The 4 W’s of Business Development

The title was just a hook to get the attention of all those akin to the 4 P’s and the 3 C’s – unfortunately business development (unlike marketing or sales) is not so well defined and is best kept ambiguous. And why not – it is indeed in a way dealing with ambiguity, being comfortable about the ambiguity (however the returns expected are not ambiguous!) Please see the following link for some great examples of the ROI

What is Business Development?

The first response you get is usually – “it is NOT sales, it is beyond marketing or it is sales, marketing and strategy” or the answer can vary depending on whether you are interacting with an entrepreneur, start up guy or a professional from an established vertical of a large organization.

The fact is that there is no single definition which suits all organizations or business development professionals – each one has to find a definition that fits his/her personality and the business goals of the organization. The answer is probably linked to a combination of few factors below:

  1. Understanding the “business” which needs to be developed and is it addressing a need or gap?
  2. Tapping existing or identifying and/or creating new customer segments
  3. Creating a price point for the value it adds to the customer
  4. Ensuring that customer relationship is built on TRUST, strengthened by theQUALITY of service/product and cemented by excellent CUSTOMER SERVICE
  5. If you DO NOT get the “right timing” all of the above points turn out to be futile!

When/Where of Business Development?

Business Development is an “Attitude” and that is the closest I could get to a sort of definition for it. The “When” and “Where” become redundant as soon as you realize that business development is an attitude. At any given instance you are either meeting internal or external stakeholders (discounting me/family time) and always learning from each one of them two key things – what to do or what NOT to do! Hence, alwaysnetwork and meet as many people as you can, as long as you set the objectives of the meeting in advance and self-assess post every meeting on the above two aspects.

During the course of the journey you learn that 20% of people you meet (and sign on the dotted line) are the ones who give you business and NOT the 80% who don’t know to say NO to you. However, you need to be a die hard optimistic to be in business development and grill down in your mind that “NO” is temporary (and does not mean “no forever”). In my experience – if you are persistent with follow-ups and genuine about solving your customer/clients needs, a major chunk of business development ultimately happens from the earlier No’s (versus time/effort spent on new leads). Also, over time you need to learn how to grow the pie of the 20% and filter the rest without wasting too much time!

Business is waiting to happen around you – all you need to do is to “keep your antenna” in the receptive mode always. Unless you tune (prospect) in to the right station (customer segment) at the right time (sales/decision life cycle) you wont get your kind of songs (aka deals)! I consider the client reception area/waiting room (for B2B) as a gold mine of data, especially if you track your observations and map it with deals closed/not closed. Try and always reach early – and do not waste time on phone calls from the lounge, but unleash the power of observation. Few of my personal observations:

1. Starts right at the entry gate – you get to know the firms commitment to securitypolicy viz a viz you walk into few companies meeting room, open the door and are seated and no body realizes?

2. Direction and way signages – one of the companies (best known for its TQM) had left foot/right foot designs on all the steps to guide the traffic while climbing steps!Focus on quality, processes

3. As you enter the waiting lounge – if you see:

  • Lot of candidates for interviews and the buzz – the company is hiring/growing, so make sure you strike a deal and grow with them
  • Lot of vendors with invoice made to wait – account receivablesbe careful about your payment terms and conditions, somebody from your team will be sitting there next month once you get a deal. Modify your contracts/payment terms accordingly!
  • Lot of employees on tea/coffee or smoking break – would love to know your views? I am still observing and interesting points coming up, but too early…
  • The person whom you are supposed to meet is already waiting for you at the reception and had informed the security too! – the need for your service is pronto or the firm has a very warm/receptive culture, either ways its a win-win for you! An ideal situation to be into and I have noted that such meetings are more likely to turn into successful deals!
  • That you have met 3 receptionists on as many gates/floors and still they cannot figure out whom you want to meet (but you have the appointment with the VP of a company!) – the company maybe too big for you (factor the decision of sales life cycle), new hiring – attrition issues (new receptionist did not know the name/designation of the person whose calendar she was managing!) Dig deep and read more about the company’s change in direction, focus areas etc (I validated my observations and listing down confirmatory findings only on LinkedIn)
  • Too many meeting room conflicts, in the middle of your meeting another team walks in and demands they had booked the room (all in front of you) – do NOT be in a hurry to close the deal. Bring in lot of clarity with the scope of work, detailed financial proposal terms and list out as many things as you can in the proposal – else, you will have a tough time managing multiple stakeholders from client end!
  • Your competitor getting out of the meeting room (with the same person you have come to meet) – be cool, greet both and remain unfazed. At least you know you are at the right place!

The 4th W is the key ingredient for critical success factor for any business development professional which is “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence – Confucius

Now, whats the use of writing on business development unless you actually end up doing some here on LinkedIn – would love to hear your views and good to know other experiences on above points to widen my antenna signals!

Disclaimer: All the views expressed are purely personal in nature and not to endorse any specific service/product. The above points are more relevant for doing B2B in Indian Context.


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