Many managers share similar stories of frustration about trying to create a successful business development culture within their firm. Here are six key things that successful firms have in place to support a strong BD culture and generate new business.
1. Documented business development goals.
Write business development activities and expectations into job descriptions, and review them at least quarterly. Without clear expectations of what is required, and regular feedback, your team will not perform consistently or successfully.
2. Tools and resources to achieve these goals.
Allocate time every week for BD activities. BD should not be in addition to your team’s “regular” job, but an integral part of it. If you insist on individuals spending all of their time doing their “regular” job, how much time can they realistically commit to developing the business?
Provide a budget for relevant disbursements; don’t expect staff to go out and network without providing for the necessary expenses.
3. Incentives and consequences.
Without incentives for success, and consequences for non-achievement, you will struggle to make progress.
It sounds obvious, but nothing changes if nothing changes. Many firms have financial incentives in place yet haven’t paid out for a long time, and ignore non-achievement for far too long before addressing the issue with individuals.
In a team environment it is not fair to have some team members working many hours on BD whilst others offer nothing. Resentment is often the result, and if left to fester, management can look weak in the eyes of the do-ers.
4. Training and support.
If you don’t make the time and effort to train your team in BD skills, they may be anxious, and indeed reluctant, to go out into the big wide world and engage new potential clients and intermediaries. Empower them with the answer to ‘Why should clients come to me rather than a competitor?’ When you equip your team with this knowledge, you significantly increase their chances of success.
Do not ask them to network, present, write marketing copy, network, or engage on social media until they are ready.
5. The right people taking on the right tasks.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Ensure people take on the tasks most suited to them, or the exercise may prove counter-productive and you will chronically underachieve.
Selecting the wrong people can be disastrous for both the individual and your business.
6. Lead by example.
Have at least one individual to champion the cause and lead by example. This will instil motivation and positive attitudes throughout the group. Your champion should make themselves accessible to others and provide direction when the going gets tough.
If you’re looking to build a culture of business development, make sure you attend to all of these factors. Miss one for any reason – inattention, lack of time, unwillingness to invest, political differences – and you will severely limit your chances of success.
Fortunately for you, very few firms focus on all six areas.
The list here is far from exhaustive, but provides a useful framework to help you get the basics in place and start making progress towards your growth goals.