A Three-Step Approach to Business Development

If you are going to succeed in business development, it is critical that you understand—and implement—all three steps.

1. Implementation process first, then ideas second. All business development requires bringing new partners and new ideas into your organization, and you absolutely need an implementation process to do it.

Professionals don’t fail to plan. Instead, professionals think about the capabilities of their organization and the strategies required to reel new ideas in, cultivate them and ship them.  Don’t waste time in meetings with random vendors or hassle about tiny details up front, great business development people don’t, neither should you.

(Note: If two people want to do business together, the details probably won’t get in the way, but if two people don’t want to do business together then the details will get in the way.)

 Instead, they have an agenda set and a project manager’s mindset of what it means to get things done. Oh, and keeping that process a secret, a big no, no. Share it with anyone who wants to know. Someone has to stand up and say, “here’s how we do things around here,” and then they have to tell the truth.

2. Dating, negotiation and marriage. Every business development deal has three parts, and keeping them straight is indispensable. During the dating phase, you win when you are engaging, outgoing, respectful, diligent, enthusiastic,  and relentless in your search to make a connection. Do your homework, research people’s accomplishments, learn about their personal life, visit them–don’t make them visit you.

(Note: Now that information is everywhere, the obligation changes. It’s no longer okay to not know. If you’re meeting with someone, check them out in advance.)

Look people in the eye because the eyes are the windows of the soul, ask the tough but engaging questions, you know the drill. Basically, practice the golden rule, because the people you most want to work with have a choice, and they may just not pick you. And if you bypass the dating part, the other two stages probably won’t be in your future.

3. Never burn the bridge. More than likely, even good business development deals fail before the end of the negotiation process. If a deal doesn’t come work, say so. Recognize what went wrong, thank the other party and end on a good note.

If it does work, track the integration and stay involved enough to learn from what works and what doesn’t. I’m still waiting to hear from people who said they’d get back to me “tomorrow” two years ago, but I’m losing hope… Never burning the bridge not only teaches you how to do better next time, but it keeps doors open for when you need to come back to someone who you should have done a deal with in the first place.