Business Development Isn't Sexy


It is a well know fact I love champagne.* 

But is it nature or nurture that has bought about this love?

It could be the by-product of my food and wine loving family (if you’d want to know more about the amazing work my brother does for Singapore Airlines, follow him here), and is therefore nature?

Or is it nurture?  A product of my job, whereby I get to swan around events ‘doing business development’ closing huge deals with people I happen to bump into as I hold my champagne flute in one hand, signing contracts in the other?

Um, no.

Often when people think of business development, this is the exact visual they have.  Business breakfasts, boardroom lunches, dinners, cocktail receptions and industry events.  Small talk, elevator pitches, pressing the flesh, doing the circuit.  And on and on. 

The reality is business development is not glamourous or sexy.  It is not champagne (or beer or wine) driven.  Although I do know one very successful case study of a muffin driven business development strategy - I digress!

Business development is all about strategy.  Assuming you have already followed the sage advice of David C. Baker on positioning and know the business you are in, you need to design your growth strategy based on the evidence.  It is only then you will be able to:

1.     Identify the right type of clients;

2.     Convert those who are committed to a minimum level of financial engagement; and

3.     Strengthen existing relationships, delivering value generated through expertise.

Or in the immortal words of the amazing Professor Lynda Applegate from Harvard Business School:

1.     Set the direction

2.     Execute

3.     Deliver results

Easy huh?  Absolutely if you are disciplined, courageous and have the ability to execute. As Lynda would say a ‘mediocre strategy with outstanding execution will trump an outstanding strategy with mediocre execution every time’!

Leadership is key here.  Without the commitment of the executive, who in turn empower and support their team, you might as well head over to the bar and hope you bump into someone who may just whip out a big contract for you to sign…You won’t see me there though (especially not this July*). 

I like to drink champagne to celebrate the successful execution of growth strategy, having enabled our clients long term strategic growth, having taken them to their organization to the next level increasing their profit and revenue – now that is sexy!

*I still love champagne.  But not in July.  Like 1000’s of Australians I am supporting the Dry July team and attempting to raise money for those suffering from cancer, the carers both in our health system and those who tirelessly volunteer in our community, and at the final stages through the provision of palliative care.  So if you feel like making a small donation please visit my personal page here.

Ceinwen McNeil is the founder and managing director of First Follower, an international strategy consulting firm which designs and executes growth strategies for professional services. Drawing on over twenty years of business development and client management experience in both the public and private sectors, she founded First Follower to enable businesses to successfully navigate step growth change.  Ceinwen’s direct approach, commercial acumen and exemplary stakeholder engagement skills make her a highly sought-after adviser. Visit for more information.

Ceinwen McNeil