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Business Development, Not Sales January 16, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Supply chain.
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Recently I had an interesting conversation with a former colleague who suggested that I consider another career change, this time to a job in business development representing a supplier or engineering service provider. After a few minutes I realized that it’s not an entirely ridiculous idea; I’ve got a lot of experience with outsourcing, both as a supplier and a customer, and I guess I have the kind of social, outgoing personality that people associate with that kind of position. However, my initial reaction was reflexive and negative, and I’ll bet there are a lot of engineers and other technical folks who would respond the same way.

I suppose this reaction derives from the stereotypical salesperson who tries to force-fit something from the current catalog of available products and services, using hard-sell techniques to close the deal. Unfortunately many of these people have a limited technical background, and probably just enough jargon to get their foot in the door. They lack credibility with skeptical engineers, and (more importantly) they lack the understanding to solve real-world problems by modifying or re-designing the offerings in their catalog to better meet their customer’s needs. It’s not a welcome phone call from one of these people, unless by some amazing coincidence you happen to need exactly what they’re offering at that point in time. I’m sure many of my friends and colleagues would look at me differently (and not in a good way) if I started down that career path.

Business development seems to be a relatively new way of thinking about sales, focused more on finding new customers than servicing existing ones. It sounds like something that includes hustling for leads and cold-calling, looking for an opening.

That’s the stereotype, but maybe there’s another way to look at business development. Instead of trying to get people to buy something they don’t really need or want, perhaps there’s a role for someone to match suppliers with customers (A broker?), with an emphasis on finding a good fit for a longer-term strategic relationship rather than a one-time transaction. That could be an interesting job, requiring technical expertise to properly assess the opportunity, a portfolio of potential solution providers, and a stake in ensuring a successful match.

Does anything like that already exist? It might be fun and actually serve a useful purpose.

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1. Business Development Revisited « Managing in the 2000s - August 15, 2012

[…] this year I wrote about business development as a possible new career direction (see Business Development, Not Sales). Lately I’ve been thinking about a generalized, logical processes for identifying and […]


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