Business Development 101

Business Development 101

Lizabeth Theiss, Crain Construction’s vice president of business development, offers tips for building a business relationship.

Business development is not being a salesperson. Business development is making connections and turning those connections into relationships.

I am amazed by the people I meet who carry a business development title but do not pay attention to relationships.  Often, they are only paying attention to selling their product or service.  It really is the small things that count in relationship building.

Here are 10 steps to introductory etiquette and being a good business development professional.

  1. Introduce yourself with a warm smile and make eye contact.
  2. Offer a firm handshake. (Not the wimpy handshake that does not connect palm to palm.)
  3. When you are engaged in conversation, maintain eye contact.  (Too many people are looking for that next person to walk into the room.)
  4. Exchange contact information, if applicable.
  5. Follow up!  If you are interested in the person you just met, follow up with a phone call or email.  Do not leave your relationship building to email / digital exchanges, ask to meet them.
  6. When asking someone to meet, offer times and locations for a meeting.  Don’t put it on their shoulders to schedule a time with you.  (Don’t send an email saying, “Let me know a few times that work for you to get together.”)
  7. Value their time by being on time.
  8. Cancellations are inevitable.  If you have to cancel with someone, offer an alternate time to meet.
  9. Once you meet, LISTEN.  This is the most important part of business development!
  10. Be genuine.  You are presenting yourself first and then your company.

Relationships are not built in one 20-minute meeting.  Relationships are not built by asking people to tell you things that may be industry exclusive or confidential.  And relationships certainly are not built one sided.  Often by listening you can contribute to a relationship through introductions, insight on industry-related matters or simply noting something in your conversation.  For example, you may meet someone and learn through conversation that they have dogs and are leaving on vacation soon.  You may know a great dog sitter that you can offer. These little things show you are listening and considering their potential needs.

I love my profession.  Business development in the construction arena has afforded me the opportunity to meet some of the most unique people.  I have made great friends and great contacts and it often amazes me to think of the vast realm of knowledge they provide me.  Each of these contacts started with these 10 principles.   I drive past the projects that are the result of these relationships, I am forever thankful for the people I have met and who have supported me.