Business Development in 6 Simple Steps

business developmentBusiness Development is all about bringing on new business. Sometimes as you add new business, you also find you need to expand your business offerings, or develop new solutions. That’s where the name comes from.

To earn new business, you have to have a plan, but not a script. (In some cases, your pitch may need some language you use verbatim in every sale. If you have disclosures, they are usually mandated to include certain language.) Strong outlines and agendas for business development calls are very effective. You need to understand the need and the client, and that only happens from questioning and listening.

What follows are skills and dynamics to include in your outlines and agendas. Stay in control of the conversation to hit your agenda points, and use these tools to educate, excite, and close your prospect. The goal is to present your product in the context of your prospect’s business or life.


A feature of a product is something positive and observable or concrete. It will include something that sets your product apart, like “leather seats” or “lightweight.”


The way in which the customer’s situation is improved by the product. “Added comfort” or “time-saving” are benefits. They define experiences, not something concrete.

Differential Advantage

The differential advantage is the reason your product is the right choice for your customer, as opposed to other alternatives. Ex: When it comes to rain gear, most of us would like to stay dry, with style and durability for our money. When we’re at Niagara Falls and getting hit with spray from the falls, the flimsy little plastic pullovers at the merchandise stands have the differential advantages of being on site, and inexpensive.

Discovery questions

To fully understand what products and services your client needs, you need to learn about their pain. You need to ask questions. What isn’t working? Why doesn’t it work? How does that affect their business? These questions are all about establishing the specific needs of your customer, and bringing those needs to the front of your mind and theirs. Make notes of the answers. Probing questions should be a major part of every sales call you ever make. Finding a way to discuss what your client finds to be a problem and then keeping them talking about it is the bread and butter of daily sales work. It tells you what to sell them. Depending on your product or service, you may want to set a minimum number of probing questions for each interaction. I always aim for at least three, even on a grip and grin visit, and there is no upper limit.

business developmentFocus on the problem/solution equation

Every product or service represents a solution to a want or a need. Focus less on your product, and more on the needs of the prospect. The right probing questions will lead to a sense of urgency on the buyer’s part. Encourage them to discuss how the solution will be implemented. The answer to any of the following questions can lead you to a solution-implementation conversation. What specific problems has the unmet need caused? How it will affect their life or business the longer their need goes unmet? Does this need arise often? How long has it been unmet already? How would it be if the need were met today?


What are your prospect’s goals? Business development is about achieving the prospect’s goals. It doesn’t matter if they seem to relate directly to your product at this point! Understanding what the prospect is working toward will give you more context for how they will make buying decisions. (If your prospect plans to sell their business within 5 years, and your solution will take 8 years to pay for itself, you may not want to emphasize the short term return on investment in your conversation.) Immediate, short term, and long term goals all matter to your current

conversation. Of equal importance, they matter to your follow-up visits. Even if your prospect doesn’t buy today, you’ll have a relevant subject to discuss next time you talk – how’s that goal coming along? Remembering their goals (make notes!) and taking an interest makes you an ally, not just a supplier.

These steps will close more new business.  Incidentally, they’ll also close more repeat business.  Commit to your agenda before you set foot in the door. Ask your questions, and present your product or service in the context of the client’s world.  Help them see how buying from you helps them meet their goals.  You’ll build your client base, and have more loyal customers.