Posted by Chuck Reynolds on August 20, 2016 - 6:06pm

 Business Development  

What does it mean?

Who is it for?

Is it the same for everyone?

Having now worked in a number of roles that you might consider as business development (BD), I thought I'd start my publishing journey on LinkedIn (this is my first post) with a bit of reflection. I often get asked what the difference between straight selling and BD is, so I thought I'd try and define the differences (for my own sake, if nothing more!).

To some degree, they're different sides of the same coin. Selling and BD go hand in hand. I've been in roles where I've been strictly selling, others where there is a combination of sales and BD, and also in roles that I would consider true and pure BD.

In all, however, I've had some link to what would be considered BD within that particular business. So the answer to the header title is no, I think; BD is different for everyone and every business, dependent on a number of factors - budget, a size of a workforce, attitude to BD, etc.

What is 'true and pure' BD?

The sales process is one that involves a lot of people - product development, designers, pricing, marketing, technical, management - 'front-line' salesmen and 'top-end' management need to combine forces to deliver a product that their customers want.

If you walk into a shop to buy a pair of trainers, for example, this has been designed from the early stages by trained footwear designers, manufactured from these designs in a production process of sorts (industrial or bespoke, depending on the brand), marketed in the appropriate manner to raise awareness of the product, eventually landing on the shelves of the shop you're in, with a friendly guy/gal willing to help you transact some business when you make the decision to buy them.

So where does BD fit into this process?
What's it all about then?

The foremost word that comes up in the BD world is 'relationships'. That's pretty much what it's all about. Good business development will help identify, maintain and encourage relationship building within a firm, building rapport with both suppliers and customers.

It helps strengthen the bonds between these links, supporting the marketing copy and material that establishes your product in the relevant marketplace.

It helps provide information as to what the client needs to the 'front line' sales team, assisting them in closing the deal at the end of the process.

It helps inform management as to how the market is moving, providing insights into new developments of technology, social media and other digital avenues that the firm can take advantage of, to build and maintain loyalty.

It helps small companies access bigger markets and large companies engage newcomers. So my definition of 'true and pure' BD is 'helping a business to develop its relationships'.

Plain and simple.

It's networking on a daily basis; attending cutting-edge events to learn about the industry you're working in; finding (er... stalking?) people on LinkedIn to see what events they're attending and making sure you meet them there, in person, so that you can have that all-important introductory chat; it's offering your loyal customers something more than a newsletter - why not run a seminar and invite them along to it? They might be happy to be invited.

The personal touch is always a winner. We hear more and more now about relationships marketing, social currency, engagement, etc. BD is the platform that most of this is built on.

Who is it for?

As I've mentioned before, I've worked in roles that have been classed as BD but have really been sales. I've worked in hybrid roles where you might do a bit of both. And I've worked in the 'true and pure' BD roles too. What this has shown me is that BD has a place in every business. You can't 'develop' your business without a good BD strategy. So whether you're encouraging your front-line staff to sign up to a few newsletters, or get yourself down to a few networking events, or join a LinkedIn group and start up a discussion, BD is something that can't be overlooked.

It's all very well to have a great product and a nicely designed website, with some great leaflets and a slick business card but, without the right approach to BD, no one is going to see it in the way you want to. Having worked as a supplier to a lot of startups and growing SMEs, the one thing that I've noticed which has set apart the successes from the failures is their approach to BD. Develop the relationships - build a community around your business and your product just needs to do what it says on the tin. The rest will fall into place and you'll have a strong, loyal customer base who are happy to sing your praises.

For that reason alone, if nothing else, BD is essential for pretty much any business going.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor