Unsuccessful business development practices are no laughing matter, but they do remind me of a joke. A preacher in an urban church announced that a hymn would be played by a piccolo player. As the preacher sat down, the piccolo player confessed that he could not play that song. The preacher then announced that the piccolo player would play another hymn. And, the piccolo player said he could not play that hymn either. After this give and take continued two more times, someone from the congregation anonymously yelled “The piccolo player is a &!#%”. Immediately, the preacher threatened and interrogated the congregation to identify who yelled the insult. Eventually, one parishioner raised his hand. After gently explaining that he was not the man who insulted the piccolo player, he loudly raised the question: “Who called that &!#% a piccolo player!!? This routine was a mainstay of the late Robin Harris, a brilliantly raunchy comedian.
Similarly, business leaders raise an incredible raucous about their business development results. And, they are asking the wrong question!
The Wrong Questions – Why aren’t we making more money? Why aren’t we more profitable? Why aren’t we creating better value? These are reasonable questions. They sound intelligent. But, they are the wrong questions. They address immediate problems. The lack of revenue, profits, or customer perception is not based on a lost deal, or poor performance. Pricing strategies can resolve these issues. Hiring and firing a sales force may salvage the following quarter. Nevertheless, the problem’s root remains.
Good Questions – How do we provide great service so that we are rewarded with revenue? How do we deliver a superior quality product so that we earn more money for the work that we do? These are good questions. They specifically address service and quality that are crucial to successful business development efforts. Nevertheless, the provider focuses only on efforts resulting in hitting targets. The leader remains inwardly focused.
Better Questions – What compelling advice and insight can we additionally provide? What difference are we making in the eyes of customers so they make more money? This is a better question. The value is starting to shift toward the customer. Furthermore, the provider seeks understanding about the unique benefit that the customer acquires. By correctly answering these questions, the provider can adjust their offering based on better understanding the customer’s needs. These changes can result in more customer profits.
The Right Question – To create value for us and the customer, how do we better monetize what our business does extremely well? This is the right question. The focus is on the customer and their willingness to pay a premium for what the provider sells. A key element is to provide a solution that the customer cannot easily, or cheaply find elsewhere. The solution may be the product, or the way the provider delivers the product, or the product accompanied by superior service.
Successful business development relies on identifying customers who cannot find a substitute for the provider’s solution to a specific problem. This solution, once presented, satisfies the customer’s business needs, as well as the decision-maker’s individual needs. Equally important, the solution incorporates the provider’s unique strengths. Besides the monetary benefit to the provider, the solution must be relatively easy to deliver. Profitable growth requires both buyer and seller consistently meeting each other’s needs. The provider who fails to meet that expectation is the equivalent of a piccolo player unable to perform in front of an angry church.
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond