Business Development
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Business Development Made Easy: A Beginner’s Guide

WHAT IS BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

If I had to put it in a simple way, business development is the “art of recreation”. Let’s assume that you start something, say, a new business, or growth plan or any new service. Now, that “something” is what you intend to create and when it gets created it becomes a mutually accepted norm. So, when you try to change it, people always back fire saying “we have always done it this way”. But, in this fast moving era, doing how it is done (traditional way) doesn’t last long as the needs or the requirements of the people change from time to time. Therefore, there is a need of recreation. Successful businesses take recreation seriously; in fact recreation is built into their DNA. Recreation is how, they keep their offer fresh, find new ways to market themselves, reduce their sales cycles and find great partners to help them grow their businesses.

Formally speaking, Business development is the discipline required to achieve growth through the acquisition of profitable net new customers and expansion of existing customers.

UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

A lot of people when they hear about business development, they think that it has to do something with sales, but in reality, sales has to do something with business development. In fact, sales is a part of business development. Sales is an art of selling a solution to the customer’s problem and then getting into a transaction process wherein the customers buys your solution for a quoted rate (I will address this in more detail later in this blog). But, Business development is much broader, it involves:

CREATING AN OFFER THAT SELLS

Always remember, if your offer doesn’t take care of the customer needs, it’s not going to sell. People always buy because they want something. Imagine, its morning and you need a cup of coffee. You can get it almost everywhere, starting from Rs.15/- at your nearest hotel or you can wait in line for more than 20 minutes and get Rs. 180/- or more cup of coffee at Starbucks. What you need to understand here is that, you need to uncover what is high value to the market so that you can charge more. “Sometimes it’s not just coffee, it’s an experience”. With this context I am not saying that start selling coffee; what I mean is, your offerings to the market can be anything which can fulfil the need, it could also be the area of your expertise which you are selling in the form of a product (let’s say a patented device or technology) to the targeted audience or to a business.

MARKETING YOUR OFFER

Now that you have something to offer, it must reach out to the customer to fulfil the customer’s need and your need of making profit. Understand this; “Marketing is the public face of your company”. It creates the message of who you are, what you do to solve business problems and the value that you provide to your customers. Also note that, marketing has to work along with sales. If marketing is doing its job, the work of sales is easier, more focused and more effective. The job of marketing is to provide the message that goes out to the market, no matter what the channel or the vehicle that you use to communicate with the market and to generate leads. That messaging includes your firm’s:

  1. Website
  2. Collateral (or brochures)
  3. Events
  4. Sales presentations
  5. Mass emails
  6. Advertising (offline and online)
  7. Image, wherever you show up in person

SELLING YOUR OFFER

It’s time to sell the product! “Sales is the driver of business growth and success”, so it has to be a central part of business development (and obviously your business). If you don’t know who’s on your prospective customer list, who your next three customers are or whether to hire or layoff staff, then you require good sales leadership. Without it, your plan for growth of your business is going to be staggered right out of the starting gate. The following are the two important aspects of sales:

QUALIFY LEADS INTO PROSPECTS

 So, what is this qualification? Imagine, you have a meeting with your boss at his residence. You drive to his house and you are stopped by the gatekeeper of his house. After certain questions (more or less like an interrogation), you are granted access and allowed to drive to the house. This is similar to one of the jobs in business development. You’re the gatekeeper and prospective customers have to qualify to pass through to the part of the sales process (presenting and proposing) where you’re going to invest significant time with them. Make sure that the gatekeeping has to be worth your effort. Ultimately, your ability to bring in the right customers with velocity will accelerate your business growth.

PITCHING YOUR SERVICES TO CUSTOMERS

For salespeople, pitching is like shouting in a crowd. If people find it interesting, they tend to listen to what you have to say. You need to be knowledgeable of what you say and a little practice of how you say it will make your proposal appealing to people. The following are some tips on how you can improve or build your pitching skills:

  1. Focus on the prospect’s need.
  2. Customize your proposal to the customer, instead of making it generic and talking too much.
  3. Share the budget before the pitch.
  4. Get ready for the tough questions the prospect is going to ask. Don’t shy away from the problem.
  5. Prepare fully for the meeting and don’t look disorganized.
  6. Manage the time on the day.
  7. And most importantly, stick to your plans about how the project needs to be done. “Do not get carried away with the customer’s opinion”.

CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT

“There is a saying that if you have happy people, you have happy customers”. When a prospect converts to a customer, the relationship between your company and the customer enters a period of transition. This transition phase is a delicate matter, as conflicts can arise between different functions (departments), for example sales and delivery, over perceived ownership of customers, which can threaten your business development goals for this customer and therefore your revenue. So, for efficient customer management, you sort out what type of personality does what job, and connect this idea to the need to serve customers. This allows the team to equally distribute the load of customer management and get some varying and useful perspectives. If you get customer management under great control then the outcomes your company gets are fruitful, for example:

  1. You can turn a satisfied customer into an advocate for your business.
  2. You can influence or power customer testimonials, case studies and references for future business.
  3. You can look for additional business from the current project sponsor or from other people in the customer organization who need your services.
  4. You may get referrals to other prospects.

PARTNERSHIPS

“A partnership is a relationship between two businesses sharing a common goal”. Partnerships can bring you leads, credibility, access to a wider customer list or additional product or services that you don’t have. When you look for partners remember two things:

BE CLEAR OF “WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE”

The following are the particulars for your situation:

  1. Ensure that you have a strong value proposition for the partnership.
  2. You need sufficient knowledge of the specialist area of a potential partner to be able to talk about it with confidence or you need to learn pretty quickly.
  3. Remember that your future may have a merger or acquisition in it.
  4. The partnership has to support your overall strategic goals.

BE CLEAR OF “WHAT YOUR PARTNER NEEDS”

You can consider the following:

  1. Both businesses have complementary skills: Close enough to be useful, but with minimal overlaps.
  2. The partner is really good at what it does: Go for strong partners, not some mediocre performers. If they’re really good at what they do, they’re usually more systematic in their work (or approach) and effective at partnering too.
  3. Find someone with a common customer base with you: For example, same types of companies, same size, same geography, same industries etc.
  4. The partner has resources in the geography you’re interested in: These may be local, or you may be trying to break into a new market.
  5. The partner is trusted in the marketplace it operates in: No bad reports or complaints about it. The track record should be clean and the website is respectable.
  6. The partner is big enough to invest time and money.

FEEDBACK

“After all, it is the customer who keeps the business alive”. Feedbacks are essential to all types of business. When a company gets a feedback from its customers, the company gets to know what the customers want in their product (or the changes they need in it). It’s not just the company who is benefited from this process, but also it is the customers as well who feel well respected when the company addresses their issues, which again goes into the favor of the company which helps in customer retention process. Feedbacks also help to track the products lifespan in the market. Therefore, it is important for the business developers to handle feedbacks with great care which involves understanding the problem, which you achieve when you have good and effective communication with your customers and relaying the leads back to the company for overall development.

SCOPE OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

A lot of people ask me these questions, “Hey, is business development good?” or “what are the pros and cons of BD?” or “Does BD pays well?” Questions like these probably arise when you are too much concerned about the future it holds. Well, I came prepared with an answer. “YES”, business development can be one of your options to consider for your future. As in today’s world, various types of businesses are making their way into the market every single day but the ones surviving are those who identify what the masses are demanding and devise possible ways to meet their needs. And for the process you need business developers. Just remember, as long as there are people on the planet, there is need of something, for this “something” there is a “business idea” and to bridge the gap between the people’s need and business idea there are “business development professionals”.

Now, let us answer the above questions. Business development is good as long as you are interested. Business development is a challenging path with great rewards on the way. But, to get these rewards you need some relevant skills. Skills like good and clear communication, critical thinking, good negotiation ability and the relevant technology based knowledge etc. Also, you need to be emotionally strong. So, if you feel you are the right person for this then why not consider giving it a try.

Just like any other job, business development has its own “ups and downs”. One of the upside of business development is that, “anyone, literally anyone” can do this as long as you have some education background, required skills and the energy and enthusiasm for the role. The possible downside could be not achieving the required sales of a certain time frame (which happens quite often) which may cause you to face the wrath of your boss (ouch!!!).

And finally, yes it does pay you well. In India, based on your experience your salary can start from” Rs.3 to 4 Lakhs per annum” and it can go all the way up to “Rs. 7 to 8 lakhs per annum“. Click here to know more about salary.

But ultimately the choice is yours, so, before deciding on what you do, I would suggest that you do proper research in the job you are interested in.

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