So, you think you can BD?

Make no mistake - Business Development is an art.  An art which begins with asking the right questions. By asking the right questions, your clients and prospects will be furnishing you with crucial information, so it is important to listen to what they are saying. If you have mastered the art of listening and have asked the right questions, you will then be in that enviable position of being able to capture market intelligence. Capture it and use it wisely. It doesn’t stop there. How good are your empathy skills? Are you truly understanding your clients’ views, their motivations, their needs and their business desires? If you are, then you will know when to push more and when to push less. Desperation stinks, and so does apathy.

How well are you maintaining your touch-points? Too many and you could be viewed negatively, not enough and you will be forgotten. Clients and prospects know you want their business, so ultimately you need to be sensitive to them and understand what makes them ‘tick’. How can you add value to their business? How can you set yourself apart from the competition? That brings me back to the first point – listen and listen carefully.

You need to be Irresistible.
Your clients and prospects should want to do business with you because doing business with you makes their (work) life easier. Become valuable to them – or as some would say, add value. Business development is often described as creating long term value with your clients. It sounds nice, but what does long term value actually mean?

All businesses need cash flow to survive. Profits and revenues are the focus of many firms but many businesses are often misguided by the promise of what I call “marginal gains". Marginal gains are like marginal costs but consider revenue instead of liabilities.  They can be defined as the increase in total gains if revenues are increased by one more unit. Marginal gains thinking is a problem, since the promise of short-term gains draws focus  away from working towards more rewarding future gains, which would, yield more promise, more revenue and better client relations over time.

Say you have the choice to back a venture. One promises instant returns (like a quick sale) but would not be sustainable. Another promises no instant returns, but over time, the returns would be much greater. Which one would you choose? If the latter, you are in the long-term value camp; and that is where we are with business development.

With that in mind, consider your firm’s business development initiatives, how closely do they align to actual business development?

Business development is the art of creating long term value. This means side stepping away from the temptation of instant reward and investing in initiatives that yield far greater returns over time. This is only true, of course, if you also get the business development mix right.

The Dance
Business developing involves the art of synchronisation. Think of it like a dance, where the right moves and steps have to be taken at the right time to the rhythm of one tune. That tune is your strategy. Your ability to balance, think, listen, feel, identify and plan are crucial to executing a perfect dance. Many of these skills are soft, yet creativity in your execution of the dance is a talent, and one that will set you apart from your competitors.

Balance the various forces at play, think about your position in the current market and how you can maximise return. Where are the opportunities? How can you maximise these opportunities? Listen to what everyone around you is saying. Sift the information and retain only what is relevant. Feel the next move.

Taking a high growth approach to developing your business means carving out an innovative and creative business development strategy, and this requires the right balance of interactions, focused towards the same goal. The legal industry remains conservative in comparison to others. Thus, identifying opportunities, creating opportunities and driving results must be executed in a considered manner befitting the industry, but at the same time, they should also push at the boundaries to allow for development and innovation.

So remember, business development is about creating and nurturing sources of long term value, enabling businesses to capture and manage opportunities systematically so that this value can flow indefinitely.  Thinking about business development as a means to creating long-term value is the only true way to succeed in consistently growing an organization.

In our next article, we will look into the individual components that drive long term value creation.