Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.
What Are the Basics of Business Development?
In the simplest terms, business development can be summarized as the ideas, initiatives, and activities that help make a business better. This includes increasing revenues, growth in terms of business expansion, increasing profitability by building strategic partnerships, and making strategic business decisions.
“Business Development Executive,” “Manager of Business Development,” and “VP, Business Development” are all impressive job titles often heard in business organizations. Sales, strategic initiatives, business partnerships, market development, business expansion, and marketing—all of these fields are involved in business development but are often mixed up and mistakenly viewed as the sole function of business development.
Business Development vs. Sales
Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.
Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer. Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.
Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.
Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.
As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.
The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.
Strategic Business Development
Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.
Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.
Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.
Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.
How Can Sales And Business Development Better Work Together?
Clearly define what BDRs and SDRs do
To give you a practical example, when I was a BDR for a SaaS company, I was only in charge of sending the first emails and would then pass the lead to sales. The problem was, my AE thought I was going to follow up on those leads.
Make your ideal customer profiles visible
If you haven’t already done so, make sure you do thorough user research and create your ideal customer profile. This research will highlight details about your audience that you can use for everything from marketing to ads to content creation and, of course, to find new clients.
Organize regular alignment meetings
Create experience-sharing moments
Link part of the bonus to team performance
While this may work for AEs, it forces BDRs to focus solely on their number. As a result, they’re likely to develop lower quality leads — pushing leads regardless of quality, resulting in lower conversions and sales at the end of the pipeline.
Base part of the individual bonus on the team’s performance. With this approach, the team must work together to get the bonus. Since they depend on one another to hit the numbers, they’ll coordinate activities and push harder when they fall short of their goals.
The Future Of Business Development
Business development is a powerful tool for business growth — but not everyone understands it. As a result, it’s somewhat underrated and unappreciated. And the fact that it’s so closely tied to sales (but isn’t sales) creates even more confusion.
We are now at a stage where business development is defining its borders. Companies are investing in this role to stay ahead of the competition. According to the 2020 Future of Jobs Survey by the World Economic Forum, business development positions are the sixth most in-demand emerging job roles, where data scientists came in first.
Changes in customer behaviors make business development vital. People now have plenty of ways to find (or not find) your company, and business development is the only role that’s tasked with following the trends and finding new channels to connect with prospects.
It needs to work closely with other departments to get access to the right resources and make things happen — especially sales, since they are the ones who ultimately turn business development into revenue.