Why business development might not be developing your business

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There seems to be a growing trend to recruit Business Development people, whilst previously such roles where more typical of the larger business or corporate entity, more and more small enterprises are looking to fulfil such vacancies.

It does seem though that the success of such roles are varied to say the least, often with appointments being short lived, the result of expectations not being met or results not being delivered. The impact to an organisation can be costly in terms of loss of time and money.

What then can be done to improve the success of your organisation’s Business Development and the role of a Business Development person?

Perhaps the starting point is having a clear appreciation as to what Business development means strategically and then what is required of or by a person undertaking that role.

In essence Business development is the strategic process whereby an organisation is looking at growth opportunities to expand their business activities, with opportunities being assessed for their viability in terms of the organisation’s overall objectives, resources, capabilities and capacities.  

Once such opportunities have been assessed and a number shortlisted for development then the next stage is to develop a plan or campaign to exploit the opportunity.  The task of implementing the plan and realising the opportunities is invariably one of an account manager, sales person or business development person. The role of the person being to take the product or service and to engage with target customers and generate revenue for the business.

Given this logical process and clear indication as to the roles of those in the organisation around business development, where does it go wrong? There are a number of reasons which include:

  1. The Board’s or Senior Management team’s inability to assess and evaluate business opportunities, with little time, resources or depth given to the process. In some cases there is even no due process; in fact the idea is a whim or knee jerk reaction with no commercial thought process.  The outcome is a poor and often unrealistic assessment of the opportunity.
  2. Given a failure to assess the opportunity, then all too often the plan to realise the same is typically set to fail too. In many cases such plans lack detail and depth with little or no detail on how sales are to be generated and a lack of detail of the target market, sales forecasts, marketing activities, timescales and costs.
  3. The person charged with generating the orders, given the first two points, is set to fail or fall short of expectations even if they are good at the job or the right person for the job.  As with any appointment successful recruitment starts with a clear understanding of the role to be fulfilled along with the skills, expertise and experience required. Certainly a proven track record is a minimum in appointing a Business development person.
  4. The ability of any business development person to deliver, their skill set and track record aside, is then often dependent upon clear and defined management outcomes and management process.  Not untypically such failure to deliver is the result of role ambiguity/uncertainty, lack of targets and poor or no supervision. A situation often compounded by a lack of a robust eco-system and whole of business approach to the role of business development, with poor integration of marketing, production, service delivery business process and customer fulfilment.

In summary the appointment of a Business Development person, even if they’re good is not necessarily going to develop your business without a detailed plan for the development of the business. In essence the two areas are inextricably linked.