It’s an activity that few love and many loathe, yet it remains the central tenet on which the success of many small businesses rest, and that is – business development. And whilst the digital marketers of the world would like us to believe that we are now in the era of ‘pull’ marketing where it’s no longer necessary to pound the pavement in order to recruit customers, most successful businesses would beg to differ. So critical is business development, in fact, that even tech start-ups need to partake in it – for example, much of Airbnb’s early success was predicated on the fact that their founders initially flew to New York every week to recruit new hosts.
We can all acknowledge that it’s important, then, but that doesn’t make it any easier. So for everyone whose heart skips a beat every time they hear the words ‘BD,’ here’s how to overcome your fear of business development:
Mastering the art of listening
Many people fear business development due to the almost inevitable rejection that will occur from it. However, if you master the art of listening, you can significantly reduce the chances of this happening.
When starting her mums-only recruitment business, 100mums, founder Janine Lay-Flurrie felt that she learnt to listen the hard way:
“I used to start my pitches to clients with ‘this is what I’m offering, take it or leave it’ which wasn’t that successful. However, when I started conversations with more of a ‘I hear you’re experiencing a problem. Can you tell me more about it?’ they opened up a lot more, and then I was able to effectively tailor my solution to what they said they needed – it worked a lot better.”
Overcoming a fear of anything is often very much about changing your mindset, and business development is no different.
Recognise that selling is everyone’s job
Small business owners often think that their business venture will be their first foray into selling, but in almost all cases, it isn’t. In fact, if you have been an employee before, you will realise that you are constantly ‘selling.’ This ‘selling’ may come in the form of proving your value to your manager, or even influencing your staff – either way, you are effectively involved in a value exchange where you are offering a service, for a benefit in return. Learning to think of business development as a simple value exchange, as opposed to a pitch, can do wonders in simplifying and demystifying the process.
Seeing yourself as a customer hero
Overcoming a fear of anything is often very much about changing your mindset, and business development is no different. As opposed to viewing yourself as someone who is pushing a product or service onto a client or customer, try instead to think of yourself as a ‘customer hero’ in that the customer may well already want or need your service, they just haven’t found you yet!
After all, who wouldn’t want to be a hero?
Teigan Kate Margetts is a freelance writer who specialises in producing thought-provoking content on business and education-related topics.