How Ottawa Business Development Leaders are Adapting Their Approach for Post-COVID-19

How Ottawa Business Development Leaders are Adapting Their Approach for Post-COVID-19

For both business development professionals as well as hiring managers looking to hire business development professionals, we've asked some of Ottawa's business development leaders how they are shifting their approaches to build relationships and continue to be effective in the post-COVID-19 economy.

Our aim is to arm you with considerations of how you can shift your approach to continue to produce results. For hiring managers, we aim to provide some information as to what to look for in new business development professional candidates that will be successful in the post-COVID-19 economy.

Bruce Raganold, Director of Business Development, Welch LLP

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

During COVID-19 many of us have been forced into using Zoom or other video platforms for meetings. Since everyone (including most of your prospects) are also OK now with Zoom meetings, this really opens up possibilities. I’m finding it’s easier to line up zoom meetings with decision makers, and you can think outside the box a little – no longer worrying about time and distance being a constraint. I can line up meetings and include the very best people on my end, even if it includes people from different offices. Also – I now leverage the ability to bring extra people on to the start of a meeting, they can all quickly “meet” the prospect, let them know what they do at Welch, then get off the zoom call so we can get to the main purpose of the call. Our clients and prospects then have a few extra connections at our firm.

Post-COVID-19, more meetings will take place via Zoom type platforms, so business developers who’ve leveraged some of the possibilities of virtual meetings during COVID-19 can continue to do so. Also, since distance is less of an issue, companies like Welch that offer services can broaden their geographical footprint - and while that brings opportunities, you’ll need to be on your toes as others from outside your city can similarly start calling in from afar to service your home market.

Yvonne Langen, Director of Business Development, Abacus Data

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

As we come to terms with a new normal, many organizations and industries are grappling with the prospect that they might have to find entirely new ways of selling their products or services. I think good business developers are less interested in operating like mechanics and are more inclined to take on the role of therapist. Instead of finding a transactional solution to clear-cut problems or opportunities, we need, more than ever, to approach our clients and prospects with a listening ear, demonstrate care, compassion, and a willingness to help.

As the Director of Business Development at Abacus Data, a market research firm, we’ve been closely monitoring changes in public opinion, attitudes, behaviour, and intention throughout the pandemic. One of the ways we are trying to support our clients and prospects right now is through sharing our key findings from that ongoing research through public releases or private briefings - helping them get a line of sight on what’s next and how to pivot. In some cases, these insights will generate more curiosity and immediate leads, in others, it creates an opportunity to build a stronger relationship and demonstrates the value of good data.

Bruce Knight, Vice President of Business Development, Marathon Underground Constructors Corporation

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

I think the new post COVID-19 economy has really given me a push to adapt to video. We have started to think about ways we can package our marketing content to make it more engaging and what content our clients would get the most benefit from in video format. We have started building out a YouTube library, using video with our email marketing and posting videos to LinkedIn; self promotion initially building toward instructional and informational. The Infrastructure and Construction industries have always been heavy on face to face relationship building, so we are hoping that we can leverage video to maintain that personalized feel to our marketing efforts and showcase our services.

We are trying to reach out and connect with our client base by phone or video chat more often as well. A quick phone call for even simple questions, just to remind our clients that there is a person on the other end of their project and to maintain that personal feel. I’m finding that clients are answering their phones more now too! It's forcing us to talk to our clients more which isn't a bad thing but can sometimes be overlooked.

Ron Smith, Vice President of Business Development, RBC

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

Zoom and other video call and conference platforms are proving to be very effective, so that will be a keeper going forward. I will continue to use the old fashioned phone call as well. This mindset is allowing a wider and higher volume of contacts. Messaging will have to be crisper to gain attention. Face to face coffees, even with initial social distancing, will remain a staple in my repertoire as we move to the post-COVID-19 economy.

Marie Noele, Business Development Manager, HEXO

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

In Business Development, we quickly pivot and adjust to our environment, there will be a silver lining to COVID-19, the economy will adjust to a new normal. We have learned to navigate new platforms and advance our skillset, through business social networking.

There has been a shift globally, through social media platforms, we have removed borders, flights, conferences, meetings about the meeting, gatekeepers, and brought us back to basic human connection. Roadblocks that we used to encounter in trying to connect with key decision-makers are no longer an obstacle. Active projects are now met with solutions and creative outlook to help move business partnership moving forward. We are adopting new positive ways of thinking and changing the momentum of how we do business.

