I am not good at selling and I do not enjoy selling. It doesn’t come to me naturally. And that can be disastrous for an entrepreneur. For the very existence of an entrepreneur resides on her ability to dream and sell that dream to others. The others whom she may bring on her journey as employees, customers, partners, investors etc. Success depends on her ability to sell the story. I am still learning the ropes here. However, I love business development. I do not see this the same as selling. In my mind there is a clear distinction between the two. In selling the single agenda is to get your product, service, idea to be bought by the other vs in business development you have no single agenda, you are meeting a person to make them aware of what you have and at the same time enhance your product, service or idea. And that to me is very exciting. That is why I look forward to business development. And I can think of 5 important reasons why every entrepreneur should focus on business development.
1. Gaining new knowledge
One gets to meet new people from various industries- people with different experiences and perspectives than yours. In my case I get to meet a banker one day, a technocrat another day, maybe a government official the next day and even a person who runs a painting business. And with every interaction I get to learn a bit more about a new industry, hear about a trend, pick up a new word or sometimes just learn about a new place to eat. Meeting new people is not easy when you are on your own. Seeking opportunities to interact with others is hard work, but it is an important aspect to enrich yourself. Invest in meeting new people.
2. Building conviction
When you are meeting someone for the first time in the business context, it is important to be able to tell your story such a way that you are able to excite the other person and get them involved. It requires preparation and clarity of thinking. Anytime I have to meet a new person in the context of my business, I need to be able to articulate the purpose of my organization, why I chose to start, what I believe in and how I am making a difference. I rehearse my story, and each time I find that I am able to say things a little better than the previous time. I also realise that every time I rehearse the story, it helps build my own conviction in my business. This is a crucial dynamic. Because, when one is deeply engrossed in delivering the “goods”, in the midst of all the ups and downs, one can lose sight of the larger purpose and can get discouraged. But when you spend a few minutes rehearsing your story, you know why you chose to take this path. Spend time reflecting.
3. Clarifying and refining your story
When you meet a prospective client, you become aware that they are coming from a different perspective than you are. They are skeptical, they have questions on your effectiveness, they are curious about the methods, they have benchmarks in mind, they have met others like you and ask what makes you different. And every time you work on a response to these questions you clarify and refine your story. I find this part the most energising. It helps me make my points sharper and stronger, it helps me deepen my value proposition. I discover new insights when someone pushes me up a path that I had not explored. When I have a stronger value proposition, I am even more inspired. Allow others to question your business value.
4. Validating points of view
As an organization one holds a certain point of view. Certain belief. In our case one of the views that we strongly hold is that investing in building a desired culture is the number one leadership task, because everything that we want to see in the organisation, ultimately is rooted in the operating culture of the organisation. And when the leadership does not build the culture consciously, the organisation is affected by a kind of malaise which makes it less effective. When you meet someone who understands this and validates it with their practical experience, your views are also confirmed. And then there are times you come across people who believe the solution is somewhere else, but the culture. But through the course of the conversation when they are convinced that it is the operating culture that needs attention and one can build a desired culture, I feel validated. Every business has a point of view. Talking about it with conviction is an opportunity to test it and validate it. Define your point of view clearly.
5. Making a better business
I think whoever coined the word “business development” had this idea in mind – to make your own business better by meeting people and talking about your business. And you can see how that makes good sense. Every time you meet someone new, tell them your story, you clarify it for yourself. Every time someone questions you and pushes you, you walk away with a stronger conviction. Business development activity helps you validate a point of view, gain new insights, articulate your proposition better, build a new insight into the business, sharpen your offering and make a deeper connection with your stakeholder. With that you have made your business better. Think of business development as a business enhancer.
I have come to believe that whether I am able to actually sell my services or not, the very fact that I had a business development meeting, it has enhanced my value many fold. I know it will one day translate into a sale because I have a stronger proposal than before.