Guest Commentary: Business Development or Trust Development?

by Robyn Poe 

When I began my career in business development a number of years ago, I wondered, “What will it take for me to successfully engage senior-level supply chain executives in meaningful conversation, or for that matter, have them return my call or reply to one of my emails?” I started doing some research and came across a well-known sales strategist who provided insight that simply made sense to me. Jill Konrath is a sought-after public speaker and accomplished author of two bestsellers, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. Fortune magazine named the latter one of eight “must reads” for sellers, along with How to Win Friends & Influence People, The New Strategic Selling and Getting to Yes. It has also been an Amazon Top 25 sales book since 2006.

After reading her books and attending various webinars, I learned very quickly that a successful business development professional MUST pay the price of admission to gain the attention of the busy prospect they are calling. Simply stated, you must invest time learning about the prospect’s business before initiating contact. Failure to do this homework will get your voice mail or email deleted, and even worse, get you hung up on!

The next big takeaway for me was that I needed to become an educator. In other words, I couldn’t just look for a project to work on with a prospect; I needed to provide insightful and useful information that prospects would truly benefit from. I discovered that if I shared the business benefits of industry best practices in the form of white papers, articles, reports and customer success stories, I would build real trust and rapport with a prospective client. Working hard to position myself as a thought leader and industry expert went a long way in establishing credibility in the eyes of prospects.

Finally, I’ve learned that the buying process is ultimately an emotional one. The emotion that impacts the buyer is fear, whether it’s fear of losing professional credibility, money for the company, or a job. There is both organizational and personal risk in the decision to hire a firm. And the only way to overcome that fear is to build trust with prospects.

Turns out making a sale isn’t that far removed from the lessons we learned in elementary school when we made new friends: Be nice, share, and build trust by being supportive.

Robyn Poe  is Director, Business Development with MHI Member FORTE