5 critical skills for your business development team

Hiring someone with a database of prospects to be responsible for business development has one drawback - time

In the government services market, it is a common practice to hire somebody with a database of prospects to be responsible for business development. In theory, this concept makes it easier to get a foot in the door to see decision-makers. It also assists in bonding and positioning with prospective customers and thus makes it easier to obtain the required intelligence needed to make informed decisions about opportunities.

In the short term, this strategy has been successful for a large number of companies. However, there is a significant drawback to this model, and it involves time. The fresher the contact list, the better the strategy works.

However, given the passage of time, particularly in this changing economy, contacts switch organizations or positions change, and the database grows stale and virtually useless.

By this stage, companies have invested a significant amount of resources to support these people. If they have not learned a business development process and used it consistently to procure new business with new contacts, they soon become ineffective in the role. The organization is left with a highly compensated, personality-driven position, producing little of the expected revenue.

If you had to evaluate your business development team and determine each person's ability to generate revenue without a pre-existing network, what process would you use?

Your best bet is to choose people who have specific attributes and capabilities. They should be able to:

  • Demonstrate learned business development thinking.
  • Display proficiency in gathering and analyzing first-person, human intelligence.
  • Have the ability to engage clients on any level.
  • Use information obtained in an opportunity identification and qualification process to make intelligent decisions concerning viable business prospects.
  • Serve as a catalyst for changing the way your organization conducts business.

A networking/contact list is useful only in opening doors and getting appointments. If your business development team can secure the meeting but has no clue why it's there, what problems can be solved by your products or services, how to encourage customers to talk about their issues, and how to build long-term business relationships, you are simply using that contact list to open doors. The result of this scenario looks a lot like trying to net butterflies or, to use another analogy, like chasing fly balls in left field with a catcher’s mitt. Your resources might be better invested in hiring true business development hunters with the experience, thinking and skills to go to bat for you, drive revenue and make the numbers.

If you believe that you need someone to open doors, engage a consultant to provide the introductions you require. However, if you want consistent, long-term revenue growth, hire business development professionals who understand how to develop and sustain relationships, have the ability to advise customers concerning their needs, and can consistently win business. These professionals are not apprehensive about engaging with any prospects and, in the process, are able to meet their personal financial goals and your organization’s revenue growth objectives.

In contrast, butterfly chasers never leave their offices and spend the majority of their time scanning the wires waiting for the right keywords to produce an opportunity they can snag in their net. That prize is then displayed as a wonderfully written proposal. But more often than not, this trophy doesn’t win the business. It lacks the key ingredients of customer contact, interaction and input.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at http://www.mbdi.com or 704.553.0000.

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