Business development is not a quick fix; it’s a strategic process that requires time, investment, and a proactive approach. As an experienced BD, I’ve witnessed businesses corner themselves by treating business development as an afterthought. This reactive approach will never work. Building a qualified pipeline of opportunities takes time.
Regarding potential clients, choosing the right business is an important and strategic decision requiring due diligence. Most companies want longer-term engagements from suppliers. Take the time to build trust and develop the relationships before they need you. This shift in perspective is a game-changer in the way you approach business development.
The Port of Tauranga
As New Zealand’s largest port, the Port of Tauranga (PoT) presented a massive opportunity. The research helped us identify key stakeholders, and we initiated contact, investing seven months in relationship-building. This effort paid off when we secured their re-brand project, surpassing other agencies, including one with a 20-year history of servicing the port.
PMG had a project with a tight deadline and a limited budget, typically handled in-house. However, because of our cultivated relationship, we received a call for help. Recognising an opportunity to solve a problem for a client we’d been building a relationship with, we stepped in, always considering leaving the door open to more opportunities in the future.
Both case studies are examples of successful business relationships built proactively and well before their needs arose.
Tips for Proactive Relationship Building
- Communicate: Effective communication is paramount in building strong client relationships. Take the time to understand how your clients prefer to communicate, tailor your approach accordingly, and always add value.
- Get to Know Them: Invest the time and effort to get to know your clients individually. It’s not a difficult task, but it requires patience. Building a deep understanding of your clients will lead to stronger connections.
- Consistency: Stay in regular contact with clients without overwhelming them or being a pest. Send articles of interest or news that align with what they like once or twice a month. This approach keeps the connection alive without wasting their valuable time.
- Be Informed: Being well-informed about your client’s industry and their growth aspirations. Knowing whether they have new products or services in their pipeline or want to expand into new markets is crucial for building trust. This knowledge allows you to understand and address the challenges they face, positioning you as a trusted advisor.
- Be Authentic: Don’t view your clients as mere revenue numbers. Instead, treat them as valuable partners by being authentic, engaged, and genuinely interested in them.
- Patience: Set realistic time expectations. Relationship building takes time, and it could take up to 12 months for an opportunity to materialise.
- Assess and Adapt: Assessing which potential clients are the best fit for long-term relationships is an ongoing process. As you invest time in getting to know potential clients better, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of the fit.
Business development should never be about immediate results but investing in long-term partnerships that can yield substantial rewards. As we’ve seen through the success stories of our engagements with the Port of Tauranga and PMG, proactive relationship building can lead to remarkable opportunities and set you apart from competitors who take a more reactive approach. Building these genuine connections with potential clients may require time and effort, but the long-term benefits are invaluable.