Business Development

Business – something that operates for profit in an open market.

Develop(ment) – moves things forward through a process of innovation, quantification and orchestration (see the E-Myth Revisted by Michael Gerber). In short, something that evolves.

But the reality is that professional practice, even though they may have christened this name, have no strong desire to develop their business. What they actually want is more sales.

Business development (manager) is therefore a misnomer.

I previously spent 5 years recruiting first and second line sales people for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. The candidature was exceptional and many were on a fast track graduate programme. A lot of them had key or national account responsibility, meaning they would be responsible for some of the biggest grocers in the country like Tesco or Sainsbury. But they were sales people. They had targets, promotions to push and were supported in their endeavours by marketing, product development, R&D and finance.

When I entered professional practice, I was surprised to find that lawyers were told to act as sales people, even though very few of them were trained or experienced in the art. Many disliked the connotation with pushy sales people, although I have no doubt that that has improved steadily over the years.

For me it would make much more sense to drop the pretence and change the title. Appoint a Regional or National Sales Manager and support them right up the chain of command: Without support from the partnership they will fail. You will have to think carefully about the targeting and bonus position but far better than offering up to the market someone, who in reality, has little influence on the development of the business. That lies with the partners.

Seth Godin wrote a blog post Three things clients and customers want. It talked of: (1) Results; (2) Thrills; and (3) Ego.

It is worth a few minutes of your time.

If you truly want to “outdeliver the other guys” then you are going to have work on 1 and 3. It is unlikely that professional practice wants to be famed for number 2!

You may feel that the title is adequate and fits with what everyone else is doing. But putting the word ‘sales’ in the title announces to the world (and your internal market) that you are serious about the need to grow your business from existing and new clients. Don’t be coy about things. And if you recruit wisely you may just find, over time, that the business does evolve more than you could have imagined.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~

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