Embedding a business development culture early will improve your sales

Building a strong business development culture as soon as you can after you start a business will boost your business sales effectiveness.

To create a business development culture you need to bake highly commercial thinking and a focus on sales into everything your business does. Your business will benefit from making sales a priority – even if that means on occasion putting it before the needs of your existing clients. That means putting business development bang to rights at the top of the agenda, to be discussed, thought about and planned for every day.


It’s easy to imagine a business that thinks like that but not so easy to foster. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies of a whole gamut of cultures. Although those with business development at their heart are comparatively rare, there’s an unquestionable correlation between business culture and sales performance. The more your business talks about, values and rewards business development, the better you’ll be at creating and converting opportunities.

People create culture; everybody contributes but the Owners and Directors often drive it. If you and your people don’t get or value sales then it’s not going to figure strongly. If you’re a developer, or a creative, or an engineer, with little sales grounding, and you start a business employing experts in your field, you probably don’t have skills or knowledge in house to put the business development component of your business in place.


Everybody who starts a business does it with passion and a determination to do the best job they possibly can but in the early days, employing salespeople will be a luxury, and because you’re so committed to doing a good job, you’ll be tempted to focus entirely on client service and delivery. You might not neglect business development entirely but you’d be forgiven for shelving it. Most likely saving it for a day when there’s money, energy and time to dedicate to it.

The problem is, once the culture is embedded it’s extremely hard to change, yet if you can embed a team sales ethic from your earliest days, the benefits can be huge. Business development is a virtuous circle (which works both ways). Once you start, you get better. It builds confidence, a sense of purpose and direction. If your whole team contributes regularly and constructively, you will make progress. And while to some, business development is scary or unfathomable, it’s mostly common sense. Plus nowadays, with the internet as your textbook, you can teach yourself.


Before another day passes, our advice is this. First, make business development someone’s responsibility and make them accountable for it. Ideally the CEO or a director with the most suitable personality and skill set because they’re more likely to get things done. Then, get a strategy in place. Don’t expect miracles overnight but a plan with realistic targets gets you focused. Get your team involved – train them, set expectations when you interview and induct them. Set short term goals in team and review meetings and check they’ve been met, report on progress, giving credit for good work, in company update meetings.

Your team can contribute in all sorts of ways: Upselling to existing clients, coming up with campaign ideas, sharing content on LinkedIn and other social media, building up their connections, liking other prospect’s content, going to events…and much more. Creating individual plans, setting time aside and setting objectives for your people makes it a part of their job.

By setting targets you make yourself and the team accountable, which helps prevent business development taking a back seat to client delivery.


What about your clients? Our tech clients are always hungry for product feedback from their prospects so that they can refine their offering. Of course, you’ll be getting that from existing clients as you collaborate throughout the project, but are you thinking about your own business development angle? Any competitive edge that arises due to unique product features will be short-lived so the faster you can turn that around into something you can sell, the longer you’ll have to use it to convince prospects of your value. For our agency clients, it’s all well and good your proposition describing what you do, but there are a lot of agencies out there and what you really need to know is what makes you special…what makes you better than everybody else.

Your current clients will tell you what they like about your company and that, in turn, helps you define your positioning and create something different. You’ve still got to ask the question and your people will only do that if it’s a priority for them and if they’re given permission.

Then there’s the question of client projects. Before embarking on any new project consider how you’ll show the business value of that project. What will you measure, what difference will you have made, and how will you prove your value to potential new clients. This thinking should feature highly for everybody in your business who works with clients so that you build a business where every project is a clear banker. If you have a stack of 15 case studies that your competitors would kill for, you’ll be in pole position every time you pitch.

Baby steps

These are the first steps to creating a business development culture and there’s a lot more to do. Your entire team needs to understand how important business development is. They need to understand their contribution to it and why, and they need regular feedback on how what they’re doing is making a difference. Everybody wants to contribute to being part of a team that succeeds and the early days of a business is the time when everybody is most committed and motived. So take the opportunity to put the foundation blocks in place and in time you’ll see the results.   

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