What Is Business Development?
<p>I am often asked to share my thoughts and explain what is meant by the term Business Development and what are considered requirements to achieve success within a Business Development role, especially when looking objectively. </p><p>If we ask the question “What is Business Development and what does it actually entail?” it would naturally invoke a number of different responses depending upon who you ask but as a starter here would be some of mine:</p><p>Business Development is the collective descriptor for the utilisation of a number of different but complimentary skills used in the creation of mid-longer term value for an organisation, coming from customers (clients), markets and the building of relationships, ultimately resulting in a growing of the business<em>”</em> – Scott Bradley </p><p>The terms Business Development and Sales are often used interchangeably but is this necessarily correct or accurate? I would suggest that Sales forms an integral component of the Business Development role but it is not to be considered in isolation.</p><p>If I look at Business Development as a collective of skills as per the above, then I could make the suggestion that these be loosely categorized as including (and in no particular order):</p><ol><li>Sales</li><li>Relationship Management</li><li>Strong Communication (Presentation)</li><li>Marketing</li><li>Business Intelligence</li><li>Research & Analysis</li><li>Project Management </li></ol><p>Taking each of these skills or facets in turn we can build up more of a recognisable picture of the types of activities we find ourselves engaged in on a regular if not daily basis in a Business Development context. We can start to flesh these out a little further, noting these are neither exhaustive nor exclusive activities and everyone will likely have a differing of opinion. Depending upon business requirements and an individuals natural leaning, a combination of these can shape what success looks like.</p><p>Sales</p><p>The ability to identify, filter and target appropriate opportunities including both clients and potential partnerships remembering that client segmentation during origination is key to the process as not all potential customers are necessarily a “good fit” for the strategic direction of the business.</p><p>A requirement of successful sales is to be able to complete the transaction and “get it over the line”, something which can often be harder to achieve than initially sounds and requires both tenacity and drive. Not everyone is completely comfortable in “closing the deal" or “asking for the business”. Sales is a very tangible and metric focused activity with spotlight on revenue and on wallet attribution. It is likely to produce visible results towards growing the business and can often be easily quantified and therefore measured.</p><p>Relationship Management (Account Manager)</p><p>Entails the supervision and ongoing maintenance of relationships with external partners, in particular key clients. Involves the preservation and development of an improved reputation in the market as a solid Relationship Manager will often be the primary point of contact between a firm and client. Interpersonal and communication skills remain key therefore as do the ability to both inspire and influence others, especially decision maker individuals within key accounts. </p><p>Strong Communication (Presentation)</p><p>The ability to listen to clients’ requirements, listen to the needs and wants of the market and then have the ability to negotiate and present a targeted and appropriate proposition clearly with structure. This requires agile and sometimes creative (strategic) thinking to avoid meeting early blockers and quickly builds a level of trust in the conversation as it shows empathy for these needs and wants. Often removing perceived complexity or confusion, it is the ability to clearly present a well-positioned proposition, meeting an identified gap and opportunity. Through clarity of presentation and strong communication, it can be the generating a “want” response that might not have even been there at the start of the conversation.</p><p>Marketing</p><p>I would even consider this as being one of the most powerful elements of the broader sales process and therefore Business Development skill set. After all, good marketing sells itself! This is the ability to have awareness of the relative product or proposition positioning in order to best promote the brand and then expand (grow) the target market through fulfilling a need or want. Marketing is critical to both existing (and importantly) new customers and used to open new geographies, therefore assisting the origination process through a broader distribution than is possible in person or through existing relationships alone. Increasing awareness and visibility is something I often talk about and understanding how marketing can work for you in this process is a key part of the Business Development skill set. Not everyone will naturally think like a “marketeer” but having an understanding of its capability as a tool and some of the foundational frameworks behind is important. Recognition of different media channels, formats and the understanding of how to create aligned brand/product messaging is crucial. I would strongly encourage the uptake of any courses or training on marketing techniques which might be available online to learn more.</p><p>Business Intelligence (BI) </p><p>Good BI involves the gathering, assimilation and appropriate sharing of customer insights, market updates and competitive landscape activities. Knowing the core client base, understanding the target markets you are looking to develop opportunities with, engaging within the sector and becoming involved in helping to define and shape conversations within the target market landscape are important skills. Conducting research into competitor offerings and understanding what delivers success outcomes within the sector through smart use of BI. Sharing and involving important stakeholders once landscape due diligence has been completed is fundamental so that strategic decisions about how to employ resources can be made. Important to use BI findings wisely to positive effect – not simply adding to general information overload.</p><p>Research & Analysis</p><p>Overlapping to a degree with many of the identified core BD skills, understanding and measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) of all activities is important to maintain efficient use of resource and keep on track towards success. Careful identification of performance metrics, clarity of presentation and a structured approach to evaluating success through continuous feedback loops and tracking is key.</p><ul><li>Why is it a good idea to focus efforts here?</li><li>What is the expected win opportunity?</li><li>Are results of these efforts aligned with my/our objectives? </li><li>Should we be making changes to objectives and/or alerting mgmt. accordingly?</li></ul><p> </p><p>Project Management</p><p>As well as an important skill in its own right, it should be considered one of the skills within that of Business Development. It requires leadership, resource, time and cost (opportunity cost too) planning and importantly teamwork to manage successfully. A Business Development role is afforded a natural degree of autonomy and empowerment to shape how each of these facets is pulled together and project managed in order to achieve success. A structured and organised approach to project management will help you remain focused and on track, aligned with identified KPIs and other performance measures and creates a framework for evaluation and feedback.</p><p>So, if Business Development involves the wearing of a number of hats…what does this look like when mapped out?</p><p><em>“</em>Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom<em>”</em> – Aristotle</p><p>On a relative basis, plotting each of these individual skills and core abilities onto a simple radar chart can be a useful way to visualise individual strengths and areas for focus as a Business Development professional and can be a useful reflection exercise especially when considering personal development plans for colleagues within the team, including self. </p><p> </p>