I talk regularly about , the business development paradox that exists in businesses where individuals have to both sell and deliver their service.

The Business Development Paradox is the situation where the most skilled business developers do the least business development. This is because they have the most established client base, so need to do the lead new business development. This leaves the new business development to junior members at business development.

From a CEO’s perspective it seems crazy that their growth plans rest on the least skilled members of their team. From a neutral point of view, it makes no sense to have the toughest part of business development, fall on the least experienced members of your business.

However, many people have a vested interest in keeping things the same.  Who would not want to have an easy life servicing existing clients, earning well and not having to do the heavy lifting of new business development.  As a leader, you may fear the consequences of telling your top billers they need to change. Perhaps you recognise things aren’t right, but you feel powerless to do anything about it. You can’t just turn the existing business model on its head over night.

But there are some less disruptive steps you can take, to create a healthier business development culture. A culture that benefits your whole company, not just certain individuals. You might not turn things round overnight, but you won’t alienate your top performers either.

WE NEED TO MOVE TOWARDS A CULTURE OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COLLABORATION

1. INCENTIVISE COLLABORATION

Talking about business development collaboration isn’t enough. You need to recognise and reward the consultants or sales professionals in your team who actively promote other people in the business. You could formalise it by running quarterly competitions. You could just put more effort into recognising people in team meetings. If you praise people who go out of their way to help teammates and talk about it regularly, things will start to change.

2. ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL

Encourage knowledge sharing. Pair up your top performers and less experienced team members during core business development hours. Encourage them to share the tricks of the trade and their market knowledge. Move towards a culture where senior consultants are expected to support the rookies’ development. You can do this through formal objectives. However, it’s better if you can persuade them it’s in their interests too. It will lighten the load of managers who are often also selling, and it will help identify senior consultants who are ready to step up to a leadership role. 

3. USE IT OR LOSE IT

Are your top performers creating a culture of fear? Experienced consultants / sales professionals will often ring-fence their best clients and intimidate others from calling them. They may be making tens of thousands a quarter from these clients, cherry picking the clients they want to work with, but what are they leaving on the table? How many thousands could your other consultants to pick up? If you suspect that opportunities are being missed, you need to call them out on it. You can give them a choice:

  • Maximise the available revenue with the client
  • Introduce your colleagues when opportunities arise, or..
  • Risk losing that client.

If the relationship between your company and the client, relies on just one consultant, you’re always at risk of that consultant leaving and taking the client with them. When you have several consultants working with the same client, you spread your risk and reduce the power of any individual consultant.

CULTURE CHANGE IS NEVER EASY

It takes time and inevitably upsets people along the way. If you do decide to try and change things, you need to plot a clear strategy out at the start and work hard to keep everyone engaged along the way. One of the reasons it’s hard, is because we all react differently to change. Some will feel threatened; others will see opportunity. Regular open conversations are key to understanding where people’s heads are at. Give them the chance to express themselves and contribute regularly.

 

Alex Moyle is a business development, sales expert and author of Business Development Culture – taking sales culture beyond the sales team, published by Kogan Page and available on Amazon.