The terms “business development” and “sales” are sometimes used interchangeably. Although strong relationship building skills are a prerequisite of both sales and business development, they are distinct activities with very different objectives. “Sales” focuses on immediate commercial pursuits. In contrast, “Business Development” is a long game about building expanding existing markets and venturing into new markets. I’ll use an example in this article to outline four key elements of a good business development strategy, but of course you can draw parallels for your own company and industry.
1- Have a Vision. You need to know where you aspire to be as an organization and for your product or service lines. Your vision is your guiding light. For example, Cubic’s vision is to “Improve One Billion Lives Through Intelligence.” This vision informs each department’s strategy, and the company’s approach to business development*. What’s your vision and how can it guide your business development strategy?
2- Get out of your comfort zone. If you are a construction materials supplier, it goes without saying that you’d attend construction conferences. However, you are one of 1,000 other suppliers at that same conference, “developing business.” If you were to show up at an economic development conference, for example, you’d be one of few (maybe even the only) construction materials supplier in attendance. You’d learn about the concerns of communities, you’d establish new relationships, thus broadening your network and knowledge. What alliances can you forge? How could your technology be applied outside your specific industry? How can you be a catalyst for change or for innovation? Part of the challenge is in creating relevance for your participation, which brings us to the next point…
3- Speak up to stand out. Once you attend conferences outside your comfort zone, look for opportunities to speak up and establish yourself and your company…and to create opportunities to get you closer to your vision. At a construction conference, you’re among dozens of experts on construction materials, and whatever you say will probably get lost in the noise. However, attendees at an economic development conference may not be aware of new developments in the construction materials industry, of the benefits to communities, or of your company and its vision. Ask questions during panel discussions. Meet the organizers and offer to speak at the next conference.
4- Stay connected. Look for ways to offer value to your newly expanded network. I’m not talking about email marketing campaigns. I talking about thoughtful notes. Did some recent situation or article make you think of someone? Drop them a line. Did your company offer something new to a client which your extended network might find interesting? Write about it. Constantly be on the lookout for what will benefit others.
Someone once said something like, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Business development is really exciting because it requires constant thinking, constant innovation. If done right, it really is very strategic in nature.
As always, reach out to me if you’d like to discuss, or if you need support in developing a truly strategic business development plan.