A Rough Guide to Feeling Less Rough (from the demands of business development)

Talking to people can be exhausting, especially when combined with travel, late nights and the pressure of making good impressions. If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me “Don’t you get exhausted from being around people all day?” my job would be done here. However, creating a successful business development strategy is a little more complicated than that. So I thought I’d share some of my secrets with you on how I (try) to keep up with the pace and avoid the alleged drain of it all.

To get things started, I’ll share my biggest and possibly most important discovery thus far:

Tip 1: Don’t be a people pleaser

This one goes out to you polite British readers. Although it may seem like a good idea at the time, (or an easy solution to avoiding any awkwardness) I assure you, it’s just not sustainable to act like someone you’re not—so save it. Not only that, but it makes for boring, insincere conversation. People appreciate authenticity (and are more likely to remember it). This is especially important when you are meeting someone for the first time (if you need some tips on talking to strangers then look no further).

It’s okay to admit things you don’t know or politely disagree with someone about something. After all, it’s often more about how you deliver information than what you say. “I may not know the answer to this but I can get you the answer” or “I know you think x but I actually think y is better, and this is why…” are completely acceptable—as long as your point is respectful and hints towards a solution instead of adding problems. You don’t need to be a lap dog to have a productive meeting.

Pleasing people may win a battle or two, but it won’t win a war. As business development is a long game, it’s not worth exhausting yourself by being insincere.

Tip 2: Focus on winning the right kind of work, with people you like, on projects that interest you

Although this may seem obvious, it can be difficult to achieve. But if done correctly, it can create the perfect matrimony of mixing work with pleasure. You can start by asking yourself: do your target clients share the same company ethos? Do you admire their work? Does this fit (or grow) your company brand and interest you and your colleagues? Would I enjoy having lunch with these people?

It’s much easier to converse with people you like, regarding projects you find interest in—so why not make that part of your business development strategy. Besides, the result will undoubtedly be much better and, if all goes well, will lead to more than just one project. This cuts down the amount of long-term business development efforts that need to be done if the relationship has a strong foundation, allowing you to focus that energy on blazing new paths.

However, when you are blazing these new paths it’s important to consider my next point…

Tip 3: Set aside time to recharge (or integrate it in your routine)

It’s extremely important to be present in conversation, or else you may as well not even be there. Additionally, you need to be able to remember what you’ve discussed and the conversations you’ve created (or at least the important ones) to get anything out of these encounters anyways. In a perfect world you’re able to arrange your diary at a pace you can sustain. But, this isn’t always the case (especially at events like MIPIMread my post about that here). So, try to create space to breathe, absorb, and recharge between meetings or events. This could be as simple as the time walking to and from meetings, deciding to take the stairs, or a tea break—let your brain go into its idle mode if that’s what it’s craving.

This includes setting aside time to get proper sleep (if your sleep life needs spicing up, here are some recommendations). Be realistic with yourself when managing your diary. If you know you’re ‘just going for one drink’, don’t schedule a breakfast meeting the following morning. It’s cruel to yourself and to your company—no one wants to chat with a zombie.

However, when you do end up at breakfast (or lunch or dinner) make sure you don’t forget my final point…

Tip 4: Eat your vegetables

Little somethin’ I picked up from my mom (thanks, Debra).