Bill Scheessele


When it comes to BD, put your purpose ahead of your goal

One of the ironies we’ve seen in 40+ years of work in business development education, coaching, and professional development is the confusion professionals have between their goals in the role of BD and their purpose in BD.

It’s not really surprising that many also confuse their role identity with their self-identity. Learning the difference between purpose and goals in BD requires learning something new; while learning to separate role identity from self-identity requires unlearning something old.

Let’s take a moment to understand the latter of these two in order to better understand the former. Our self-worth as an individual is not determined by our success or failure in our roles in life, whether or not we choose the roles or others assign them to us. This is not an easy psychological principle to learn, accept and apply. Once a professional successfully learns to separate the two, the individual learns how to risk in the new role, learns the lessons of failure in the new role, and therefore grows professionally as well as personally. However, there is no psychological growth without pain.

And without the investment of discomfort in learning to successfully fail and learn, there is no long-term benefit.

A second significant, personal and professional growth step that BD professionals learn is to separate goals in BD from purpose in BD. Having personal and professional goals with complementing plans is fundamental to success in any role in life. One of the more frequently quoted insights from MBDi is: If you don’t have your own goals and plans, you’re probably going to be a part of other people’s goals and plans.

There is an abundance of material available on the internet on personal and professional goal-setting and planning. If you’d like to access any from our website, you are welcome to visit BD Insights.

Learning and applying the purpose in professional BD is another step in self-awareness and professional growth. Purpose is external to our needs and expectations and is focused on others. In its simplest definition, purpose is the reason for which something is done.

The purpose of BD is to serve others; to focus on the client and assist them in understanding their needs and wants. Your purpose is helping them solve their problems and to receive the benefit of engaging with you as the BD professional, whether or not they actually purchase from you.

This last point is critical to the maturity and professional growth of individuals to succeed in the role of BD. Psychologically mature professionals put their purpose ahead of their goals. They look to serve others and assist them in the fulfillment of their goals. By doing so, BD professionals earn invaluable trust and respect of prospects; thus, allowing them to gain a preferred advantage in their business relationships. 

Purpose focused BD professionals learn that if your purpose is to assist the prospect to achieve their goals they will assist you in achieving yours.

The highest degree of trust and respect is that which is developed between individuals. This far overshadows any trust that one has in a company, organization, or product.

That’s why purpose-drivencustomer engagement is critical to being successful in a BD role. By being purpose-driven and purpose-focused, you ask the prospect to give you the opportunity to earn their trust and respect. In doing so, you ask the prospect to first buy you—your character, principals, values, and ethics. That’s a lot to put on the line, up front and early in a customer relationship. To be comfortable taking that step, you must be well-anchored in yourself. To anchor this point in our professional development training programs, we tell participants not to ask the customer to buy you, if you wouldn’t buy yourself.

Maturing to this level in the BD role lets you be purpose-focused in customer engagement, allowing for win-win business relationships.

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 or 704.553.0000.

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