Business development is a phrase that seemingly covers a range of things depending on who you talk to. In some professional services firms the term “business development” is a synonym for marketing. In others, it is used to cover the entire sales funnel. Then there are the firms that use business development to mean selling, or even mergers & acquisitions! It is no wonder then that the term business development can lead to confusion.
In this article, we are going to set out what we mean when we speak about business development and how we train professionals to engage with it.
What is business development?
When we talk about business development here at Client Talk, we like to think of it in terms of the traditional sales funnel. This model has stood the test of time, and whilst we know that there are other models that adapt and change the funnel, such as the sales flywheel, we believe that the sales funnel remains the best way to understand what business development is and how it is connected to other functions inside professional services firms.
At the top of the funnel we find a large number of people (these could be prospects, clients, or referrers). Here we are looking to raise awareness of who we are and what we do. It is here that we employ a marketing strategy. Many firms will use a variety of tactics here and often these sit with a dedicated marketing team to deliver.
The next stage of the funnel is where relationships start to form. Prospects or potential clients who have been made aware of the services you offer start to become more interested in what you do. It is the job of Business Development to nurture these clients and to move that interest to Desire or Consideration.
You may have noticed that we still have a bit of the funnel to fill. This final stage is all about converting interest and desire into clients. This is about action – signing on the dotted line. It can be thought of as selling, and it is what many firms think of when they discuss business development. However, for us (and others) this level is better entitled client development. This is more about creating clients and nurturing existing ones.
Understanding what business development means to your business
Now, the reason it is important to set this out is because many professionals are not sure what is meant by business development - so you are likely talking at cross-purposes at any given time. Not only that but when you highlight what business development actually involves, it can break barriers and remove much of the reluctance that exists from professionals to take part in it. Business development training can help to highlight that business development, fundamentally, is about building relationships. With this, most professionals breathe a sigh of relief - relationship building is something that they can do. They don't need to be a "salesperson".
Why is doing business development important?
Having professionals engaged in business development helps firms outperform the market. A Client Talk survey found that firms that showed the highest levels of growth had one thing in common: all their professionals were actively engaged in Business Development. The bottom line?
Business development is good for your firm’s bottom line!
To find out more about our growth equation you can visit the reports section on our website and download the full report.
What makes a good business developer?
Professionals are often asked to do business development and the first thing that comes to mind is the characteristic “Rainmaker”. This is a larger-than-life character. Someone who is confident, who draws clients in, who has numerous successes under their belt. This is a person who is extroverted and not afraid to stand up in front of a packed conference hall, negotiate fees, or to cross-sell.
THE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT INTROVERT
Once this image has been formed, professionals tend to group themselves – unconsciously - into three. First, there are those who feel that this character is so far removed from who they are that they will never be like them. They, therefore, shy away from business development altogether.
THE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXTROVERT
At the other extreme are those professionals who easily identify with the character of the rainmaker. They would describe themselves as such and are bullish when it comes to business development. Note bullish doesn’t necessarily mean accomplished.
THE ONE WITH BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT POTENTIAL
Finally, there is the middle group. They know that business development is important, and they feel they have some skills that could be leveraged, but they are unsure how to do it well and they don’t know if what they are doing is the most effective way to do it. They are willing to learn but lack confidence.
Breaking down barriers to business development success
Another key of advantage to understanding what business development means, is that in turn, it helps professionals to break down what is needed to be successful at it. Firms do not need an army of clones. The traditional view of a rainmaker is at best outdated. To be good at business development is all about self-awareness, knowing how to nurture relationships, it is about influence.
Training in business development skills
There is a range of skills that a professional needs in order to succeed in business development. They range from technical skills and knowledge in areas such as strategy, pitching, and creating sales pipelines – to softer human skills such as influence, trust, and listening. There is then a range of skills that tactically can help deliver a business development strategy – things like presenting, negotiation, and personal branding.
Professionals will have a range of these skills already - others can be nurtured and developed through training and coaching. Doing so will be beneficial to the firm, but it is also much easier if professionals are on the same page as business development teams in terms of what is required. Start your training by clarifying what business development is for your business, you will be surprised at how many professionals relax in their seats and start to engage with it.