The fundamentals of Business Development will remain the same. How I will be planning to adopt as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 will be by:

  • Utilize multimedia platforms
  • Create campaigns, market insight, and share literature that will capture the attention of my audience
  • Meetings will be moved to software that enables the worldly conversation
  • Roadmaps and business forecasts will be adjusted to meet new timelines
  • Communication, empathy, and human connection will be key to Business Development Post COVID-19

Joe Hajjar, Vice President of Business Development, MDS

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

The wave of changes that we are enduring is giving us a great amount of data points when it comes to understanding the resilience of our business. As we work through these changes, and live through new experiences, the biggest impact comes from adapting our way of thinking. Though our business goals have shifted from growth to sustainability, this still puts a lot of pressure on our top line. To address this, we are making a conscious effort to work with our customers and introduce an investment mindset in how we present our value propositions. This means creative business models that represent teaming arrangements to keep people employed, and cash moving. Teaming up with your customers will position you well for the inevitable upswing!

Ted Wagstaff, President, North45 Partnerships

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

I will need to invest more time on sharpening the focus on "our why". Keeping in touch with prospects and understanding when the right time will be to move forward the conversation will be key. Every company will recover at a different pace and time and business development professionals will need to be patient and understanding, and look to uncover other opportunities that may arise. Due to COVID-19 we have been able to take a deep look at our processes and the importance of investing in the discipline of using and keeping our CRM tool up to date. Keeping clean and accurate data will become even more important than ever. It has also been a time to invest in ourselves and mental health initiatives. Investing in activities that keep our minds right will be essential as we learn to live with the new realities that post-COVID-19 will bring.

One thing that has been clear is the opportunity to reinforce our value to our Clients and to help them reimagine opportunities for their business. New opportunities for their business has meant success for ours.

Eddy Abou-Nehme, Co-Founder & CEO, seoplus+

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

Flexibility will be key as we enter the Post COVID-19 economy. It’s crucial for business owners to remain agile and have the ability to adapt to the rapid changes being introduced every day. By now, it’s no surprise that a large majority of small business owners are struggling to cope with the negative effects of COVID-19. These individuals need as much help as possible, especially as we begin to tackle the post-pandemic landscape. In order to address those in need, it’s important that we go above and beyond our usual offerings and that we truly understand our clients’ needs and how we can lend a helping hand. In times like these, we need to remember that first and foremost we are in business to help others and to make life better.

Erin Binks, Business Development Manager, Grade A

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy? For starters, less hugs, more awkward greetings! I will continue to approach business development with genuine curiosity: how can my company’s services help your business? Fortunately what we do addresses the concern of facilitating a remote workforce to keep everyone productive and secure.

The challenge is that future clients are afraid to commit to a partnership given the uncertainty of their capability to operate. With this in mind, we’ve pivoted from our standard terms to contracts with more flexible terms, with the goal of a forecastable and reduced I.T. budget.

I believe that technology enables everyone to stay connected and it’s my goal to help as many businesses as possible remain operational.

Adam Malmberg, Director of Business Development, Dunrobin Distilleries

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

Life during COVID-19 has forced us to revisit just about every aspect of how we conduct business. Small and medium businesses rarely get this kind of time to sit back and review how we operate. We’ll certainly be making technical and lasting changes in the ways that we connect with each other, but beyond that, here are a few of my thoughts on a few universal tenets of doing good business:

Be interesting. There are simply too many companies offering the same services and products. Differentiation requires more than technical adjustments. You need real engagement and that starts with getting people to lean in to hear more of your story. We discovered an entirely new business channel that complements our distillery – one we would never have considered if the pandemic hadn't happened. People were very interested in the idea and our new products have been an incredible success.

Be thoughtful. If you pitch an idea to someone, remember it’s about them not you, so make sure the value you offer is obvious and quick for them to see. And don’t frantically follow up with the same message 24 hours later just because you didn’t get an instant response. The sales process takes time and your prospects are busy and under pressure. Your solution only matters if it solves a problem they feel.

