saleswoman helping customer
From keen negotiating skills to the abilities to listen and foster trust, there are several key personality traits that business owners should hone when focusing on biz dev. — Getty Images/kali9

Every business needs new customers to keep growing. That's why business development is so important: The relationships and value you build through "biz dev" activities like networking and collaborating are what ultimately lead to sales conversations with prospects.

So what business development skills do you need to truly make a difference for your organization? According to small business leaders and marketers, you should focus on improving these traits to generate more leads and build stronger customer relationships.


Negotiation is at the heart of any business deal. Through excellent negotiating, you're able to get better outcomes for both parties through effective communication, said Lewis Goldstein, president of Blue Wind Marketing.

"Learning to master negotiation will make a major difference in your business development," Goldstein added.


Sean Walsh, founder and CEO of Walcraft Cabinetry, says it's important not to let your ego get in the way of doing what's best for the other person, whether it's a customer or an employee.

"Ego says, 'I am right,' even when we are wrong. Humility says, 'I am not sure on that one, let me find someone who is,'" said Walsh. "One response turns people away, the other draws them in."


Despite the desire to get "repeatable" sales results, business development is rarely a cookie-cutter experience, said Alexander Kehoe, co-founder and operations director at Caveni Digital Solutions.

"A development plan will rarely survive in its original form as new insights show up," Kehoe told CO—. "A really great [biz dev professional] can adapt on the fly and adjust their results as needed."

[Read: How to Create a ‘Biz Dev’ Strategy to Grow Your Business]


Cold calling and mass-emailing prospects is easy. What's harder is achieving genuine follow-up.

Stephanie Pouse, managing partner of The Brahma Group, Inc., says you shouldn't just send an email once per month that asks if someone is ready to buy. Instead, check in regularly to see how your prospects are doing. Ask questions like, "How did you do in the race you mentioned during our meeting?" or "How did your daughter's 6th birthday party go?"

"Those who ... approach opportunities with personal connection in mind, tend to have the most impact," Pouse added.

Trust grows when you start by truly working to solve their problems, instead of leading with a sales pitch.

Vito Santoro, co-founder, Vaetas, LLC


According to Christina Robinson, marketing and communications manager at xAmplify, there is no greater ammunition in a biz dev arsenal than relationship-building.

"[Developing] a business that is thriving and scalable ... requires strategic partnerships, which are built on a strong foundation of relationships," Robinson said. "Focus on building new relationships while nurturing and strengthening existing [ones]."


Taking the time to truly listen to clients and employees is an integral piece of running a successful business, said David Reiling, CEO of Sunrise Banks.

"Listen to understand," he said. "During my early days at Sunrise Banks, I would [ask] each client who came through ... 'What’s working for you? What isn’t? What do your financial needs look like?' Through these conversations, I learned that the most important thing to customers was convenience and ease of use. I learned that [business] requires you to meet clients where they are, not the other way around."

[Read: 3 Ways to Use Business Development for Growth]

Building trust

People buy with their hearts and how they feel — not with their minds, said Vito Santoro, co-founder of Vaetas, LLC. That's why biz dev professionals must be able to communicate with customers in a way that builds trust.

"Trust grows when you start by truly working to solve their problems, instead of leading with a sales pitch," Santoro explained. "If you talk more than you listen, people may not view you as being sincere."


Ben Green, president of Purple Ribbon Seeds, believes good business developers must be able to effectively communicate the company's story — and transfer their energy and emotion to the prospect in the process.

"This year, we have landed three new sales channels ... that will bring in an additional $9 million to $10 million in sales revenue," said Green. "Being able to effectively communicate the story, energy and vision were the key."

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CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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