What does it take for a business development professional to succeed in an environment like ours? The market demand is dynamic, strong, and moves rapidly with so many well-reputed companies providing valuable services and products.
What personal characteristics should employers look for besides raw talent? And how can we seek to continuously hone our gifts and skills?
In my view, there are three fundamental characteristics required for success. These characteristics, by the way, are requisite not only for sales professionals in Internet advertising, but in any related industry:
- Passion. I have had the benefit of working for a start up with no outside financing or preexisting contacts. In order to win the business of major brands spending serious dollars in our media, a sense of hunger is necessary, since companies prefer working with firms that want their business rather than expect it. This excitement shines through and, if focused, is key to making inroads with major clients in establishing a strong reputation for your company. Finally, never forget that persistency is arguably the most important element of this characteristic.
- Expertise. Having a strong knowledge base is important. But always remember that it is flexibility and innovation that enable us to apply that information in unique situations to create value.
To Joe NetSalesman, this means that a week should not go by without your inbox seeing a variety of industry newsletters. (ClickZ, of course. But also Iconocast, IAR, SAR, Digitrends, and the like.) In addition, you mailbox should be stuffed with trade magazines (Industry Standard, Adweek, AdAge, and so on) and general business-oriented publications (like the WSJ, The Economist, and so on).
Make it a point to talk with peers about how they’ve dealt with tough clients and situations, culling a variety of innovative strategies, but be careful not to probe for confidential information. Sales training programs, both customized to your business and industry-wide (like the Laredo Group/Adweek’s “How to Buy & Sell Web Ads,” J.M. Ryan & Assoc. counseling) and trade shows are also a perfect forum for this activity. These venues also provide ample opportunity to promote yourself and your company in ideal settings.
Finally, never (for a second) forget how imperative it is to have a thorough understanding of your products and services, and be prepared to demonstrate how they can be customized to meet the needs of any given prospect.
- Charisma . If you are not genuinely concerned with what is best for the client, prospects will see through you and long-term success is doomed. The same goes for maintaining unwavering confidence in yourself and the product and company that you represent. Being able to establish a rapport with people and knowing how to feel them out, along with general communication skills, almost always characterizes the most successful business person. But realize that simple “likeability” is a hard thing to teach, as is a sense of presence.
Passion, expertise, and charisma are key to building long-lasting, trusting client relationships. Any way you slice it, we find ourselves left with these three pillars if not offshoots of them. And if there’s any I’ve overlooked, please let me know, as I’m not through learning yet!
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