Be helpful. This is a devastating period for countless companies and working Canadians. Generous brands that offer genuine help are going to be differentiators for a long while to come. Make your products and services world-class and your operational style community-building. It will go a long way.

Be technically sound. This pandemic has shown the world that a lot of activities can be driven by tech and social. Make sure you are creating events, communities, and forums as a way of creating spaces for real fans to build culture and engagement the way they love to.

Ash Wilby, Regional Business Development Manager, Group Germain Hotels

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

I don’t see my approach changing much at all. For me it’s always been about relationships and understanding how to provide value based on the needs of our clients.

Although the way we connect may be less physical over the coming months, the essence of what builds strong relationships remains in striving to help others achieve their goals.

For us in the hotel industry we’ll need to continue to anticipate needs, and ensure we provide solutions to match the oncoming demand of connecting, although less physically, not less meaningfully.

Chris Beaudoin, VP, Business Development, App8

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

Being a contactless payment solution for dine-in restaurants puts us in a unique position when positioned against this pandemic. Our solution is one of the few that restaurants can invest in during and after this pandemic to ensure a safer and smoother dining experience. With that in mind, our approach to business development had to consider the fact that driving business at this time can be a double-edged sword. We don't want to seem insensitive, pushing owners to spend money during this downturn, but at the same time, utilizing our solution now will help accelerate the return to profitability for restaurants.

Therefore, our approach to business development is to leverage our reseller and integration partners who have deep relationships with their restaurant owners. It is our partners who are getting calls from their customers asking for solutions to their problems. Problems that they have never had to face in this modern era. By providing our partners with multiple, COVID safe solutions, they are now armed with solutions for their customer's unique problems. Overall, we have benefited from better partner relations and sales through our partners to restaurants looking to get a head start on the future of dining out in a post-COVID world.

Michael Lautru, Business Development Executive Iversoft

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy? As this situation has been progressing, more and more people have been getting quite attuned to the value of their time, including myself as a business development professional. Implementing efficiencies using technology has been a welcomed change, and although I miss the social aspect of shaking a hand, giving a high five or sharing in some social drinks, I have found that the current situation helps get right down to business. As I have adopted more efficient processes, I find I have more time to help my fellow BD colleagues with their challenges and it allows us to be innovative so we can bring solutions to the masses. In the end, BD isn't just about acquiring business for our respective organizations, but also to collaborate to ensure success as a collective whole. We are definitely stronger together and although BD professionals have always understood this well, the organizations represented are also realizing this truth. That being said, I am absolutely looking forward to the high fives, hand shaking and sharing drinks with my fellow BD professionals!

Blair Patacairk, President, TGS Inc. International Business Development

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

There has been a paradigm shift since the COVID-19 pandemic. Mostly everyone has had to realign their priorities both on a personal and business front. This new reality has forced us to take stock in what is most important in our lives and how we are going to spend our time moving forward. Business development professionals are faced with the reality that post pandemic they will have to develop a ‘triple threat’ approach to business. They will need to be Resourceful__ as the world continues to move more towards virtual reality/automation, Adaptable__ to rapidly changing environments – yes free thinkers really can be your friends, and finally Risk Takers__ because they need to brave the world economy rollercoaster ride. If they can be Exceptional in these areas you have a winning formula which is…RARE!

Cory Mac Donell, Business Development Executive, HostedBizz

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

The effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been detrimental to many organizations and it is important that in the post-COVID-19 era organizations have a strong plan to build their businesses back up. Business Development professionals will play a fundamental role in restoring business stability back to their respective organizations. It is important to define the term post-COVID-19, I believe there are 2 phases that are critical as we move forward through such a significant period in our lives, resumption of the economy (next 6-12 months) and then a world where a COVID-19 vaccine is a reality and the day to day worry has been subdued.

The next 6-12 months are pivotal, organizations need to focus on short term revenue opportunities in order to establish a level of stability within their operations. All marketing and sales activities should have a focus on short term revenue by providing content and solutions to prospective clients that will solve the challenges they face as they restore a level of normalcy. It is important that the content and solutions allow their sales team to push out a clear message that “we understand your challenges in a post-COVID-19 world and our services/solutions can provide relief in a cost-effective way”.

