15 Essential Skills Every Modern Biz Dev Leader Should Hone

Expert Panel, Forbes Business Development Council March 11, 2021

Business development professionals are key players in driving a company’s growth and value over time. Leaders in this sector must also take on additional duties, including leading projects and managing teams.

With these essential responsibilities, it’s important for biz dev leaders to hone the skills necessary for success—especially in an ever-evolving business landscape. Below, the members of Forbes Business Development Council share 15 vital skills that biz dev leaders should hone and why.

1. Self-Awareness

If you are not aware of your own strengths and flaws, it is almost impossible to really understand your employees or clients. This is more important than ever as the opportunity to connect in person is limited. It also makes you more aware and empathetic towards other people’s motivations. – Nicholas Constantino680 The Fan and The Atlanta Braves Radio Network

2. Active Networking

Without hesitation, I can say that actively networking with new and current contacts is necessary. I believe that biz dev leadership should set aside time each week that is solely dedicated to engaging new contacts and reconnecting with existing customers. For example, look through your current LI connections, find key people whom you have not had a one-to-one discussion with and deepen that connection. – Kirk BarnesTransPharMed

3. Listening

Biz dev leaders should be listening to their team, their vendor partners and their customers. Listening will allow them to understand the needs versus the wants. This will keep them in touch with where the markets are trending, where customers are focusing and where their teams need to address and solve core issues. Those needs will drive new business and help grow their individual business as well as the companies. – Angie BarnesNAVCO

4. Engaging Audiences Through Video

Today’s business development leaders must be skilled at using and engaging audiences through video, whether it be Zoom, MS Teams, YouTube Live, etc. The business development leader who connects with others through video regularly and always offers value will be actively sought out as a thought leader and trusted advisor; leading to increased sales. – Nathan IvesDataGlance, Inc.

5. Virtual Engagement

Perhaps obvious, I believe the No. 1 skill leaders need to practice and master is virtual engagement. Whether working internally or externally, the world is different now. Face-to-face engagement levels will never be the same. We’ve all learned how efficient virtual activity can be, so now it’s time to master the technological tools, content and messaging to differentiate ourselves. – Michael BouchardDomino Amjet, Inc.

6. Knowing When To Walk Away

Biz dev leaders should know when to walk away from a deal. Too often the clear benefits of a partnership or engagement, or even its potential conflicts, are poorly understood. This results in wasted time and resources as teams try to support biz dev leaders who haven’t done their piece. These skills are even more important today because opportunities for partnerships have exploded. – Vijay SundaramZoho Corporation

7. Radical Adaptability

Long-term planning is key to setting the direction you want to lead your team in, but being agile and willing to change direction when circumstances change can help you achieve your goals with less struggle. Have a plan B (or more) that you can implement when the situation changes dynamically and be ready to use that shift to your advantage. – Anna JankowskaRTB House

8. Empathy

As biz dev professionals, especially in our current environment, we need to offer customers our deepest listening, greatest flexibility and innovative collaboration skills to meet their needs. To be honest, we need this skill honed and deployed with one another as well as with our customers. – Melanie HicksInPursuit Research

9. Maintaining Human Connections

With teams working from home, it’s important to maintain a human connection. When face-to-face meetings aren’t an option and email updates seem impersonal, business leaders need to figure out new ways to stay connected to their teams. Adopting asynchronous video is one way to share news and updates while allowing a team to interact on their own schedule, resulting in greater team engagement. – George DonovanAllego

10. The Ability To Coach

A key skill that biz dev leaders need to constantly study, practice and improve is the ability to coach. It’s important to get to know individual personalities, goals and improvement areas on your team—and have a plan that matches. The same approach won’t work for everyone on your team. This is especially important with more work being done remotely. – Chris JohnsonGorilla Logic

11. Honing And Communicating Business Outcomes

Faced with uncertainty, buyers have enacted additional reviews and exec scrutiny on most purchases. A Rain Group report indicated that 66% of buyers say making a clear ROI case highly influences their purchase decisions, but only 16% of sellers are effective at this. Sellers must hone their business outcome focus, communication skills and the ability to quantify business value with every opportunity. – Tom PiselloMediafly

12. Virtual Selling

Business development leaders need to learn to sell virtually. Most biz dev professionals are great at face-to-face networking events or sales presentations, but many have little to no experience selling using video and the phone as a primary means. It is a different skill set but one that can be learned. The question is how many people are making the effort to evolve? – Vincent BurruanoJK Moving Services

13. Authenticity

Finding true and authentic voices in today’s landscape is rare and inspiring. We consume fake celebrities on rented yachts pretending to have beliefs they think will make them popular. Authentic voices stand out and separate leaders from the pack. Your team is hungry to follow a true North as you set it. Those that don’t like your direction will weed themselves out. – Chris YountIndependent Board Advisor

14. Driving Innovation

Business leaders should hone the skill of driving innovation. In today’s world, innovation is a must for the survival of anyone. Innovation doesn’t come by chance. It has to be systematically developed for the self and for the organization. As a leader one must ensure a culture of innovation, look for new ideas from everywhere and be highly aware of new things and new ways of doing things. – Shyam KumarAST LLC

15. Being A ‘People Person’

Personal relationships and building them are more critical now than ever due to the current pandemic. Finding ways to give a personal touch and construct positive communications between you and potential customers is difficult. By being creative and finding a way to bridge the gap, you will ultimately find success. – David StrausserVision33

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