Business Development vs GDPR

by | Oct 9, 2018 | Business Development, Strategies

Business Development professionals are having a hard time now that GDPR has come into force. This is how we can get along with it and be successful in our job. 

If there’s something I learned in the past 9 years as a business developer is to always turn a challenge into an opportunity. After all, the only thing that changes now, is that we will need to be more targeted.

So instead of complaining about this bad GDPR, let’s spend our energy on getting creative and focus on quality rather than quantity.

Let’s get it started and learn what GDPR actually means for business development and how to get along with it.


What is GDPR?

GDPR – as we all should know by now – stands for General Data Protection Regulation and entered into force on May 25th.

It will replace the Data Protection Directive from 1995 that in substance stated that personal data should not be processed at all.

It is, therefore, an upgrade of this law and it will provide EU citizens with more control over their personal data.

They will now be able to choose how their data is handled, who handles it. Moreover, they will be able to easily opt-out from any marketing campaigns if they want to.

The new regulation is based on 6 key principles that must be followed by anyone who handles EU citizen data and these are:


  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
    The data subject must give data lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
  • Purpose Limitation
    You can collect data for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and you can’t process them in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes
  • Data minimization
    You can collect data that is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for relation to the purposes for which you are processing them
  • Accuracy
    You must keep data accurate and, where necessary, up to date. You must take every reasonable to ensure that inaccurate personal data are erased or rectified without delay
  • Storage limitation
    You must keep data in a form which permits identification of data subjects. You can’t keep them for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which you are processing the data
  • Integrity and confidentiality
    You must process data in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data. This will include protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing


What does this mean for business development professionals?

Now, part of our job is to connect with as many relevant prospects as possible and convince them to, at least, listen to our pitches.

Up until this point, we were pretty much allowed to send messages to everyone in our message list, regardless if they wanted to read them or not.

But with the GDPR we need to be a little careful unless we want to end up costing up to 20+ million Euro or 4% turnover to our companies.

However, by nature business development professionals are creatives. And what do we do when we have an obstacle? We find a way to overcome it.

This case is exactly the same and what we need to do is just to adjust our current strategy and make sure we act lawfully. Whenever you approach a new prospect make sure to:

  • Get permission to get their data
  • Inform them about how you are going to use their data
  • Include an opt-out in your emails.


So, how do we get prospects and still retain GDPR compliance?

Let’s jump to the fun part and see how we can conduct an effective business development strategy and be fully GDPR compliant at the same time:

  • Social selling
    Go personal and connect with your prospects on social media. Using LinkedIn for example it’s compliant and will help you get to know your prospects even better. Make sure to ask clearly for their permission to send them an email or call them in a direct message. This will constitute a proof of their opt-in
  • Networking
    Conferences and other social events are great to connect with prospects. The main advantage here is that you can meet them in person and directly establish a relationship. Plus, they’ll be happy to give you their business cards which ultimately will allow you to get in touch whenever you need to. Make sure to store a record of this meeting and – just in case – save their business cards with a note on them
  • Referrals
    This is a very good way to connect with your prospects. Not only you will be compliant, but you’ll also have way higher engagement. Which also means, more possibilities to close a deal!
  • Inbound marketing
    Get closer to your colleagues in marketing and build landing pages, lead magnets and content. Make sure everything is extremely relevant to your prospects. Inbound marketing can take longer, but eventually, you’ll have higher quality leads.

Now the genius idea…what if I move my company outside EU? Great, except that GDPR will most likely still apply to your business as long as you deal with even just 1 single European citizen.

To sum up, GDPR is definitely challenging. But I like to see it as an opportunity to be more focused and eventually have more meaningful conversations.

Get more tips like these in our online community: Business Developers United.


I’m not a lawyer neither a GDPR consultant. I informed myself, talked to professionals and used some common sense. Make sure to get a professional to help you out and find out more about GDPR.


Lucia Piseddu

Founder at The BD School

The thing I love the most in business development is its creative process. My job is to help people unleash their potential and become great at business development.


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