It is vital that these efforts are empathetic and informed, prospects will want to feel that you understand their challenges and what they are going through. Many organizations are struggling with cash flow, productivity, revenue generation, supply chain, and service delivery to name a few and being able to relate to these struggles and how your services/solutions can assist with the resolution of their key challenges in an affordable and expedient manner will be essential.

Organizations will have reduced budgets post COVID-19 and they will be allocated for key priorities that provide operational efficiencies. A great example is remote work solutions that facilitate an efficient work from home strategy. Business owners are realizing that having their employees working from home does not erode productivity. Many businesses are already beginning to evaluate spending on their bricks and mortar presence. Re-architecting IT infrastructure is required by many organizations to better support a disparately located workforce. Cloud based solutions make it simple for remote employees to increase productivity and improve collaboration. Technologies such as virtual desktop infrastructure, Microsoft 365, unified communications and file synchronization & collaboration solutions will provide the cornerstone of how employees will work going forward. Another benefit of cloud based solutions is that they are typically sold on a monthly subscription model with no long term commitments, allowing organizations to potentially reduce their costs in the future as employee headcount fluctuates. Organizations will be able reduce their capital outlay, conserving critical cash, by moving to a consumption based operating model.

Having an understanding of how prospective clients are going to change their spending habits needs to be a primary element of any post-COVID-19 Business Development & Sales strategy, it will ensure that your offering is well suited to react to this changed behavior.

Jimmy Kelland, Business Development Manager, Syntronic

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

In these challenging times, many eyes are on the BD team. We are critical to the company and the employees. The management teams are counting on us to bring in new opportunities. As a business development professional, I think we really need to maintain a positive attitude to help keep the morale high.

When talking with customers, I think we, as business development professionals, need to adapt our approach by focusing on their current challenges and supporting them now more than ever. Some customers are going through difficult times where projects are delayed, on hold or cancelled all together. Having conversations on the challenges they are facing, getting a good understanding of their current situation, and coming up with solutions together is key to success. In talking with customers, I would look for common trends. Is there a ‘theme’ or message that you are hearing often? Perhaps this is a new opportunity worth looking into.

As a business development professional living through COVID-19, I think it is important to communicate with others in the same profession. Share ideas, strategies, and challenges. We need to take a proactive approach to prospecting and think of innovative ways to help support our customers and find new opportunities.

Steve Harding, Strategy & Business Development , Xactly Design & Advertising

How are you planning to adapt your approach as a Business Development professional in the Post-COVID-19 economy?

When COVID-19 became a reality we were forced to take a close look at our business model, how we work and what we offer to clients. Our retainer model gives us a point of difference to project-based ad agencies, but it is also a leap for clients to commit to an ongoing relationship when they may simply want a project like a website or a brand ID developed. We had a lot of new business in the pipeline that was days or weeks from signing on. It all changed overnight. Suddenly any work, any project with revenue looked appealing. We surmised that our client’s are guaranteed a level of service, and to parachute a quick project into the agency would disrupt our workflow and therefore those clients. We took the risky path of declining work and focused BD on reinforcing our offer. We stuck to it in many meetings (video of course) and watched some new business walk away. Lately though, we've taken on several new long-term retainer clients and are in discussions with others. Included are clients from the early 2020 pipeline that put conversations on hold once the pandemic hit and some are brand new conversations that were recently had. So COVID-19 forced us to review our operations, and it has confirmed that our business model is spot on.

One thing we have done differently is give strategy, ideas and recommendations away for free. We’ve done in excess of a dozen free consultations with follow up marketing strategies for commercial clients, some small and some leaders of Ottawa commerce, also charities, start-ups and associations. It was a way of giving a little back because we know a lot of businesses are hurting, and the best way out, is to market aggressively and build business to pay wages and help keep the economy going.

There is plenty of opportunity ahead for us and we are taking advantage of it currently vs. waiting to see what the new normal may be. The post COVID-19 world has already started to emerge as business's start to re-open and we are accustomed to giving shoppers and pedestrians a lot of space.

Ultimately, although there have been changes in society and how we interact, business fundamentals and marketing strategies remain very much the same.

Final Thoughts

After speaking with seventeen Ottawa' business development leaders, we've been able to uncover a few themes in how they will approach their business development activities in the post-COVID-19 economy. It will be about truly supporting clients and prospects, providing additional support and help, and an increased reliability on new technologies.

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