By: Kelly Darby, Marketing and Business Development Director at Warner Summers
At the 2018 Southeast Regional Conference of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), I had the pleasure of listening to five professionals in the commercial real estate industry discuss a topic rarely brought up in public settings— business development. The five speakers were as follows:
- Malory Atkinson of Shear Structural,
- Jason Haner of Leapley Construction,
- Dana McClure of Warner Summers,
- Shannon Price of Savills Studley and
- Janice Wittschiebe of Stevens & Wilkinson
These five professionals were featured as high-level leaders from different aspects of the industry coming together to give their particular viewpoints on what works (and what doesn’t!) in business development. I found their collective take on the subject refreshing and lively, but most importantly, what they discussed began to form a list of key takeaways.
The first few takeaways focus on networking situations, and the last few focus on one-on-one relationships, as follows:
- Listen. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Ask questions to get to know someone. Maybe even have a list of go-to questions available to fall back on in case of a lull in the conversation.
- Be authentic and comfortable. People can sense when you’re not quite being yourself. So, in situations where you know you might feel out of place, make sure you are comfortable. For some people this means wearing clothes they feel confident in, for others it might mean loosening up on their southern accent (Who cares?! We’re in the south!). Sometimes it might mean just adopting an outlook that is more accepting and positive.
- Follow-up. Always, always, always follow-up. How can you help your potential business connection? How can you let your connection know that you’ve been thinking about them? Follow-up is the test of making your actions match your words.
- Work hand-in-hand with marketing. Sales goes hand-in-hand with marketing. Work with your marketers to strengthen messaging, brand, and core values. Many marketers specialize in one or more areas: writing extremely well, making cool graphics, knowing the latest tech, or strategic targeting. Take advantage of their talents and let them shine.
- Weird things happen to everyone. Don’t let it shake you. Some of the conversation during the panel discussion focused on “weirdest thing that’s ever happened.” One of the panelists was in a meeting that turned into a political protest, another found herself in a situation where she had to convince her senior partner to do something that was WAY off-script in order to save the deal, yet another found herself driving up to an interview for a job when she thought she had the job already. In every instance, these professionals kept their calm. I’d argue that this ability might be what separates good business developers from GREAT business developers.
- There are pros and cons with the seller-doer model. The obvious pro with a seller-doer model is that the client is talking directly to the person who will be executing the project. The con is that all too often seller-doers can get in the weeds with unnecessary details. In order to succeed, those who are seller-doers should be able to succinctly answer questions from their client’s perspective. Those who are NOT seller-doers should focus on their strengths to bring people together and knowing which person can answer a question on a particular subject.
- Karma is very real in business and especially in the “big small town” of Atlanta. Challenge yourself to always stay on the positive side of karma. If your firm isn’t the right fit for a project, then recommend another firm that is the right fit. Do good where you can do good and be honest when you fall short.
By fusing powerful messages with unique graphics, Kelly strengthens and brings brands to life through great design. She works with clients to help showcase their strengths and strategically positions them to make the most of a given opportunity.
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