In one organization I worked with a few years ago, I can recall being approached by a colleague who made a request to join the Business Development team (BD team).
“Are you joking or serious? ”
I exclaimed as this was not a typical request you get from a colleague.
I was trying hard to comprehend how my colleague did not understand that to a large extent business development (BD) mainly refers to creating opportunities for sales amongst other things.
My assertion may probably not be wrong, but I cannot claim that it is 100% correct.
So, I took a few minutes to educate him on what BD meant to us, in other to help manage his expectations…
Organisations have interpreted this concept in the light of their business objectives, some, for the sake of nomenclature assigned designation that the bearer hardly understands.
Some are of the opinion that it is “100% sales.”
A start-up may insist that it only refers to “how the business can evolve from small to large.”
A fairly large size organisation may insist that business development refers to “going into partnerships with different stakeholders”.
While others believe it is so called because it will bring about business expansion and capture new markets.
However, a large majority relate with the commonality in the slant towards sales and agree that whatever definition you align with the concept must include sales.
And from my experience as a business developer, I have noticed that defining the term is not quite straightforward.
It has become a cliche thrown around by business people but very few really understand mainly because of the scope it entails.
This, therefore, lends credence to the reason why it can be somewhat difficult to explain.
I will make an attempt to share with you in this writeup what I have learnt (and still learning) as a business development professional.
What Then is Business Development?
We cannot limit business Development to just ‘selling’ or ‘sales’, the scope is broader, and it involves more levels of engagement with the customers and other business partners.
Sales, most of the time, are the offshoot of business development activities.
Business development goes beyond immediate gains derived from a one-off transaction.
To keep it simple:
Business development refers to all the strategic initiative through the interactions with customers, partners and other relevant networks that will enhance growth opportunities and long-term value creation for the company.
The emphasis here is interactions with:
- and other networks for business growth
A business developer, therefore, should focus on how to leverage these interactions in order to help the business grow.
A business developer must always look out for business opportunities that can emanate through various existing and new partnerships.
You need to create systems that ensure ongoing and sustainable activities that will advance the growth of your business
Sales vs. Business Development, Any Difference?
The stages in the buyer’s journey in which the two concepts become operational are what makes them different.
A business developer comes in at the foundational or the beginning of the buyer’s journey.
The opportunities identified are what the sales team will leverage to pitch the value proposition of the company.
In order words, the business development team is constantly creating opportunities for selling to take place.
Those opportunities may come in the form of partnerships, collaboration or nurturing existing relationships.
Such opportunities may lead to expansion into another market which can be geographical or psychographic.
So when you talk about business development, you are referring to the “big picture”.
Which involves the business growth by leveraging on your current clientele size and other partnerships.
At the initial phase, prospective customers will engage your brand with a measure of doubt.
I’m sure you can relate with this, because for me to buy from a new brand that I know little about- I search online, check review sites and my continued patronage will be a function of getting the promised value and the customer service experience.
Today’s consumer has more option. If they are left unengaged, they tilt towards the organisation that engages them the most since digital technology is making it easier and faster to build an enduring relationship with customers.
So what should you emphasize?
Whether as a Sales attendant in a supermarket or a VP, Business Development for a multinational, you definitely want your customer to transact on an ongoing basis.
Customers are the set of people that keep you in business.
Engaging them cannot be occasional if you want to keep generating returns from the exchange of value being offered.
To get the best from customers, you’ve got to sell what they want and not what you love.
Find out the outcome they really need and offer it to them.
It will improve your engagement with them and also enhance the retention which will ultimately improve profitability and bring about the desired growth in your business.
This lends credence to the research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) that shows a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit.
This is because over time, the volume of products purchased by existing customer increases while the amount incurred in serving those customers significantly reduce.
And the exciting part is that these set of customers becomes your brand ambassadors- they begin to refer other customers to your company. What more can someone ask for?
Create A Database For Your Customers
If you don’t have a comprehensive database of your customer, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
The database should be a compilation of data that is relevant to your business. This will allow you to engage them more effectively and create a lasting business relationship that will exist for a long time.
So, start by creating an excel sheet and update it with the basic information such as name, phone numbers, email address.
Creat your system to be able to capture the details of new customers as they make a purchase from you.
The database becomes very valuable in coming up with insights and other projections that will help your business development effort.
Constantly Ask For Feedback
You can’t serve your customer better if you don’t ask for feedback.
Remember your product offering was created for them and not for you.
You get a lot of insight from product development and improvement from your customer’s perspective.
So, getting feedback on a regular basis should be part of your strategy.
Periodically carry out surveys using different tools.
It will help you adjust and connect more with them and ultimately improve your business development effort.
So if you ask me, the emphasis should be on developing long-term business relationships with your target market.
There are several online tools that can be used to develop an ongoing engagement with your customers.
You must create a content marketing strategy that will help to inform, educate and entertain your customers.
Growing a steady email list is very crucial to engaging them as well.
Regular updates should be forwarded to them periodically as regards product development and new breakthroughs in your service offerings.
Your content should provide valuable learning and information to them.
This is very important to ensure top-of-mind awareness.
Networking For Business Growth
You need to be accurate about the channels your target audience congregates the most and be very visible there.
LinkedIn is a very resourceful platform for networking with most decision-makers.
You need to design creative ways to grow and connect with the right audience.
You do not want the customers to transact elsewhere.
And trust me when customers see value and attention, they stay with you for as long as you are in business.
The length of the business relationship with your customer depends on the quality of the value you provide.
Are there other business development strategies you that can help grow business, feel free to share in the comment section.