Don't Make These Business Development Mistakes

By: Michelle Davidson

Learn how to improve your business development in John Doerr'swebinar What It REALLY Takes to Become a RainmakerLearn how to become one of the business development elite in John Doerr's on-demand webinar What It REALLY Takes to Become a Rainmaker

Whether you've just started your own firm or you've been asked to start bringing in new business, business development can be a daunting endeavor that puts you through your paces. You can find yourself wondering, "How do I even start?" Or if you've tried and failed, you could be asking, "What did I do wrong?"

According to John Doerr, President of RAIN Group, people new to doing business development struggle because they're not used to talking to people who don't know about them. They don't know how to approach them, initiate conversations, engage them, or raise their interest.

"They stumble in terms of representing their value to those new prospects," Doerr said in a recent interview on "They haven't really taken the time to think about the value they bring."


You can listen to the full interview here:


In fact, Doerr says there are four mistakes professionals make when getting started with business development:

1. Talking About Your Services Rather Than the Value You Bring Your focus should be on the prospect and how you can help them. Ask questions that uncover the prospect's challenges and aspirations and demonstrate your insights. When you discuss their problem in depth, you can move the sale forward. Stay away from listing your services, methodology, and approach. They can get that from your website.

2. Lacking Confidence Prospects are looking for solutions to their problems. They want to be told how to make their worlds better. If you can demonstrate confidence in your services and clearly articulate the value you bring, they will buy from you. Fail to do that, and buyers will hesitate.

"As they struggle to tell someone about what they can do for them, it clearly comes across that they're really not confident about that," Doerr says. "Now, it's interesting. We're talking about very confident people when they deliver their projects-when they do their work-but when it comes to actually talking about how they provide value before that happens, they get in their own way. They really have to make sure they take time to get that straight."

3. Thinking Sales Is a Bad Thing Often service professionals think they're going to come across as a creepy salesperson-picture the cliché used car salesman. They think it's bad to sell, and as they speak they start to feel self-conscious-that they really are that smarmy salesperson.

Yes, there are some rotten apples out there, but don't let them spoil things for you. If you are genuine, focus on your prospects' needs, and articulate your value, you will in no way resemble those people.

4. Believing Initial Conversations Will Immediately Result in Sales Business development, particularly in B2B professional services, takes time. You have to develop relationships with your buyers and build up trust. That will not happen after a first meeting at a networking event. You have to develop a plan to nurture that relationship.

"What they have to realize is that when they're in those modes of networking or meeting new people, they should spend as much time or more finding out if there's a need, even in that brief conversation," Doerr says. "It's really about marketing first and then getting into a longer conversation down the road."

When service professionals fail at business development, it's usually because they're thinking, "Well, I don't like selling. I'm not confident about it. I don't know what my value is. But I'm going to try to sell right away." Those all add up to disaster for trying to attract clients.

More Business Development Advice

Key factors-some plain to see and some hidden deep beneath the surface-separate the rainmakers-the elite in business development-from the rest of the pack. Learn what they are and how you can apply them to your efforts in John Doerr's on-demand webinar What It Really Takes to Become a Rainmaker. In this event, Doerr explains the four crucial elements that propel rainmakers, how to generate initial conversations, how to move prospects toward the close, and more.


Michelle Davidson is Editor of RainToday. As such, she oversees all of the articles published on the website and publishes the weekly newsletter, the Rainmaker Report. She also produces the site's weekly podcast series, RainToday's Sales Tips & Techniques Podcast, and the site's webinars. You may contact her via email at and via Twitter at @michedav.

B2B sales