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Forbes Business Development Council
Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization for senior-level sales and business development executives.
As a business development professional, you are inundated with sales problems, challenges and obstacles on a daily basis. The decisions you make now can have long-lasting effects on your business for the duration of your career.
Avoiding the most common mistakes business development professionals make can not only help save your career but also help your sales numbers soar. You’ll have a more intimate relationship with your customers and find that the products and services you sell solve the issues they have with more value.
Below, 15 members of Forbes Business Development Council share some of the most the common mistakes many business development professionals make, and what they can do to avoid them.
Council members offer advice on avoiding some of the most common business development pitfalls.PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
1. Living In “The Weeds”
I think one of the easiest mistakes to make as a business development professional is consistently getting lost in the weeds. That means constantly getting caught up in minor details around process or administrative tasks. An easy solution is to set proper expectations for the customer and yourself after each interaction. This will help ensure proper communication and reduce any back and forth. – Christopher Kingman, TransUnion
2. Not Believing In What You’re Selling
Too many salespeople are selling products and services that they don’t believe in. Superstars aren’t made by selling something that you don’t think is relevant or is sub-par to the competition. While it takes a lot more than a fantastic product to become great at what you do, starting with the belief that you have something of value to offer your prospects and clients is the place to start. – Jen Tadin, Gallagher
3. Lacking Organization And Process
Business development professionals who lack organization and defined processes are destined to fail. The best sales reps on my team are those who are able to methodically plan every aspect of a selling opportunity from qualification to close. They should behave like chess players planning five moves ahead to anticipate prospects’ needs and objections. – Joshua Asbury, Liferay, Inc.
4. Not Making Enough Efforts To Build Relationships
Business development is not the same as closing a sale — it’s a longer term relationship that takes longer to build. There is no fast-forward button. If you’re not willing to give a little, whether it’s your time, your network, your product/service, etc.; you’re probably not going to get much traction. I have always found that the more time you’re willing to genuinely invest in a relationship the greater the rewards. – Tracy Avin, MBL Benefits Consulting
5. Avoiding The Elephant In The Room
They avoid the elephant in the room. It is a common practice to go silent when an issue needs to be addressed. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do — get on the phone, sit in front of the client or whatever way you choose, but get on the issue swiftly, acknowledge their concern and explain how you can remedy it. Avoiding the issue destroys relationships and confidence in your company. – Wayne Elsey, Elsey Enterprises
6. Thinking Transactionally
Too many business development professionals approach their work and their professional relationships very transactionally. Rather than focusing on immediate payoff and looking at things on a tit-for-tat basis, it is important to think holistically and to consider all relationships with a long view in mind. – Adam Mendler, Custom Tobacco
7. Overpromising And Underdelivering
I think sometimes people overpromise features, functionality and service. Some people don’t do their homework and get others involved to answer the hard questions. Others have a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach. I think it’s always best to just admit when you don’t have the answers and promise you will find out, instead of overpromising and underdelivering. – Elizabeth Pritchett, Center Point Business Solutions
8. Not Knowing Yourself
The most common mistake I see is business development professionals trying to serve too many interests. A salesperson needs to know what their product truly is and who it benefits. The best way to avoid selling things you don’t do or selling to the wrong people is to understand the DNA of what you sell and who you sell it to. It is okay to let people know that your product is not a good fit for them. – Jason Hall, Amrock
9. Comparing Your Chapter One To Someone Else’s Chapter 10
When you’re new, it’s hard not to feel those pangs of jealousy when you look at the sales board and see those lovely, big numbers next to everyone’s name but yours. Instead of feeling resentful, ask your colleagues for advice and watch your numbers increase too. You’re a team after all. With their experience and your fresh new enthusiasm, there’s no reason why you all shouldn’t hit those numbers. – Mary Frankham, CommunityCo
10. Failing To Identify The Phantom Decision-Maker
One of the most prevalent mistakes business development professionals make is failing to identify all the key players in the decision-making process. To avoid speaking with the “decision-maker” who merely presents himself as such, ensure you understand your target personas. This allows you to know who is the phantom decision-maker likely pulling the strings from behind the scenes. – Christian Valiulis, Automatic Payroll Systems
11. Not Being Familiar With Your Product
It’s crucial for business development professionals in technology to develop a deep understanding of their product. Being familiar with the high-level details is not enough. The more you know about your product, the more creative you can be in making deals and executing them. Schedule time with product owners to learn about the features, limitations and competitive advantages of your product. – Kabir Mathur, Kiip
12. Avoiding Discussions About Money And Fees
Don’t shy away from mentioning the non-glamorous fees on your calls, no matter how small. Fees are oftentimes implemented for a reason, and if this reasoning is not discussed with the client up front, it can result in a loss of credibility and the deal itself. If you are up front and confident about the pricing strategy, the client will respect and accept it when moving forward. – Cortez Armond, Firsthand Inc
13. Forgetting To Follow Up With New Contacts
We’re all guilty of it — getting home from a great conference, putting all the collected business cards in a stack to follow up with later and then that later never comes. Following up is key to business development success, even if it is just a quick “connect” on LinkedIn. If you have a stack of cards lying around, hire someone on Upwork or TaskRabbit to scan and add them to your database or LinkedIn. – Robin Farmanfarmaian, Invicta Medical
14. Focusing On Selling, Not On Helping
It’s common for business development professionals to focus on merely selling the product to reach quota. This old way of selling doesn’t work anymore — at least with the prospects you truly want. Focus on helping prospects. The goal is to help a prospect reach their desired outcome, not make assumptions to get to your own predetermined outcome. – Howard Brown, RingDNA | Inside sales & enterprise sales acceleration software
15. Lacking Consistency And CRM Documentation
Two reasons come to mind: lack of consistency as it relates to planning and outbound production (email, calls, text) and documentation within a CRM. Salespeople who don’t document conversations give the client the perception that they don’t listen. Customers buy from salespeople who understand their business and listen consistently. Consistent documentation will help grow authentic relationships. – Casey Jacox, Kforce