Business development has become a critical asset to nearly every business. Businesses are focused on delivering and achieving their proscribed business strategy by striving to offer a point of difference that lock’s in their customers. Business development offers a means of achieving that goal.
In this article I will look at the business development skills that are required, assessing each of the skills that are needed in greater detail. I will also look at the other key attributes of successful business development, mainly that of trying to explain it’s not what you know, it’s how (and when) you use it.
For those that don’t know there is a huge difference between sales and business development. It is a fact lost on some but recognising it and knowing which skill set is required in the right situation can make the all the difference.
Business development skills, what are they?
According to the national careers service website, business development skills are listed as follows.
I think this is quite a good summary of the business development skills needed if you are looking to progress into a business development role. But, as I alluded to in the title, I want to explain what it takes to be a great business development specialist, and that means firstly looking at the foundational business development skills you will need. For me, these break down into 7 areas, which I believe are as follows.
Leadership offers a broad term of reference and I have frequently found it confused with the term manager. As a great business development specialist, leadership is a fundamental attribute. You will often need to lead your customer and your colleagues as you embark on the acquisition and integration of a new customer project. Great leadership means being able to be visionary yet determined to help direct and guide those around you.
Its very easy to see communication as a way of speaking to others, but great business development specialists hold communication as a hub of other skills that make up the many elements of communication.
For me, listening and observing are the most understated of the communication skills, particularly when it comes to business development. Listening and observing the customer, their surroundings and their customers is critical to achieving success.
3. Business Acumen
Business acumen can sometimes be a difficult business development skill to gauge or define. I see it as an element of awareness; acceptance and awareness of the business world and how things work. It also goes deeper into appreciating the mechanics of processes and structures within the business they are dealing with.
This becomes a powerful asset to have, as this helps the business development specialist identify gaps and turn these into opportunities.
4. Problem Solving
Solving problems is the perfect complement to business acumen. For business development specialists solving problems isn’t just about identifying what the particular problem or issue is, it’s creating opportunities that not only solve the problem but make things better. That is certainly a key ingredient in the make-up of a great business development specialist.
5. Building Relationships
They say people buy people, and although that’s true to a certain extent, the ways and means of business development have moved on now. Building relationships extend to not just people in a meeting environment, but also through digital marketing. Building relationships with consumers in the e-commerce space is crucial along the path to success.
6. Results Driven
If winning means nothing to you then becoming a great business development specialist is unlikely to provide much excitement to you. Being a successful business development specialist means being able to play the long game and having the determination to see the process through. Often that can be in the face of extreme pressure from your peers in their quest to achieve targets.
7. A desire to Learn
Being open to learning new techniques and skills is a very important asset when it comes to being a great business development specialist. Having an open mind and recognising that change is the only constant in our world is key. When I think of how much I have learnt in new skills just in the last twelve months it astounds me.
7 skills needed to be a great business development specialist
As I mentioned earlier, a great business development specialist has a core base of critical skills that he/she can call upon when needed, without this foundation of skills success won’t be the outcome.
Let’s just recap on them.
3. Business acumen
5. Building relationships
6. Results Driven
7. A desire to learn
Business Development skills, knowing how and when to use them
As a business development specialist, understanding, recognising and having the awareness to know the skills you have in your toolbox becomes very powerful when you learn how and when to use them.
Business development specialists develop the awareness to know when to sit and listen, and equally when its time to stand up and provide leadership to move the process forward.
I have been in customer meetings where the process of relationship building fails because of the business development specialist doesn’t listen, and regardless of how good the solution offered it amounts to nothing without that foundation.
I would say that this is where learning, combined with a high level of self-awareness becomes an important facet in becoming a great business development specialist. Because having the humility to fail, and you will fail will give you the platform to learn. Self-improvement is the path to success.
There are a great number of techniques a business development specialist can use and it’s down to preparation and planning that should decide how you are going to work with your potential customer. It may be that you must build a relationship first, or it could be that a shock & awe presentation works by showing the impact of what you’re proposing.
Isn’t business development just sales in a fancy title?
In a word, no.
Absolutely not. Why? Firstly, selling boils down to a short-term listen and pitch positions, where the salesman listens for some buying signals and then delivers his ‘pitch’ to close the deal and get the sale. There is no negotiation over price as the dynamics of that are pre-determined.
Business development often involves the process of working with a client to enable them to sell to their customers, and that will often mean that the business development specialist is introducing or creating new methods to achieve this.
Creativity will lead to new ways of the client and the company working that could involve new products, new pricing and processes to handle them.
Don’t get me wrong, selling is an important tool in the armoury of a business development specialist, but in a salesperson role, it’s often the only tool.
There are a great number of resources and articles that talk about business development skills and I wanted to apply my experience and logic to how I would define that.
The 7 skills needed to be a great business development specialist are my own take on how I have seen other business development specialists achieve success. I have used these as a foundation in my approach to business development and they have served me well.
What business development skills do you think are needed to be a great business development specialist?
Originally published at www.developingyourbusiness.co.uk.