Let’s start with the basics. Business development is the processes and activities that companies undertake to drive growth, identify new partnerships, categories of customers, and lines of business. Business development is the action of trying to find new ways to help other businesses and be helped by other businesses – always in the search for more profit for your organization. It is a function of a company that directly influences and is directly influenced by every department in a differing way.
The answer to this question seems obvious from a sales perspective. Business development is what is done to increase revenue, business expansion, and profitability by building strategic partnerships through deliberate business decisions.
While most all other areas of the organization are focusing on the current business, business development is focusing on building new business and flushing out new opportunities by reaching out to prospects and building relationships.
Ultimately, successful business development impacts and integrates every department within a company, including sales, marketing, manufacturing, human resources, accounting, finance, product development, and vendor management.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” - Warren Buffet
Creating and establishing your company's reputation takes time and effort and is something that can be lost in an instant. The pillars of establishing and keeping your reputation are ethics and transparency, understanding your corporate “why” and walking the talk on all organizational levels.
Creating a code of conduct and training your employees goes a long way to boost employee loyalty, engage leaders and ultimately create powerful public relations. Customers value authentic, transparent, purpose-driven brands that share their personal values. Making sure your employees have a full understanding of the values that drive your business and instilling those values in their day-to-day behavior and decision making, builds trust and helps to make meaningful connections with customers.
“The WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.” - Simon Sinek
No matter who you are or what your role is in your organization, you need to know why you are doing what you’re doing - you need to understand your “Why”. It’s what guides your company to do what it does.
More than a mission statement, which details what business your organization is in now and in the future, your why is a purpose statement.
Graham Kenny, CEO of KMS Education and Strategic Factors wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organization’s impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients – whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.”
Having a focus on integrity and ethics instilled at all levels of your company is imperative to protecting your reputation.
Compliance and ethics training is sometimes viewed as less important than it should be. Your leadership team needs to understand the financial, reputational, and cultural costs that can arise when your team is non-compliant and that understanding needs to be felt at all levels in the organization.
The leadership team has a big influence when they become engaged in training and support initiatives. They help to create a united team that helps to embrace the standards that boost your company’s reputation.
“…everyone, at every level, needs to understand the values that drive your business, and have them instilled in such a way that it influences their day-to-day behavior and decision-making.” LRN.com
Developing a strategically cohesive business plan is like thinking ahead into the future and accounting for unforeseen organizational challenges and opportunities. Strategy created at the top sometimes never actually makes its way to the rest of the company in a meaningful way.
Implementing your strategic plan at all levels enables your project management teams to understand how their work will contribute to the company goals. You need to create buy-in by drawing a direct line between project activities, resources, time, and effort and how it helps the company achieve its business goals.
Business development is about driving growth by identifying new partnerships, categories of customers and lines of business. It’s about looking for a win-win between organizations. Building new relationships, identifying opportunities, and defining the terms of an agreement is what business development is all about.
Business development experts see opportunities where others don’t. They have the analytical skills to make logical and well-supported arguments for their vision along with the ability to make deals and build buy-in from all parties. The behaviors to look for in a business development professional not only include strategic achievers, but also creative minds that can identify potential that may not be obvious to others. Connecting the ever-evolving dots of business development demands creativity and imagination. Let’s take a look at the important traits of a successful business development expert.
The stage that your business is in will determine the strategy your business development consultant needs to take to develop business for your organization.
If your company is a startup, there should be a lot of research put into business planning and strategy. You need to identify the right channels to reach your customers, but before that, research needs to be done to identify your ideal customer profile to build your base of customers.
If your business is an established corporation, you likely already have a solid customer base. The business development consultant will need to focus more on product development or new markets to bring your existing products to.
No matter what stage you’re in, developing and implementing growth opportunities is the ultimate goal of the business development consultant and they will need to conduct research to assess the current strategy, look for ways to improve it, and predict problems down the road.
A business development consultant will need to be a critical thinking decision-maker. They need to be able to analyze objectively and make decisions based on an evaluation of researched data to bring big-picture thinking to your business to take it to the next level.
A critical thinking decision-maker will “logically connect ideas, scrutinize and evaluate arguments, find inconsistencies and errors in your work and the work of others, solve complex problems and engage in reflection.” – Indeed.
Drawing reasonable conclusions from a set of information and discriminating between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions is a necessary part of business development.
Setting goals and developing action plans are essential for a business development consultant. Goals need to be meaningful, and an established plan needs to be created to meet those goals and to create buy-in from other members of the sales team.
Being analytically minded helps to achieve goals and create processes for the business to grow. Strong attention to detail and strong project management skills fosters a focus on detail and process which can be used to support your team to deliver the results you need to get your business to where you want it to be.
A business development consultant needs to be a creative thinker. They need to be able to look at things from a different angle and find new ways to solve problems. They need to develop new ways to look at problems or issues so they can find solutions to get past roadblocks.
