The absolute key train for any business developer would be, in my opinion of course, their ability to actively listen. We probably all think that we are great listeners but I would argue that over 90% of us need to work on our listening skills. We are so eager to talk ‘at’ people rather than having an actual two-way conversation. We love the sound of our own voices. We listen in order to react and show how clever we are.
However, getting our conversational counterpart to open up and discuss their pain points is key to any sales pitch of whatever kind. If we did more of that, we might be able to figure out how the partnership would work. What problems do we solve by connecting with the potential partner company? You may find that you thought the partnership would work for one reason, but with your super active listening skills, you soon discover that you actually solve other issues for them and the fit is even better than you thought!
How do you know you’re in active listening mode? Read this article on how to become a great listener.
Having an outgoing personality is one of the key traits required if you are a great business developer. To create business, you need to contact businesses. If you’ve never been in contact with the business before, either on behalf of your own company, or someone else’s, it’s not easy if you find it hard to talk to people you’ve never met.
When you contact a business, you can assume that you are creating some form of interruption, whether you’re calling, emailing or contacting via a social media platform. Interruptions typically cause irritation. You therefore have a very short window within which to make an impression and convince that business to spend time with you to determine why they should do business with you.
Basically, you need to excel at sales pitches – but what are you selling? This is a bit different from selling a product per se – it’s more about why the business you are contacting should form a partnership with your business. It’s almost like getting married – the ‘fit’ needs to be on multiple levels.
If there is one thing I absolutely abhor during my workday, it is being interrupted by a phone call where the caller asks to speak with ‘the person who deals with…’. Do your homework! With the Internet at your fingertips, there is really no excuse for not knowing who to talk to. There will be times where this is easy – for example, when the company’s ‘About Us’ page has information on the key team leaders.
But what if the information isn’t there? Well, you could be lazy and make a call similar to the one described above, or you could do some detective work. It’s actually easier than you might think! Companies House, for example, will show a list of company directors. Linkedin is another great source of information on the ‘Who’s Who’ of companies. Need to dig a bit deeper? Read news items on the company’s news page or in Google – you’ll soon start to form a picture of who you should be speaking with.
So many of us are absolutely rubbish at following up. We send an email and think ‘job done’ – they’ll get back to us when they are good and ready. But what if they have a bereavement / holiday / sick dog / etc.? You actually don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives or how pressured they are at work. You don’t know how many emails flood their inbox every day and your email is soon out of view, lost in the avalanche and in the nether regions of seen in the once a year clean-up. Out of sight can often mean out of mind.
So what should you be doing? Gently follow-up without harassing your potential partner. If you’re following up by email, make a note in your CRM as to when to expect a reply and if it doesn’t arrive, call them. When they answer the phone, listen to the levels of stress in their voice and check if now is a good time to follow-up. But don’t never give up, to quote our wonderful go-getting Americans across the pond (yes! I am biased!).
Our role is to help our company (or other companies) to grow. The more creative we are, within the company strategy, the more we will succeed and make our role exceedingly exciting. The thrill of doing deals and creating long-term relationships is addictive.
Partnerships can be obvious within the sector, but sometimes partners outside of our sector, with similar pain points, can also benefit from working with us. Partners can be complementary to what we are doing, even if there is slight overlap in other areas. Don’t be afraid to break boundaries – they’re artificial anyway. Lateral thinking is key – then, do your homework!
I’m sure there are additional key traits that a business development person would benefit from, where I have attempted to list the one’s I believe are imperative. Do let us know which one’s you believe are important.
About the author
Lesley Anne Rubenstein-Pessok, MD of LAR Consultancy Ltd, has spent her whole career in executive roles, working with and training start-ups and SME businesses, helping them to become more efficient, increase turnover, improve profitability, cost effectiveness and create strategies that pay off. She is an approved mentor for the London and Partners’ Business Growth Programme, as well as for other public funded programmes. Her client testimonials say it all.