I remember how excited I was when I first got my driver’s license.
I rushed to the Department of Motor Vehicles after 9th period calculus on my 17th birthday so I could finally get my New York State-issued pass to teenage independence. All I wanted to do was drive – it was so freeing and fun! But even back in the late 1990’s, gas was expensive and even a semi-decent high school job didn’t pay enough to get me very far. Soon enough I realized that I couldn’t afford to just joyride forever: I had to plan my route before I put foot to pedal.
I also remember how excited I was when I started out in business development – all I wanted to do was jump in the driver’s seat and start heading down the road to sales and partnerships. It was so freeing and fun!
However, even within a large company, I quickly came to realize that you can easily run out of gas when you start gunning it for sales and partnerships without having a map to your destination.
There is no DMV-issued license for business development, and many jump behind the wheel without having a clear vision of where they’re going or how to get there as they coast along in the deal-making process.
In my Grand Unified Theory of Business Development, I suggest that the destination for all business development endeavors is the creation of long-term value. What’s been missing all this time is the map.
So here it is. A way to navigate through the business development process in 3 stages – the Having Value stage, the Communicating Value stage, and the Delivering Value stage.
The First Stage of Business Development: Having Value
The first stop on the path to successful business development is the Having Value stage, where you stop, strategize, and plan your course.
Before we go out and attempt to convince others of the value we can create for them by buying our product or partnering with our company, we need to first determine do I actually have something of value?
In the Having Value stage, we take a moment to pause and reflect on some critical questions about our business:
What kind of value does my business need?
What assets and resources do I have that would create value for someone else?
What are the right growth opportunities to prioritize for my business, and what path should I take to pursue them?
Understanding what are the most relevant growth opportunities for your business and what companies will find value in what you have to offer is a prerequisite to making sure you’re on the right trajectory. Only once you know what kind of value you can offer can you figure out who will care.
The Second Stage of Business Development: Communicating Value
The second step on the path is the Communicating Value stage, where we focus our efforts on convincing others to buy our products or to get excited about the prospect of partnership. But motivating an individual to act, let alone an entire organization full of individuals, is a big challenge. We need to figure out who will care?
Who will care about the the value you can offer them?
Who will be personally motivated to advocate on your behalf and help usher you through the organization’s structure, culture, and bureaucratic roadblocks?
Who will be positioned within the organization in such a way as to decide or influence the decision of which opportunities to pursue?
Answering those questions requires more than blindly seeking meetings with anyone who will listen. It requires establishing relationships, built on trust and integrity, that can provide insight into how an organization “thinks” and therefore how it will act upon your proposals.
The Communicating Value stage is where we find the alignment between the value created for individuals and the value created for an organization. Only once you find that value alignment can you actually move on to the easy part: hammering out the specific terms of a deal that will result in two parties that are ready and excited to move forward and deliver value.
The Third Stage of Business Development: Delivering Value
To arrive in the final stage of the business development process, the Delivering Value stage, means that you have successfully sold others on the promise that your company can provide value.
But selling promises puts you in debt: in the Communicating Value stage, you’re mortgaging your company’s resources and reputation against your ability to actually follow-through and deliver something of value. In the Delivering Value stage, you pay back by successfully executing and creating value from customers, markets, and relationships. This stage begs the important questions:
How can you ensure you execute sufficiently to have made the entire endeavor worthwhile?
How will you manage to deliver value as priorities and circumstances change?
How will your relationship with customers and partners evolve over time?
Every deal has a lifespan: your deal will only last as long as it continues to deliver value for both sides. Partnerships may be replaced a a Build or Buy solution. A customer’s needs may change such that you’re no longer providing a product that serves their purposes. Your relationship may evolve, or it may die.
Either way, it’s back to the drawing board in the Having Value stage and the cycle begins again.
Beware of False Shortcuts
It’s as natural an urge to want to jump into the sexy parts of business development – meeting people, pitching our wares, and negotiating deals – as it is for a homebound teenager to want to jump behind the wheel and get going.
But by veering off the path of the Three Stages of Business Development is to risk traveling down some treacherous terrain. When we haven’t actually determined whether we actually have anything of value to offer that other people will care about, or that those we’re pitching have real value to offer in exchange, we can easily contract “Shiny Things Disease”. It can easily lead you down the wrong roads that waste precious time and resources.
But by being strategic and disciplined enough to follow the path in order, from the Having Value stage, through the Communicating Value stage, and into the Delivering Value stage, you can avoid the worst fate of all: having your company running out of gas before you get to your destination.
Want to learn more about how to apply the Three Stages of Business Development to your company? Check out GROWPLAN my new full-day interactive business development workshop on November 16th in NYC. Use discount code “EARLYBIRD” to get 50% off when you sign up by November 1st.