It is becoming increasingly common on LinkedIn to find positions in which business development skills are part of the necessary skills. It is very common, even, to find the position of “Business Developer” or “Business Development Manager” instead of what we have always called “Sales Commercial”.
The new ecosystem of the digital economy has led to the existence of a multitude of start-ups with novel projects and value proposals that contribute a lot to the market, but which in most cases are unknown. On the other hand, there are also markets where competition is enormous. For this reason, the profile dedicated to business development is increasingly important, capable of presenting to the market and closing agreements with your new product, service, or proposal in a dizzying competitive environment.
Being a business developer is not an easy task. From my point of view, the business development function requires certain seniority (not necessarily in age, but in professional career), as well as a lot of intelligence and liveliness to detect opportunities. We cannot forget another fundamental factor: trust. When a company is opting for one option or another, believing the interlocutor in front of it is, without a doubt, a determining factor. Therefore, the degree of experience, reliability, and reputation of the business developer is key to its success.
Decalogue of learning to be successful in business development
Taking all of the above into account, I would like to share with you 10 tips, which are no more than 10 lessons learned, that I have had in my last professional decade to try to be a good business developer.
1. Always be alert to any opportunity. From my professional history, I can tell you that I have lost agreements that I thought were closed and I have won others in which at first I thought I was wasting my time. With experience, a first intuition is usually important, but I can guarantee you that it is by no means definitive.
2. Be generous with your network of contacts. I recommend that you first help and then ask. Spend time with others, do favors without asking for anything in return. People perceive when you are only an interested party and it will take a toll on you in the medium term. You never know where the person in front of you who needs your help will be tomorrow.
3. Have hobbies and let the rest know them. Golf, fishing, reading, chess, cinema, football, hiking… Whatever! They will help you connect with others and create bonds. Business development is mainly about that: creating links with people with whom you can do business in the future.
4. Create your ecosystem of contacts. About 8 years ago, at Philips, we created “Philips eCommerce breakfasts” when we were entrusted with the task of developing the multinational’s e-commerce and we lacked both training and contacts. Almost from day one, we managed to bring in relevant people from the sector from whom, in the first place, we learned a lot, and it allowed us to create an ecosystem of contacts in which we continue to participate today. Years later, when breakfasts became a network reference in the eCommerce world, we founded the Electronic Commerce Leaders Club, in a different and more open format. I don’t know what will be next, but I can guarantee you that have gained many friends and potential people to do business with over the years.
5. Go to forums and events in your sector actively and with a purpose. It is important to be up-to-date and understand “what’s going on”. Attending events is demanding because emails continue to enter our inbox, but it is key if we want to keep up to date and find new opportunities. To be active, you have to prepare the event before it occurs: see which companies enter, who you are interested in knowing, who you are interested in visiting or what presentations they can give you. If you don’t prepare it in advance it is very possible that you will waste your time.
6. You have 48 hours to establish contact with that person you have met and who is interesting in your network of contacts. Find any excuse, but send an email so that you are “located” when you contact again.
7. Take an interest in the business of others. You will get better results in developing a business if you get the prospect to talk about their needs instead of listening to you about how good you are.
8. Customize LinkedIn messages. Aren’t you fed up with getting “non-personalized” proposals from people who just contacted you on LinkedIn? Every time, and with more frequency, I get awkward, non-personalized messages from people I don’t know who just accepted their contact. My recommendation is that, if you want to develop business with strangers through the network, send a personalized message in which you show real interest in your interlocutor (or that, at least, you have dedicated a minimum of time). I also advise that you allow time to pass between the established contact and the proposal you want to make. Finally, I also suggest that the first message you send is of help and not so much of a sale.
9. Look long term. The best business developers I know have the peculiarity that almost everyone speaks well of them. Earning the credibility and trust of others takes time and, in many cases, missing a short-term opportunity.
10. Work on your reputation and prestige. Your personal brand in an authentic way. Remember what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says: “Personal branding is what others say about you when you’re not in your room.” It’s not so much about what you say about yourself, but about what others talk about you. There is only one way to do this, work on personal and professional excellence.
I hope that some of these tips will help you and do not forget that, deep down, commercials and business developers are all.