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Wednesday, December 02, 2009


I recently received a great testimonial from a client (you can read it on my LinkedIn profile).

It ended with "Wish he was my full time business development director!".

Now, whilst this is a very flattering comment (thanks, John)... I think it's completely wrong. It's wrong in the sense that for most of our clients, a full-time Business Development Director is actually the last thing that they need.

Before I explain why, let me just clarify who our clients are (this may resonate with some of you).

Our clients are typically smaller consultancies and agencies with flat structures and a high level of delivery by the principals. Sure, they'll have office support staff and also delivery augmented by associates and/or juniors, but the key attribute that they all share is that a large amount of the work is delivered by the owners or Directors of the business.

So, if that sounds like you, why shouldn't you hire a full-time Business Development Director?

Here are 3 good reasons:

1) You can't outsource the pitch. The first trap to avoid is thinking that you can get someone else to pitch for your work, such as hiring a Business Development Director. If you're providing a service which involves your personal expertise and creative input then your clients are essentially buying you. Sure, they accept that you have a team behind you for delivery but that's no substitute for knowing who runs the business.

This fact is true for all propositions which fall into the "smart brains" or "grey hairs" categories. Unless you're in a commodity market then you can't escape the reality that you should never outsource the pitch.

2) You can't afford a good one. What I mean here is that, in many cases, your business probably isn't big enough (yet) to attract the right level of talent you need. I just flipped open a marketing magazine and there are agencies advertising for a full-time Business Development Director with a £60k package. If you're a consultancy in the IT or HR space then you'll need someone who can open doors and pitch at the highest levels... an win the business. That's going to cost at least the same package if not approaching six figures.

And let's not forget, that's just the salary. Fully loaded costs will double these figures.

Now, if you've got big plans and deep pockets then don't be put off by this. However, you need to be absolutely sure that they will bring in the business otherwise this type of hire is notoriously the most expensive mistake you can make.

I find that most clients with a "Business Development Director" have essentially agreed that the role is handled by one of the founders/partners.

Which brings us to the third reason....

3) You don't need a whole one. What you need are bits of a Business Development Director. If you think about it, what does a Business Development Director do? Well, they work out the strategy, help develop marketing plans, network with prospects, make calls and open doors, keep in touch and manage the pipeline and (hopefully) land the big accounts.

In our experience, clients are excellent face-to-face and, as I stated in point 1) they are the best people to put in-front of prospects. It's logical really, since we work with clients who are actually in business, so they must be doing something right.

The parts of the whole biz dev process that they struggle with are a) getting in front of prospects and b) keeping in touch. This latter part is particularly true of clients who are closely involved with delivery.

Be honest, it's not your strong point either, right?

And, truth be told, most Business Development Directors also struggle with the former part of actually getting in front of prospects, because once they're up and running they're usually focused on managing relationships rather than hunting new business.

So the solution is simple, don't try to hire a whole Business Development Director, full or part-time. Outsource the elements that you most need support with - the prospecting and pipeline management.

For many clients, the real value we deliver comes from having someone who is nurturing those prospects until there is a real opportunity.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 10:13 am |  0 comments  | Links to this post  

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