Key Business Development Principles with Andrew Robertson and Mo Bunnell

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By Mo Bunnell

Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO Worldwide, shares the key principles of business development success that every subject matter expert can immediately apply to their career. Learn how to ensure every business relationship is a triple win, the one BD strategy that will change the way you think about who to build relationships with, and why discipline is the most important factor in your ultimate success and why it’s a skill that everyone can master.

 

Mo asks Andrew Robertson: When did you first realize that business development or relationship development was a good thing?

  • The first time Andrew realized business development was fundamentally about discipline was while working as a barman in Maidenhead where he learned how to connect with people and build rapport very quickly. It was there he met an insurance broker that offered him a job.
  • As a student working in the evenings, Andrew learned that if he made 100 phone calls on Monday night he could line up 10 meetings for the rest of the week, which would usually result in 3 sales.
  • He started experimenting with the approach he was taught and learned two important lessons very quickly. The method he was taught was tried and tested, and if he didn’t do the work of making the calls, he didn’t get the results he needed. No one else was going to make those calls if he didn’t do it.
  • He wasn’t in the relationship-building business yet, that came later. Andrew learned the importance of discipline and trusting the process.
  • The idea that people are born with the habits that make them successful is incorrect. Discipline can be learned like any area of expertise.
  • The most important thing is to get a meeting, not to have everything prepared. Don’t get ahead of yourself. If you focus on the delivery first, you’ll never set the meeting in the first place.
  • You need to pick up the phone and offer them something valuable and interesting as quickly as you can. That’s how you earn the time to develop a relationship afterward.
  • Pulling insights from other proposals and using them to intrigue other prospects enough to get a meeting is a good example of an offer that gets people interested.
  • You don’t always have to go straight to the ultimate decision maker. Getting a meeting with a mid-level manager can be a great opportunity too. Every meeting is useful in learning more about the company or the industry.

 

Mo asks Andrew Robertson: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Business development at its best is win/win/win. Your business wins, the client wins, and thirdly, the client is winning so much that they become your best business development ambassador.
  • Raving fans turn into your own personal sales force.
  • Focusing on the win for the client secures the win for the business. If your client wins enough, they become predisposed to become a raving fan, but you still have to ask for it.
  • Do something for them that gets them something of value and gets you even more. Don’t assume it will happen automatically.
  • First, recognize that the person you are working with is a person and not just a job title. They have interests and frustrations, and when you understand that there is something you can engage with together.
  • Dinner is a great opportunity to connect with someone outside of the confines and constraints of the work. You can also find a time to accompany them on another aspect of their work and learn more about what they do and what they care about in a way that’s not structured like a meeting.
  • The best conversations you can have with a client are the ones where you do 20% of the talking. Figure out questions to act as a stimulus and get them talking.
  • There is value and benefit for people in just having the opportunity to talk.

 

Mo asks Andrew Robertson: What is your favorite science, step, or story from the GrowBIG Training or Snowball System?

  • Writing down the seven relationships that are the most important to growing the business was a technique that changed the way Andrew thought about business development.
  • Andrew has a lot of great relationships with CEOs in various other businesses, but a lot of them didn’t start out at the top. Those relationships were nurtured over time with people that moved up in their organizations or moved around in their industry.
  • Think about how you got into your position and where people are right now that you can connect with.
  • When asked to list our most important relationships, we tend to think of our best current relationships by default, but that’s the wrong approach. We should think about the relationships that will have the most impact on our business first.
  • The number seven forces you to make choices and really identify those relationships that will move the needle.
  • Your list should contain people you have a relationship with, people you don’t know but would like to have a relationship with, and the people you need to have a relationship with who won’t necessarily send you business directly but can help you find it elsewhere.
  • You only have a limited amount of time, so you need to be clear on your priorities, not just around what you do but who the most important people are.
  • Create a shortlist and give yourself a short timeframe to connect and advance the relationship with those people. If someone is not going to make an impact, it’s better to figure that out in three months rather than three years.
  • Be thoughtful. Sit on the other side of the desk and empathize with the person you’re trying to build a relationship with.

 

Mo asks Andrew Robertson: Tell me a business development story that you're particularly proud of.

  • Andrew tells the story of a client in London that BBDO had been working with for 20 years and how they lost most of that client’s work after delivering a terrible piece starring John Cleese.
  • Instead of bailing on the client completely, Andrew and the team decided to stick with the unglamorous work that remained and deliver excellent results for the client, knowing that eventually, the rival company that won their former work would stumble.
  • By sticking with the client, they had the opportunity three years later to offer a new brand campaign, which was informed by the fact that they were still involved in the business and understood their needs.
  • Andrew signed Jamie Oliver, who wasn’t quite famous yet, after scouring London on Easter weekend physically to find him, and landed the business again.
  • Andrew learned three key lessons from the experience: be gracious on the way out, treat a rejection as a “not for now,” not a never, and the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
  • Even when you get fired, those relationships are still valuable and worth keeping alive.
  • We show our true selves much more in defeat than in easy victories. How you behave during the bad times says much more about your character than when things are good.
  • People are human, and it’s always hard to fire someone you’ve built a relationship with. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be, and keep adding value to the relationship after the fact. How you behave afterward will be remembered.
  • Even if you don’t win a project, that’s an opportunity to ask for feedback and give the prospect the opportunity to stay in touch. One loss is not the end, it’s the beginning of the next potential project.

 

Mo asks Andrew Robertson: If you could wave a magic wand and record a video around business development and send it back to your younger self, what would it say?

  • There is very little in business that is as satisfying as business and relationship development. Landing a client and then getting them big wins is fulfilling and it’s a wonderful thing to be good at.
  • Define victory as a series of steps, instead of an end result. This makes the journey rewarding and not just about the destination.
  • If you can take the first step, which is the hardest, everything else gets easier.
  • Start with the end goal in mind, and then break it down into the fundamental steps you need to make each day to achieve that goal, then celebrate when you take those steps. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes it much more likely.
  • You can’t control whether a client will say yes, but you can control whether or not you ask them in the first place.

 

 

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