Adaptability in business development: a core skill

by | Jul 16, 2020

Adaptability in business development is a core skill. It helps you build resilience and get through your professional challenges. Learn more here.

“Adapt and overcome” a saying that was a well-used term in my 8 years in the military. Funny though, as it takes a whole different meaning as an English Business Developer in The Netherlands during COVID-19.

One way I like to describe myself is “learner first”! So, I am not writing this blog to put across that I have all the answers or even, maybe provide the most profound, best solution to your business development problems.

But…I can guarantee honesty and hopefully give you something that will help you in your professional journey.

These are my considerations on why – according to me – adaptability in business development is not only useful but necessary!

There is no “one size fits all approach”

I worked in business development for the past 3 years, so I consider myself a young professional. My first encounter with business development was when I was at university right after my career in the military.

At that time I was rigid in character and I was convinced that pushing one method would enable me to generate tons of value for my company. Of course, I would become the business development king. I was definitely wrong.

Because no matter how you put it: there is no secret solution to win.

Go beyond your sales targets

The first way to practice adaptability in business development is by realizing that it doesn’t all revolve around sales. Do not get fixated on the MRR, sales target, or whatever the goal is. Hear me right, this is still important but it is not the main priority.

I believe that as a business developer there is a lot more at stake. It starts by listening, learning, and understanding your customers. This requires a certain degree of adaptability because what comes out from your conversations with customers will influence your way to deal with them.

As I have continued on this bizarre, elusive business development journey this is definitely the first learning. I remember when I started I did not know how this journey would look like, but one thing is certain now:

The more adaptable you are, the more successful you will become!

Adapt your communication style

As a business developer, it is all about communication, and guess what? This also requires quite some adaptability skills, let me show you an example!

A while ago I was working in the real estate industry and my job was to find available rooms and apartments in the Netherlands. Communicating in English to Dutch customers was not particularly hard…almost everyone here speaks English!

However, at some point, I noticed that some of them were really confused while talking to me. It didn’t take me long to understand that the way I structured my sentences or perhaps some sayings I used, wasn’t very clear for my interlocutors.

You need adaptability in business development even just to make sure the other person actually gets your message.

So, a little tip, listen to them, listen, listen, listen (am I making my point : ) haha). Take notes, after the call record audibly any sayings or things they said, so you can hear your customer again and work with them, for them.

Focus on building relationships

Adaptability in business development also means understanding what’s the best environment to build long-lasting relationships with your stakeholders. And what’s the best place to build relationships? Not at the office table but at the dinner table.

So many times I hear people say business development is about the “gift of the gab” as we would say in the UK. While it is true that you need to know what you’re talking about, I also think, that it’s equally important to choose the right place to have your conversations.

The reason why I’m so convinced of this is that I believe people should feel comfortable to be able to open up. Remember that in business development you’re trying to find a way to help your customers and partners achieve their goals.

You will never be able to understand what they really want if you keep things formal and stiff. One great way to make sure you create a safe environment is to use netnography as it helps understanding what customers really care about.

For example, you can look at the LinkedIn posts of your audience and see what topics really make them tick. Or you could record your calls and take notes writing down the very specific words your audience uses.

This exercise will highlight the real desires and pains of your audience and will enable you to go beyond just making a sell, but actually making a difference for them, their company, their family, their next holiday etc.

If you need some inspiration, check out this super helpful webinar on Customer Research. This keeps me going when there are tough times as a business developer when no money is coming in (and believe me that happens) and I have had 3 unsubscribe emails to every 250 I have sent!

Listen and Learn mate

Do you think you know it all? Think you’re a good salesman, business developer etc? Leave it at the door of the office, when you sit in front of your laptop and start working!

Adaptability in business development means accepting that we don’t have all the answers and that we learn every day. Whenever you make your calls or meet your prospects, get rid of your pride, and open your mind to learn.

Start by asking questions; there is so much more than you can see and understand about the market, the individual, and their business.

Take a humble pill, sit down and listen.

I remember when I started I thought it was all about confidence. My idea was that as long as you are confident and knowledgeable then everything would come through.

Nope!! That’s not the case, if anything, this attitude will lead you to miss out on opportunities. Instead, invest your time in getting to know the people around you be it colleagues, clients, or partners. We are not robots and we all have a story, so stop seeing your customers like that!

Become more data driven

Last, adaptability in business development also means creating an analytical mindset and start relying on data to define your priorities. Gather data, connect with the results, and take action based on data.

Often in Business Development we are shooting into the dark and hoping to see which arrow hits the target. That is ok, but use the data to keep the bow aimed in the right direction for the target, otherwise, you might shoot yourself in the foot!

I have had the privilege of being one of very few British guys working in the Netherlands helping scaleups expand and grow in the UK market. I won’t always get it right but consistency in work output and the deep understanding that I am willing to learn always brings everyone together at the top, not just me.

Would you also like to share your insights with other business developers? Submit your idea here and we will be in touch shortly!

Greg Poole
Client Advisor at Equalture
👂🏻 Listener first, talk second 📒 Learner first, leader second. 

🔧 Everything will succeed with the right team.


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