Alternatives exist everywhere for every problem. A fresh look at your business from a seasoned business development consultant can get you past assumptions that limit your growth and keep you locked in outdated modes of accomplishing daily tasks.
For a business development professional, communication skills are key. You can have all the above character traits, but without strategic and clear communication skills, none of those will translate to building new business opportunities. Potential clients and prospects must be handled in a very organized and systematic way to ensure that the parallel benefits are clear for all parties involved.
The communication factor plays a pivotal role in connecting the deals and opportunities that a business development professional will seek out. You can talk with any person or company you’d like to, but truly building connections and cross-corporation associations out of those discussions demands clear and concise communication abilities.
It is important to distinguish the difference between the role of business development vs the role of sales within a company structure. Business development is the process of actively seeking out and building relationships with contacts and companies, whereas sales are the process of generating revenue within a marketplace to grow the business’s financial position.
“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
A business development representative acts as the matchmaker, and the sales professional is the one that would close deals based on the connection that the BDR made. These connections and mutually beneficial commonalities are built on close and consistent communication between a business development rep and a prospect. The business development process always precedes the sales process. In a sales funnel, business development is at the top/beginning of the funnel which then trickles down to the sales.
A critical aspect of successful business development is product management and competitive positioning. A BDR must be able to build clear correlations between a customer, the product offering, and the competitive market it is positioned in. Many times, a business development department will work closely with a product management/production department to ensure that the value proposition and marketplace alignment are strategically integrated within the product’s features and offerings.
It is the business development professional’s responsibility to thoroughly understand how potential customers interact with the current marketplace in order to create the lines of connection between all three factors: customer, product, and market.
On the sales department’s side of the equation, strategic sales must be integrated into the overall business plan and process to ensure that the opportunities that are created do not fall short of driving direct revenue. The sales team is there to support the customer’s buying journey and close deals once the connection has been made by the BDR. Although business development and sales are two completely unique business entities, you cannot have one function successfully without the other.
Within the scope of business development, there are various tactics and strategies that a BDR will rely on to build the network and connections that will open up future sales opportunities for a company. These strategies in a business development professional’s toolkit including networking, referrals, sponsorships, thought leadership, and content marketing.
All the above methods provide unique benefits when constructing connections between people, products, and markets, however, some are more effective than others. Focusing more heavily on consistent tactics is an important element of success. Let’s dive into the various strategies to examine their benefits and possible drawbacks.
Prior to 2020, networking played an extensive role in many business development representative’s strategies. Things like conferences, trade shows, industry events, luncheons, etc… were all part of the daily responsibilities of a BDR. These were the places that professionals would meet new connections, while also nurturing connections they have previously developed.
As we all know, the pandemic squashed all opportunities to build networks and connections in face-to-face settings. The world of virtual events quickly emerged but didn’t leave much room for free-flowing communication for business development professionals. Although the events and conferences were still occurring via Zoom or other virtual forums, the act of communally coming together to discuss business was innately eliminated due to the more rigid and distant nature of online events.
Networking prior to the pandemic also presented problems due to its time-consuming demands and over-saturated markets. To build strong and relative connections through networking required attending many events and occasions, which is not only time-consuming but also very expensive.
Relying on referrals as a business development strategy can have its mutually beneficial advantages if approached in the right manner. If you passively rely on referrals to come in solely based on experience working with your company and product, the results will be inconsistent and unpredictable. It will also be a nice surprise when one does come in organically, however, if you are wanting to use it as a more active tool for business development, a strategy is required.
This is where referral programs and commission rates will come into play. If you are working with a well-established network of professionals who understand your product offering and target marketplace, you can create a referral program that provides incentives for successful referral contacts. This is a more directed and strategic approach to obtaining referrals, however, can also be inconsistent and unpredictable.
Sponsorships also took a swift hit during the pandemic because of the lack of events and occasions that would normally be held on an annual basis. Events like golf or sports tournaments, industry dinners or luncheons, conferences, and tradeshows saw a significant decline. Virtual events were still being held, but the sponsorship acknowledgment was limited to a logo on a slide or a brief mention at the end of the online presentation. The reach that sponsorships previously provided was no longer available.
Prior to 2020, however, sponsorships were not necessarily a direct lead into concrete sales or active prospects. Business development representatives would sponsor an event in the marketplace their product serves as a way to build further brand awareness and recognition. Sponsorship as a business development strategy acts more like an extension of the core tactics, opposed to a method that equates to direct sales.
The most effective and direct strategy for business development would be thought leadership and content marketing. This tactic allows a business development professional to tailor each customer’s specific sales journey based on their specific industry, interest in the product offering, and values/goals. This form of business development is the most intentional method to deploy and will result in the highest close rates for the sales team.
An invaluable benefit that content marketing offers is the ability to integrate the strategy with outbound, digital, and promotional marketing tactics. Creating a system that provides omnichannel touchpoints is essential for customer connection and engagement.
