Business Development (BD) seems to be the buzzword of 2011 (probably 4th behind Cloud, Social Media, and Merger). As new business has been difficult to find, even harder to win, and harder still to be profitable on, the profession has started turning over new rocks in search of some answers. The quest for good professional services business development people is underway at many firms. In other cases firms are looking to partners to pick up their BD efforts as part of their role in being a partner. Either avenue your firm takes, it’s important to consider the basic qualities needed in a BD role. As a person learning the craft, I have found 4 qualities (conveniently all C’s) that are needed to make for a successful business development person…which leads to the 5th C – cash.
First, what exactly is business development?
Next, what should you look for in people (the 4 C’s)?
The person who acts like they are in timeout at a cocktail hour is probably not the best person for a business development role. This doesn’t mean they are the incessant storyteller who can’t shut up, but rather a person who rarely meets a stranger and when they do they LISTEN more than they talk. This trait is wired into an individual and, best I can tell, cannot be taught. Sure someone can get better and improve, but this same person should not have that as their primary role.
Yes, content. The ability to present thoughts, concepts, and value propositions in both oral and written forms is a must for today’s environment. The reasoning is 3-fold:
- In the professional services environment, a person must be able to go at it alone, not taking away time from a billable professional.
- To be seen as an expert begins with being seen. Fancy that. The fact is that in this content starved world, if you are the one creating/delivering content, you are seen as the expert. In some cases it’s a complete farce and those are easily sniffed out; however, you must create content to gain the perception of being an expert.
- It’s leveraged. An article for the local paper, a presentation to 30 people, or a 1 on 1 pitch can all be leveraged if you look at it as content. This is an aptitude one must learn over the years ahead, firms too for that matter.
The ability to work as fluid as possible across multiple teams, departments, and people types in order to pull together an answer for a client/prospect in a timely fashion equals collaboration in a professional services environment. This requires a level of emotional intelligence to push things along internally but not in a way that ruffles (too many) feathers. This value must not be underestimated because, as we all know, one sour grape can ruin the whole bunch – and many a projects go sour due to the lack of buy-in from internal resources.
Ever been in a corn maze? If so, you have probably witnessed an individual darting around corners in attempt to find something other than a dead end. Perhaps this was you, and it has definitely been me before. You feel lost and can’t make sense of where you are going or where you came from.
So it goes with business. It’s confusing and maze-like at times. However, most corn mazes have a stand where you can step back (above) and take a look at where the path starts and stops, barriers, and dead ends. An individual in charge of your business development must have the innate ability to step back from the grind and have a conscious understanding of where the business is and where it’s going. This means shareholders must take time to transfer both the vision and DNA to their BD person. If the shareholders lack the vision themselves, it’s okay to have the BD person help supplement here, but ultimately this is on the shareholders to own.