I was following a car to work today that has the prestige license “VPRES”. I wondered if this person was a teller in a bank. Kidding aside, titles can really be confusing. I’m in the business of creating long-term incremental new revenue. One might think that means adding new accounts or growing embedded accounts. To me the answer is “yes” and “no”, but mostly “no”. I have traditionally approached sales as the means by which a company achieves its annual revenue plan. This includes both growing existing accounts and adding new ones. I like to think that a good rule of thumb is to have 30% of revenue from new accounts. This helps deals with the revenue attrition experienced with older existing accounts.
So in my definition, what is business development? Clearly you have to be able to sell to develop incremental new revenue. But the selling is more strategic than tactical. A good business development person is opening an all new market. The selling is typically to the early adopters who will blaze the trail for the mainstream sales force to take over. I think in terms of a three year cycle. At the end of three years it becomes more of a sales activity than a business development activity. What are the traits of a very good Business Development person?
Sales: Number one on the list. It’s about revenue. There is no reason to have a business development process if the end game doesn’t produce significant revenue growth. Solution selling skills are the minimum requirement. Advanced skills and experience are what you are looking for. Do they have a wide variety of successes or are they a specialist? I believe a variety of experiences is always best.
Marketing: It’s not about spinning an existing product to fit a new market. It’s about finding and validating an all new revenue source. There is a lot of advanced marketing going on here. Market research is paramount to long term success. Remember, in no more than three years you want to turn it over to the rank and file sales teams to exploit. The marketing is not so much copywriting and collaterals as it is messaging. What is the Unique Selling Proposition and what’s the value add that makes the solution appealing?
Product Development: Again, this is not classical product development. But it is the ability to create a new product from existing parts, with an extra dash of new. It is understanding the effort required and the resources available to meet time-to-market. It’s the ability to assure that it is within the product roadmap for the company.
Business Skills: Are they going to treat the company’s money like their money? It cost money to develop a new market. Can they run it like a profit center or are they content to run it as a cost center. Do they understand the investment they are asking for and the return they are willing to deliver? Have they built Pro Forma statements to use as milestones?
In the end, if you hire a sales person for a business development position, you may grow revenue in the short term, but will it dramatically affect the revenue potential of the company in the long term? And the other point is…. If you are looking for a pure hunter to open new accounts, don’t call it business development. If you want a hunter, ask for a hunter and hire someone who is proud to be called a hunter. If they don’t like being called a hunter then they probably aren’t one…..