A new era for business development?

A growing perception that the interests of business and society are misaligned means many business leaders are rethinking how they lead and manage their organization’s strategy and initiatives. Some have decided to grant sustainability a position at a senior level, with the creation of new roles such as chief sustainability officer and CSR Manager. Others, however, have pursued a decentralized approach and allocated various sustainability responsibilities throughout departments and levels of management.

There’s no one size fits all approach, but I do wonder if we are perhaps missing an opportunity to make the much needed shift in operating models and regain trust in business. Rather than new roles or new responsibilities might we make more progress by redefining existing roles? In particular a role crucial for sustainable growth – business development.

I think business development has a vital role to play in this next phase of business life – but in a very different way to how business development was previously pigeon-holed as “schmoozing”, sales and the engine for growing profit only. In a nutshell. here’s how and why:

1. Business Development is an external demonstration of your values in action.

People buy from people and companies they trust. Trust is earned through consistent values-led behaviours across your business. Business Development professionals often hold relationships with new and existing clients. Increasingly clients identify themselves as “being socially responsible”, require suppliers to mirror their ethical approach (private and public sector e.g. Wellbeing and Future Generations Act in Wales, Social Value Act in England) and such credentials are a major factor influencing brand loyalty (Goldman Sachs GS Sustain 2007).  This presents an opportunity to drive new sales, win new work and opens up new markets - all whilst being true to you and your values!

How does your Business Development strategy/team reflect you and your values? How does your approach differentiate you in the marketplace? How do you build and retain relationships with clients and targets? How would clients and targets describe your company, and their experience of your company? How do you drive and reward business development activity?

2. Business Development will deliver sustainable growth

In a world where unethical practices are increasingly exposed and society is growing intolerant of “uncaring” behaviour, corporate and brand reputations can be ruined in seconds. The precedent to take the long term view over short term gains is growing. Business Development needs to focus on strategic sales that build value for stakeholders, not just shareholders.

How do you measure the performance of your business development team? What behaviours do your metrics drive in your Business Development activity? How is success defined?  

Business Development is one of those terms that means different things to different people. For us, it means sustainable growth underpinned by a clear purpose, authentic values and strong relationships.

Is business development adding real value to your business?