Thought leadership empowers both the business development rep and the prospective client to communicate innovative and thought-provoking ways that bring to the surface many opportunities that may not have been surface level to begin with. These types of discussions open the door for further communication and meaningful connections. Through a strategic approach to thought leadership, a BDR will be able to determine the most feasible opportunities to seize the maximum potential in the relationship.
If you have gone through this guide and are considering outsourced business development as a potential growth strategy for your company, I’m sure you are also wondering what types of services are associated with outsourced BDR support.
Firstly, outsourced business development professionals are almost always C-Suite executives who have had extensive experience within the field of business development. This ensures that the services you are receiving are expert-level, for the fraction of the cost of hiring that executive on a full-time basis.
What often is seen in outsourced firms providing expert BDR services is that the executive running a client’s business development is also supported by several various professionals and micro teams, giving them the resources to achieve high volume results. These teams will provide additional support, expertise, and time resources to reach a company’s goal more efficiently.
The specific services that are associated with outsourced business development support include email campaign outreach, LinkedIn growth and outreach, cold/warm calling, website and SEO development, blog writing, and social media marketing. Depending on what a client’s specific goals and objectives are, the exact services that a BDR will provide vary significantly. Therefore, it is important to have in-depth conversations right from the start of the conversation to identify what outsourced support will look like for your company’s unique demands.
Now that we have identified what role a business development professional has in the overall function of a company, it’s time to consider whether you should look into hiring an outsourced BDR and if so, what your options are. If you are reading this and currently have a business development representative in your company, you should still consider the possible need for additional resources to achieve upcoming initiatives and goals.
During your search for an outsourced business development consultant, certain factors must be taken into consideration to ensure that the consultant will be a good fit for your company and your overall objectives. Let’s dive into the considerations you should have while choosing a firm and consultant that is aligned with your goals.
How to Get Started – searching for the right company
It’s important that during the vetting process for an outsourced business development consultant you ask the questions that will give insight into what kind of strategies and in turn results you should expect to see. Asking questions around strategy and best practices will give you an idea of what their approach to business development looks like in a general sense.
As discussed earlier, creativity and imagination are key components in successful business development. Asking leading questions that tap into a person’s creativity will provide insight into how they construct ideas and concepts. The balance between strategic and creative thinking is key.
In addition to the traits of the business development consultant, you must understand what their demands will look like. What will they need from you to collaborate effectively? If those requirements don’t match up with your goals or expectations, then they may not be the right fit.
During the selection phase of any outsourced professional, there are red flags that can be identified early on. These red flags often give a company a glimpse into what it will be like working with an outsourced firm, and the potential issues that may arise if they move forward working with their team.
One red flag that can usually be found during the very first meeting with an outsourced business development firm is directly related to what questions they ask your team. The process of working with an outsourced firm is a two-way street that involves an in-depth look into the company the BDR’s are providing service for. If during the first one or two calls, a firm has still not asked what the business’s ICP (ideal customer profile) is, that is a red flag. They should be eager to dive into the unique and challenging characteristics of a client’s business plan to gain a better understanding of what services they can provide through different strategies.
Another red flag to look for that may be more difficult to recognize but is an important one to consider is collaboration efforts. An outsourced business development firm is not a sole entity that functions separately from a business’s other departments. Outsourced BDR’s act as an extension of your existing team, which involves extreme collaboration and partnership efforts. If during initial conversations with a firm, there are no discussions around expectations and what each party will have to provide/require for a successful partnership, that is a big red flag.
In addition to the questions, they ask and the focus on collaboration, the third and final indicator of a problematic outsourced firm would be internal communication. If there appears to be a lack of communication within the firm’s team, then one can expect that same lack of communication to filter down to the services they will be providing a client. If an outsourced business development team all seems to be on the same page, that is a positive indicator that they will be highly communicative in their services to their clients.
There are various reasons that a company may seek out support from an outsourced business development firm. Many small-mid-sized businesses do not have the budget or in-house capacity to support a business development department. This may mean they only have one employee filling a BDR role or none at all.
What outsourced business development firms can provide these companies is the support and expertise to develop and strategize what their business development needs are and help put a systematized process in place. This leaves room for a full-time business development rep to take on day-to-day responsibility, while the outsourced BDR keeps the engine running in the background to produce more consistent leads and opportunities.
For larger corporations, outsourced BDR support could be to help with specific initiatives, act as an extension of their existing team, or provide insight into ways to better utilize and systematize their current team and business development processes. The benefit of an outsourced business development professional is that their services are flexible and customizable. This gives companies of all sizes the ability to scale up or decrease the support they are receiving based on their immediate and long-term needs at a specific time.
Outsourced business development provides companies with the capacity to build brand awareness, recognition, and connections across various areas of a marketplace. The ability to participate in as many business development initiatives as possible on a part-time basis broadens the opportunity pool and strengthens business connections.
If you are looking to gain more information or insight on what an outsourced business development firm could do for your business, please don’t hesitate to reach out to The Sales Group’s President / Chief Sales Officer, Donna Gliha.