Do you even know what business development is? Don’t knock it until you understand it. And I’m addressing sales professionals as well, who perceive the business development process as synonymous with the sales cycle. It isn’t.
Business development involves understanding your current and potential markets, the customers within these markets, and developing products and deliverables to meet their needs. Business development is about how well you know your customers, their mindset, and context in which they make decisions. The sales cycle occurs somewhere in the middle, nearing the end, of the business development process. And it doesn’t happen unless you’ve developed a business case for a solution.
Business development takes time and a lot of data. Some qualitative. Some quantitative. Some technical. Some non-technical. It takes dialogue, using those not-so-soft skills, to establish the context for the need for solution placement. It takes dialogue to establish the historical and cultural context which generated the problem for which your client is seeking a solution. It takes understanding and appreciation of the people involved in the equation. Timing is all-important as well. And timing may not be so much a focus on your ability to design and deliver the solution as much as it involves the time it takes for your customers and prospects to make that all-important decision to do business with you.
So where do you fit into this equation? Are you an order-taker anxious to rush off to the lab or cubicle and “fix” things and design a solution that appears to fit your client’s needs? Are you an order-taker who is anxious to rush the sale so you can fulfill your quarterly quota? After all, selling them anything is better than selling them nothing. Yeah, right, you guess. Are you an implementer with a bit more patience to listen to customers, and a bit more technical acumen to gather data and establish the background for why your client or prospect has that need? Will your patience wear thin once you drag your prospect’s feet over the coals one more time, get them to admit that pain point, so you can pounce all over them with your solution which you feel is so very critical for them to place? (Hint: you are a more patient version of the order-taker and what you feel is important really is not that important to your customer).
Do you enjoy the collaborative potential of the relationship you are building with your clients and prospects? Are you on the same page? Do you easily communicate both technically and non-technically? Do your conversations uncover larger contexts in which longer term solutions need to be created? Are there flickers of innovative thinking involved? Are you fascinated by these conversations, learning as much from your clients and prospects as they, in turn, receive from their perceived value in doing business with you?
Regardless of whether you are a technical or non-technical professional, it’s all about your ability to participate in all aspects of the business development cycle. There is a lot of data and analysis that goes into the business development cycle. Are you comfortable researching, reading and interpreting data? Are you confident in presenting your findings and facilitating round table discussion?
News flash: no one comes out of engineering or business school with the full package. Somewhere along the line individuals decide to stop waiting for someone to throw them a life line. They fine tune their expertise, cross train and self-direct their careers. Business development for technical professionals. Somehow, this is not an illogical or counterintuitive concept for me. Who better to be the stewards of a new sales paradigm than the folks best able to gather and interpret the data, deliver their findings in an objective manner and innovate?
Think about it. Did I just describe you?