Five ways to take a whole-of-business approach to development – Part 1

The purpose of business development is to build value that customers can buy, whereas the purpose of sales and marketing is to go out and sell value.

HR directors can play an integral role in building the capability and confidence of their people to contribute to the organisation’s most pressing business goals; winning, serving and retaining important contracts and customers. Within your business, there are probably three different kinds of work that your people could be doing.

Best of all is engaging work: work they love and want more of. This is the kind of work that builds careers and reputations, and that people switch employers to get more of.

Routine work is the good, solid work that comes to easily to your business, pays the wages bills and keeps the lights on. People don’t usually mind doing this kind of work, provided that it keeps them gainfully employed and their skills up-to-date. And then there’s marginal and painful work, which has become dull or uninteresting over time, is unprofitable, or difficult to deliver. This is the kind of work that has your people complaining, calling in sick, refusing to work on, or at worst, resigning from your business to avoid.

To attract and retain the best talent, and to be an employer of choice, you will need to be known in the market as an organisation that offers many opportunities for people to do engaging work. However, your ability to do this is highly dependent on the kind of work that customers contract your business to do. And this, in turn, is dependent on the effectiveness of your business development effort.

Let’s start by defining what business development actually is. Business development is not “sales” – or even marketing. Somewhere along the line, though, the terms have become interchangeable. The purpose of business development is to build value that customers can buy, whereas the purpose of sales and marketing is to go out and sell value, once it has been created.

The most successful businesses are those where everyone in the business understands the role that they play in creating value for a customer.

This includes the frontline staff who deliver the work and who interact with customers every day; the managers who support those people in their role; and the senior leaders who free up staff to pursue value creation projects and to pilot new programs.

The best new business ideas often come from the coal-face of service delivery.

Recently, I ran a Contract Leadership Program with a human services organisation. Their frontline managers include tertiary-qualified social workers, counselors and psychologists. Working together, we had already doubled the organisation’s revenue by bringing in new government contracts from Justice and Health, both markets where the organisation had aspirations to grow. The program was designed to help the front-line managers to identify opportunities for improvement and growth within the existing funded programs they manage. A total of 16 managers participated, and it’s fair to say that in the beginning, many struggled with embracing business development as part of their role. By the end of the program, though, things had changed. Everyone had come up with new ideas to grow the business by bringing continual improvement, best practice and innovation to their customers. One manager was so enthused by this prospect that she approached her main contact in a Victorian government department immediately with an idea for a new program. She walked out of that meeting with a commitment to $900,000 in additional funding.

Next week we will discuss the challenges of business development, and how you can contribute to long-term business development success of your company.

Robyn Haydon,, author of “Value: How to talk about what you do so customers want to buy it”

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