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8 Characteristics of Exceptional Business Development Professionals

Michelle Gamble
Michelle Gamble

What does the term business development really mean?

Business development is distinctly different than sales. Top business development professionals become a trusted advisor to clients. This is the key to a long-term and strategic relationship that adds more value than sales alone. These eight attributes and behaviors are what can get you there.

There is sometimes confusion around the term business development I have found.

"What do you do?"

"I am in Business Development for a market research and consulting company."

"Um, okay??? What does that mean?"

After 20 years of being in the same career in some capacity, even my dear mother doesn’t understand what this means. I have worked for companies such as Gartner, PwC Consulting and IDC – all market research and consulting firms. The custom research projects that we have done have provided critical insights to clients that ultimately have helped drive million-dollar decisions.

But what does the term business development really mean? And how does that differ from sales? I’ve found business development to entail a more complex understanding of business relationships which, over time, creates long-term value. These relationships are more strategic in nature. Sales, in general, tends to be less solution-focused with more transactional client relationships. Examples of great sales professionals can be found selling everything, including cars, enterprise software or any simple widget, etc.

Companies have a higher expectation of business development. More than ever, this workforce isn’t just your old run-of-the-mill tactical salesperson. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for both. But, to be a successful business developer, these individuals must possess additional skills.

Clients require these deeper relationships too. Business consumers have a lot of options. And, it’s easier for them to go to your competitor than to do business with someone who doesn't quite cut it.

Great business development professional are responsible for the livelihood of the business. For a business to remain competitive, they not only need to bring a client to the table once, but are tasked with providing enough ongoing value that clients stay for the long haul.

This is the modern conundrum of business development today. In 20 years serving the market research and consulting communities, I have learned that to be successful I must continually expand my skills. I have found that success in business development can be traced to eight attributes and behaviors:

  1. Customer Obsession

     You understand your client's business and products and services. Taking that a step further, you must know their internal strategic initiatives and plans. Until you understand this, and can tailor your solution to map to support them in these, you will never build a strategic, long-term relationship. No longer are the days of having your product be one to many. If you do this, your offering will be one of many tactical products that they could take or leave.

  2. Emotionally Intelligent

     To build a long-term relationship with key client executives, you must possess a high level of emotional intelligence. What this means is understanding cues outside of what is written and spoken that are big indicators of creating a successful business relationship. Understand what motivates your client, about people's egos and their underlying expectations as well as how these provide big clues into to how your client will buy. When you can piece this together and apply this to the overall business landscape, you can build a relationship that will keep a client for life.

  3. Digitally relevant

    So much of business today is done digitally. Your personal and company's online business presence, social profiles and networks are crucial in business success. Research is conducted, due diligence is collected, your company’s reputation is compared to your competition's. Potential clients aren't just looking at the company that you represent, they count on you being digitally savvy. They need to have communication about your products and services easily delivered to them digitally and in real time. They can reach you when it's convenient for them through this open channel.

  4. Domain Expertise

    A true business development professional builds deep knowledge of the industry that they serve. This industry and solution expertise allows you to be part of the solution, not just a purveyor of it. This unique and inherit knowledge makes you valuable to the client.

  5. Trust

    Maintain honesty and integrity with the client no matter what the circumstances. Make sure they understand that they know that they can count on you to be honest. You are your client's advocate, inside your company and out. Don't ever give your client a reason to doubt anything that you say or do.

  6. Commitment

    Believing in the company and solution that you represent. And, no matter what, you always have the best interests of your client at hand. You don't give up, and you fight for them when needed. The overall commitment in the relationship builds customers for life.

  7. Optimism

    You have a positive outlook about business and life in general. Nobody likes to do business with someone who is negative and a bummer to be around.

  8. Perseverance

    When the chips are down, you stick with the relationship. Everyone can push forward in good times and when all is going perfectly as planned. But when it doesn’t go perfectly, you're ready to attack problems head on. Business isn't always easy, but you're known for being there through thick and thin.

These are some of the most important traits that top business development professionals must possess to succeed, and they're traits which I’ve honed throughout my career. Together, these allow you to be your client's trusted advisor.

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Michelle Gamble
Michelle Gamble Member