From our experience working with Business Development Professionals, two challenges consistently arise. First, it is extremely difficult to change the behavior and thinking of traditional sales people who are typically product-oriented and who push-sell based on the features, benefits and pricing of their product. It is true that any system will work as long as you have one. That system of continually pushing the value and service of the product, although inefficient and ineffective, will generate a certain amount of business. However, it will almost always put the individual representing the product in an adversarial role. Helping a person to recognize the limitations of that system, changing the thinking that drives it and elevating them to the higher level of Business Development has a low probability of success and is a painfully difficult process.
Secondly, individuals who are by nature problem solvers— introspective, somewhat introverted, interested in asking questions and learning, empathetic and able to understand a problem from another person’s perspective—make much better candidates for developing into Business Development Professionals. What sets them apart is their desire to understand the nature and scope of the problem, its ramifications to both the individual and the purchasing organization and being externally focused in helping to find a solution to the problem—whether or not the prospect purchases it from them. This type of individual engenders a more open relationship with strengthened trust and a superior exchange of information, resulting in a longer lasting professional business relationship.
In the modern world of service-oriented, technical services companies, a technical engineering specialist who has backed into the role of Business Development provides a much better candidate for success, is a more reflective student, and is more inclined to learn both the thinking and process of professional Business Development than a traditional salesperson.
It is much easier to discover a diamond in the rough and to mentor and coach this individual rather than to try to retrain traditional sales thinking and process.