I’ll ‘fess up here. I’m not a great fan of “Business Development”, often referred to as BD. Genuine BD has a role to play – a BDM (BD Manager) may be required to open up a new market, either geographically or perhaps a new industry sector.
So, what is it really? Business Development is the promotional and engagement activity outside of the Sales Cycle with an aim of positioning your business better for a particular opportunity. It is all about deepening the relationship with the customers you do have, and meeting new ones – good, old-fashioned networking.
It is a real investment and if you are an SME, not one many SMEs are really ready for. Part of the trouble is a difficulty to define what the “deliverables” are: measuring success on a BD role is often difficult. It can be done, though, so categorize your activity and it becomes clear:
- Define goals for expanding your network (people your business knows well) with current customers – this is always best done away from a “live” opportunity or active Sales phase.
- Build – and then maintain – a customer organization chart and keep it handy; note the people you’ve met. The PSC will help here
- Identify how many levels you are from “the top” of the relevant organization: make goals to meet at least two relevant people at each level one step at a time.
- Recognize any customer “Gatekeepers” – those people who want you to deal only with them. Establish links with other people before the next active Sales Cycle. Always engage well beyond the Gatekeepers.
- Engage with Procurement; recognize that their job means they are always Gatekeepers – but always engage with them early: often, they are not technical experts and you can help them to learn. If you treat Procurement as the enemy, they will do the same to you – and they will win.
Similar goals for networking with new customers include the above, once you have made contact. Before then, perhaps it might be for each of your senior people to attend a trade show or technical meeting each year and come back with at least five new contacts to nurture.
If you set goals like these for BD time, then it gives it structure, and you will get genuine results long term.