Fit or Failure in Business Development

This topic wasn’t on the list for discussion in this blog but it’s come up 3 times in the past 2 days and every time it makes me laugh.  Why do you insist of cramming a square peg into a round hole?  I’m not suggesting your hiring an engineer to do business development but I am suggesting that the person you’ve hired has a clear indication of failure and you just haven’t seen it yet.

It’s about fit.  You have a firm that in order for someone to become a client needs to develop trust, show expertise, and create a relationship before someone commits yet you hire someone in business development that has always focused on transactions.  Transactions usually equate to cold calling and cold calling is NOT how you get clients, its how you scare people away.  You are referred in, are top of mind when the need arises, hold speaking engagements to showcase knowledge and value to generate recognition and interest; people don’t come to you because you called them out of the blue and knocked their socks off in an unsolicited call.  Transaction sales people go after a quick turn around, they bring it in and leave it alone – not the right fit if you are looking to build relationships for your clientele.  This is a longer sales cycle, it’s about developing trust and an understanding of right fit, value and need.

I’ve also seen a couple hires lately of business development people who can’t seem to keep jobs or have a personality that reminds me of old carpet.  Nice people but insanely boring.  Your business development staff shouldn’t put people to sleep, they should be able to generate some excitement – you don’t necessarily want the life of the party as they tend to be more self focused but you need someone with energy.  Let’s think about the basics of business development –

  • they need to feel comfortable in a room of strangers
  • be able to communicate easily and build trust
  • they need a high enough energy level to portray interest and excitement all throughout the day
  • they need to be able to execute
  • and for a services business they need to understand and be able to manage the process of developing a relationship with someone they just met

Industry specific – your business development person needs to know enough about your industry to be dangerous, and its tough to know how much they actually know versus what they’ve read or been told.  Your interviews should be asking about how your would strategically grow my business – what areas would you take me, who should be my partners, what would you do that we aren’t already doing.  If they can’t grasp your field and what makes your business thrive they aren’t the right fit.

As we start to see hiring in business development increase make sure you are choosing the right candidates.  Just because its a fun interview doesn’t mean its going to work.  I love to see hiring in the space, it means people are pulling their head out of the sand and getting back to business but don’t waste time and money on the wrong hire.  In BD it will cost you more than lost wages.