Business · Consultations · Public Relations

The Top 5 Reasons People Fail at Business Development by Christen Hatfield

As nearly every ambitious company knows, its growth potential lies with its business development efforts. Although business development seems like an easy concept to grasp on the surface, there are subtle nuances and finer points that many people gloss over, making it hard to properly understand. This difficulty, which in many cases can sabotage the most earnest efforts, can be attributed to five key symptoms of bad business development. Many of these symptoms can be attributed to selfishness or lack of experience, but not addressing them could have major consequences to any business development professional and, in turn, their company.

Read on as we discuss how these symptoms reflect a misunderstanding of the core concepts of business development, as well as offer tips on how to remedy them.

1. Lack of Emotional Intelligence

Let’s take a bird’s-eye view of business development. A person is hired to bring their existing business relationships and to build new ones with potential partners, all in order to ultimately bring new business to the company in the form of strategic brand partnerships. The simplest explanation is that your goal is to bring in new business. While this might sound like conventional business development, this concept and the setup itself are decidedly wrong.

If your employee takes this task too literally, you are left with a real problem. A business development professional interacts with people, real people with feelings and emotions. These people are not one-dimensional and can be extremely sensitive to hollow motivations. As such, great biz dev pros need a high amount of emotional intelligence. You have to be sensitive to the people you interact with. In order to be great at business development, you not only have to value the person in front of you, but you also need a desire to help them.

This might not immediately help you land your first large account, but that is not what business development is about. Business development is about creating personal connections and leveraging them to gain business. And you make these connections by valuing the people you interact with as well as their interests. The most fulfilling and successful way to satisfy your own goals is by helping your clients satisfy theirs.

2. Not Attentively Listening to Your Client

You won’t know what your client’s interests are without listening to them. It’s easy to hear what a person says, but actually listening attentively is something that requires a lot of effort, and it can be a difficult thing to master. Any attempt at business development is unnecessarily made much harder by not attentively listening. We get so caught up in our own interests that we forget to listen to those of our clients. Many people have the perception that if they speak more, they will be viewed as intelligent. But in reality, your incessant chatter only frustrates clients and makes it seem like you’re overcompensating for diminished ability.

Most of the time, all you have to do is sit down and listen intently. For example, if your client voices concern over a proposed schedule, address it directly instead of defending it, deflecting it or ignoring it. By doing so, you show your potential business partner that you’re attentive to his or her concerns and will likely be attentive enough to address future concerns in a timely manner.

3. Being Persistent to the Point of Annoyance

Being persistent can be a great thing, and having the right type of persistence is vital to being a solid business development professional. But there’s a fine line between “persistent” and “annoying.” There are many situations in which being persistent can be seen—and rightfully so—as annoying or pushy. Repeated emails and calls, especially those made at an unnecessarily high frequency and during busy times of the day, will only get you so far. You might get one deal from the relenting party, but that party may remember how pushy and annoying you were, and they may avoid contact with you down the line.

With that in mind, it’s incredibly important to give your client the space and time needed to think about your offer and reply to it. Doing so recognizes their time to be as important as yours, which will be seen as a sign of respect. If your potential partner sees you as respectful when trying to make contact, it’s a great indicator of the respect you’ll have for them throughout the course of the relationship, and these are the types of relationships biz dev professionals must foster.

4. A Lack of Empathy for the Client

Be considerate of your client’s mindset, including their mood, needs and wants. Clients have their own deadlines and goals, so put yourself in their shoes before reaching out. Never cold call potential clients on Mondays or first thing in the morning. The majority of people begin their days by checking their emails, getting prepared for the day and finishing any items left behind from the day before. The last thing you want to do is disrupt your client’s usual routine and attempt to compel them to speak with a stranger, especially in the morning.

Are you in a better mood on Fridays? So are most other people. You have a better chance of getting a good reaction to a cold call with a person who is in a good mood. Never underestimate the power of good timing.

5. Overconfidence

The thought that having a great product or service alone will make a business successful is based on faulty reasoning. This overconfidence is based on the logic that you don’t have to do the work needed to cultivate a market. But the truth is that solely providing a good product or service is not enough.

You have to highlight your products’ or services’ benefits in a way that addresses your client’s needs. Only then can you hope to start selling your product or service as an acceptable solution to your client’s issues. Otherwise, the biggest obstacle between you and your customers will be your ego.

Great business development professionals come in many different types. We all have unique ways of reaching out to potential clients, but the one thing that great biz dev pros have in common is that they are selfless people who care about their clients’ wellbeing. They create a foundation of strong relationships by helping others. Through these relationships, they create opportunities that are based on trust, respect and a mutual appreciation for each other’s goals and values.


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