, and learning some skills there.
There's so many different resources, books, podcasts, things like that, that you could follow up on. So that might be one avenue to look at. If you're thinking more on terms of maybe helping close the business and how you can be involved in the RFP process.
And, again, maybe you're not the extrovert that is gonna sit down with the C-suite executive, but it doesn't mean you can't help, uh, an RFP and, and crafting responses and providing insights to the team. I can tell you most business element teams are very stretched, very thin, and they would welcome anybody to come in and help them, you know, develop and pitch and, and close the business. So, that might be something that's more interesting to you.
And, and again, there's resources you could go for that. Or maybe, you know, you're, you're more, again, working with the clients and you think you can help expand existing business. And if that's the case, then again, you can focus in on certain areas. So I think it's kind of understanding, you know, where there might be a need in the organization and where your strengths and weaknesses may be and your interest may be, and then trying to follow that path, rather than trying to boil the ocean, cuz business development is, it's a wide ranging thing.
It encompasses a lot of things. And if that's not your full time job, you're, it's gonna be tough for you to take it all on. So, you know, just focus in on one area and see where it goes.
Galen Low: I love that. I love that sort of curiosity aspect because, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm in a way like relieved that, you know, and, and your answer wasn't, oh yeah.
Like you gotta like, do all the training that a sales team does, or you gotta read this textbook or take this course. Like a lot of it is that curiosity and what resonated with me is that, and a lot of places I worked there is this sort of wall almost. And if not even like an adversarial relationship between the sales and business development team and the project management team. Or the account management team and the project management team where like some of their goals are a bit at odds.
And sometimes it's just because that empathy hasn't been built both ways of like, understanding, like you said, business development team probably spread pretty thin, probably under a lot of pressure, probably could use some help. And likewise, you know, not understanding that, like project managers also might be able to help.
And so like, like that sort of conversation of how can I help and exploring that. And just like you said earlier with a launch and optimize, like give it a go and, and, you know, if you could find an opportunity to, to get started, see how it goes and then, and then take it from there. I really like that.
if people wanna learn more about this propel framework, to learn more about your consultancy, to learn more about you, where can they go?
Christian Banach: Yeah, I would say the best place to go would be our website, christianbanach.com. We have a lot of resources on there. If you're, again, curious of exploring about business development, blogs, webinars, we have a newsletter that comes out that you could sign up to.
So that would be a great place to kind of dip your toe into water and, and further explore this. I'm also on LinkedIn. You can look me up Christian Banach, happy to answer any questions. If you want to email me directly on there, you know, happy to, uh, provide my perspective if you're considering getting more involved in biz dev.
Galen Low: awesome. I will add those links into the show notes below for anyone listening. Christian, this has been such a value pack conversation. Thank you for taking us through this framework. Thank you for all your thoughts and sharing your experience about business development in general, but just even from that project management lens, I, I just don't think it gets talked about enough. So, thank you again for sharing your perspective today.
Christian Banach: Absolutely, Galen. This has been a, a lot of fun. I really appreciate you having me on here.
So, what do you think? Should project managers care about business development? Or is it just a distraction that keeps PMs from being able to focus on delivering high quality work?
Tell us a story: have you ever inherited a project scope, budget and timeline that was impossible to deliver? How did it make you feel and what would you have done differently if you were involved in the sales process?
Leave your thoughts on the comments below!
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