Major or minor in BD, but you still have to study

Career success often hinges on how you embrace your business development role, even if BD isn't listed on your business card.

It stands to reason that if you are in the business of selling technical services then all of your technical professionals must – at a minimum – aspire to be proficient in their respective technical areas.

A consultant, who has worked in government and commercial energy and environmental areas, remembers a mentor saying, “We do three things: perform technical work, manage people, and develop business. Pick any two of the three, do them well, and you will do very well.”

Our consultant found this to be interesting advice. However, he wondered, “Do I have to pick two? Can’t I be successful if I just do one?” The answer: Of course you can, it is just harder.

For example, it is not enough to merely become a “competent” project manager, program manager, or technical professional. After all, competent employees are a dime a dozen. Competency is the bare minimum that is expected, so just being able to perform your work is not going to give you competitive advantage over any other professional.

To get a competitive advantage for your company and to distinguish yourself, you have to become a true expert. But that is by no means an easy task. Experts take action on the leading edge of their fields. They publish papers on new processes or make presentations at conferences. Professionals who are at the top of their game give expert testimony and write books. Along the way, a few awards and advanced certifications contribute to their prestige.

The other problem is that it’s not easy to stay a technical expert. If it’s a hot issue, your competitors will catch on quickly. As the consultant mentioned above shared, “There was a time when I knew as much as anyone about environmental remediation and cleaning up chemicals in groundwater. But, that soon changed as others gained experience doing those kinds of cleanups. Today, oil spill experts are in demand, but nobody much cared about them until the problem in the Gulf of Mexico. Certainly this disaster was the catalyst for dozens of more oil spill experts appearing.”

Let’s say you want to simply concentrate on being a good manager. Theoretically, you could progress from managing small projects, to bigger projects or programs, and then to a senior leadership position that includes an office. This progression happens, I’m sure, but you really have to be an exceptional manager to make it work. And if you’re not a professional expert in a technical field, you will not have the respect of the technical personnel you manage. It just doesn’t work, because a leader cannot ask someone to do something he or she is unable to do. Exceptional managers lead from the front.

What about business development? Can you just be in sales and not manage or perform technical work? We think you can – obviously there are technical professionals who work for business-centered practices that do nothing but sell technical services. However, there is tremendous pressure to hit revenue growth targets, so it is not all that easy.

The larger issue is that a business developer’s success seldom lasts if they do not continue to engage with their customers and remain up-to-date on the products and services they provide. When a business developer goes “stale”, it becomes much harder for them to earn the trust of potential clients, who expect you to know something about the services and products you sell.

Our advice is to pick any two of the three and do them well. Or, another way to say it is, “major in one and minor in another.” We think you will discover that one “track” supports the other. The good news is that, early in your career, you don’t have to pick. You can try this and that and see what you like. But this approach can produce significant dividends later in your career.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Article based on expert opinion by senior MBDi consultant Bob Glassen.

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.