Page published on 28th February 2023
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On 8 February 2023 we broadcast a further Inclusivity Unlocked! webinar, “Rainmaking for Everyone”, which took a fresh look at business development (BD) for 2023. The panellists discussed how they see relationships as the key to BD, not selling. Drawing on their own experiences, they explored a whole range of approaches, suiting different personalities (introverts and extroverts) and working styles. They argued that by being authentic and focussing on what you enjoy, you can find your own ways of doing BD and your own ways of measuring success. As such, BD can be for everyone.
Chair Alan McFarlane, CEO at Keltie, was joined by panellists Bernard Savage, a specialist business development guru from Size 10½ Boots, and Susi Fish, a patent attorney and partner at Boult Wade Tennant. All three are passionate about increasing the diversity of contributions to BD and ensuring that everyone can feel included in a business’s growth strategies.
A recording of the webinar can be accessed here, or read on for our summary of the highlights.
THE POWER OF BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
The way we view BD matters. Many of us feel that “sales” is not something we can do. But building a relationship is more familiar – after all we do this all the time in our personal lives. We may build a relationship by listening, by reciprocity, or by seeking to help someone. We may seek to help different people in different ways, depending on what they need. Maybe if we can’t help someone ourselves, we’ll be able to connect them to someone who can. As we get to know each other, trust develops.
The pandemic has highlighted how relationships can be built in many ways. Whilst some people may be happy networking at a huge conference, for others this is their worst nightmare. Susi talked about how, as an introvert, she used to hate attending conferences. She felt uncomfortable networking in a room full of strangers. Then during the pandemic, she attended an online conference where she met a couple of people she wanted to stay in touch with. She found that connecting on LinkedIn and then setting up 1:1 Zoom calls worked really well for her and the relationships developed. Subsequently, she has chosen to attend in-person conferences specifically to meet these people, which she enjoyed because she was meeting friends. She found her own way.
FINDING LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
As in your personal life, connecting with people can be easier if you have common values or interests, and it is possible to grow your business network in this way. Maybe you’ll choose to focus on an issue tangential to work by joining a community or committee (eg one of the IP Inclusive communities/committees!). Or maybe you have a hobby or other interest which you could share with others. For example:
- Bernard shares his passion for music by posting a weekly playlist, which has had a great level of engagement.
- Susi is on various committees which meet online, some focused on EDI, and she has made many connections in this way. She has worked in small groups on White papers and has even made good friends as a result.
The panellists agreed that having the confidence to show up as yourself is really beneficial, then you can find others out there who share your values and interests. Nowadays, this could be online or in person, eg posting or sharing articles; setting up or joining a group with a particular focus; or organising or attending an event.
Relationships developed around like-mindedness/shared experiences/passions are likely to be more meaningful and growing your professional network in this way is likely to be more enjoyable.
A question was raised around there being a conflict between inclusivity and events based on shared interests. Susi noted that this issue was addressed in relation to the IP Inclusive Women in IP network by inviting “allies” to get involved, thus making the group and its events inclusive to all.
The panellists acknowledged this conflict and also noted the ease and comfort of being in a group of like-minded individuals and the importance of connection in a productive relationship. They also recognised that there are degrees of difference and that if we are prepared to look, then it is possible to find some common interest with almost everyone. Maybe it’s a matter of asking the right questions with an open mind and being curious and open to connections outside your comfort zone.
THE CONFIDENCE TO DO BD IN YOUR OWN WAY
It’s important to remember the diversity within your organisation, client base and professional network. Everyone has different strengths and everyone can contribute to BD and build relationships in their own way.
According to Bernard, the biggest barrier is mindset and what is needed is confidence. If we can give people the confidence to be themselves, this opens up the pathway for an authentic approach to BD based on genuine interests. Post-pandemic there is a degree of honesty and openness that wasn’t there before and it’s worth bearing in mind that no one needs to connect with everyone they meet.
Part of this is acknowledging that BD will look different for everyone. We need to give people the confidence to acknowledge when something isn’t right for them, and give them permission to say so and to look for an alternative that is right. Maybe one person feels terrified at the thought of speaking at a conference, but would be happy to attend a round-table event. Perhaps another person feels awkward using LinkedIn, but excels at writing bulletins that can be shared by others. This allows people to develop and play to their strengths.
Helping people to recognise their strengths is very important in building confidence. Taking away the “should” gives permission to say no and allows them to seek out the “could”.
Success can be measured in many ways and looks different to different people. And it depends on whether you’re looking at personal success, or success for the organisation.
On one level it might be about metrics, but you need to work back from the billing figures and think about all the small steps that come first. It’s so much more than profit and collecting business cards and LinkedIn connections. Just like in a personal relationship, it’s the small things that count and being kind to someone or doing them a favour develops the relationship and builds trust. So, on this level it’s about human relationships. Deepening a relationship or making a friend is a success.
Susi explained how defining her own measure of success was a game changer for her. Now she sets herself targets which might range from deepening a relationship to meeting someone new to connecting two people whom she believes will be able to help each other.
Bernard also reminded us that a “no” can be seen as an opportunity, rather than a failure. He recalled how a pitch that went wrong taught him the importance of seeing things from the client’s perspective and always considering what they are wanting/needing. Using what you learn from your failures to inform what you do in the future is invaluable.
There was a question around how success was traditionally seen as acquiring a new client and measured in terms of profit. But are there now other, more generous ways of defining success and are these valued by senior people?
Alan’s view was that some firms are certainly turning away from clients being “owned” by fee earners and success being defined by billing figures, etc. Susi agreed that attitudes are starting to change.
Bernard explained how this touches on so many issues – culture, performance management, appraisal systems – and could be the subject of a whole other discussion!
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