Companies talk about the importance of developing business on a daily basis.
How the lifeblood of any company is the continuous influx of new clients, more opportunity, and a deep pipeline of future business.
If you were to look at any organizational chart, nearly all of them will have a position dedicated to developing new business.
The titles may change, or are creatively worded, and where they fall on the org chart may differ from firm to firm.
However, fundamentally each role has the same objective — secure as many dollars, over the longest period of time, as possible.
What that means for individuals in business development (BD) today is chronic networking, continual conference attendance, strategically joining associations, and sitting on as many boards as possible.
Customers are charmed by the odd golf tournament, box seats at a baseball game, or even concert tickets.
BD professionals spend their days moving from event to event, collecting business cards and making small talk for weeks and years on end.
Names and titles are logged into the latest customer management system and then forgotten until their particular service or title is needed.
Many of these BD professionals would be hard-pressed to identify anyone with whom they have actually built a mutually beneficial business relationship.
The kind of relationship where, if a customer or client were to have a particular problem, your BD professional is the number that they call for guidance or assistance.
The ‘art of networking’ has surged to an incredible high over the last decade, yet the art of relationship building has been pushed aside.
As leaders, it is crucial to understand the importance and necessity of relationship development, as opposed to business development.
Once the distinction has been made and is understood, you will find that developing your business will be much less difficult.
Relationships Take Time
We all have a list of go-to people in our lives who have built a relationship with us, earned our trust, and pull through when we need them to.
These relationships were carefully cultivated over a long period of time where each party had the opportunity to get to know the other, understand strengths and capabilities,and illustrate value.
Business development today has become the corporate one night stand.
Where individuals are expected to seal the deal after one cocktail party, one conference, or a carefully written LinkedIn message.
If your organization is serious about developing and sustaining business, then your strategy must be focused on relationship building and not getting as much as you can from a customer in the first interaction.
If this is the case, then this may be why your current BD activitiesare not getting the results you had hoped for.
Relationships Take Commitment
I have seen large, even national, organizations stress the importance of relationship building and maintaining strong ties with their clients, and maybe 1–2 individuals dedicated to fulfilling this objective.
Let me ask: how deep do you believe a relationship can be, when you have one individual travelling all over the country trying to meet with 40 clients?
An infrequent email, a phone call every 6 months, or a face to face meeting once per quarter is not a commitment to relationship building.
Leaders, if we say that developing business through carefully cultivated relationships is a priority, and we ask capable and professional individuals to focus on this activity, then we can not drown them with clients.
Take a look at the way your BD team(s) have been working over the last 12 months.
Are their efforts focused on a handful of clients, providing value added support, services, or products?
Do their clients come to them for guidance and advice on their particular situations?
How deep and wide are their relationships with key clients and customers — are they committed to them?
If not, then it is your job as a leader to remove any hurdle that is in their way of achieving this goal.