Let me start with a question, “Is there such a thing as too much Business Development?” I am sure there are a lot of you shaking your heads vigorously and thinking “What? Is that even a sensible question? In business, more is always better. How else will a business grow?” The reason I raised this question is not to say that businesses should not grow. It is about keeping two things in mind when going after business development –
(1) existing business and
(2) the costs associated with business development. Healthy business growth is built on the foundation of your existing clients. In aggressive business development scenarios, there is a tendency to push the needs of existing clients to the backburner. The hunger to win a new piece of business could see too much of focus on the potential, to the detriment of your clients. In large organisations, there may be a possibility that the business development team is separate from the team that services present clients.
However, small businesses rarely have such a luxury. The time and effort you are putting into the business development comes at the cost of your clients. You have to ensure that one does not suffer on account of the other. But before that, let’s take a step back. Imagine if there was a channel of business development where most of the hard work is already done? Sounds implausible? Here’s how. Take a closer look at your business, and your existing clients, as they stand today.
Do all your existing clients know about all your offerings? Are there any services or products that you offer but your clients are unaware and going to someone else for it? Believe me, it happens more often that you think. Most businesses (and clients) believe that they already know everything there is to know about each other. But it is seldom true. Find out the extended needs of your customers and whether you can meet them. And if your customer is satisfied with the existing relationship (as they should be) this could mean additional business for you.
But getting more business from existing clients can only take you so far. Business development, and everything it entails – costs, time, effort – is an integral aspect of business. In this scenario, I would rephrase the original question slightly, “Is there such a thing as spending too much money on business development?” There are no two ways about it. Business development costs money. From networking and keeping an ear open for opportunities, to cold calls, travel to meetings or even just gathering robust market intelligence before approaching a potential customer costs money. And as a business owner, you would have budgeted for it in your plans.
However, there are occasions when the business development budget is subtly or blatantly ignored. Chances are, this happens for customers where you see huge potential. But remember to keep track to ensure that you are not eating into other planned activity by expanding this budget. You have to be very level-headed when you evaluate your business development budget and returns. Critically analyse your hit rate, and the methods you can employ to increase it. Ensure that you study and dissect every business pitch that you make – the ones that are successful as well as those that weren’t. Many companies spend a lot of time on post-mortems of failed business pitches to probe the areas where they went wrong or where they have to fill the gaps.
However, an investigation of the things that went right in a successful pitch can bolster and strengthen your subsequent business development efforts. I’ll conclude with another question. “How are you going to ensure that Business development will never be business detriment henceforth?” Share your opinions and suggestions in the comments below.