What do you want from your Business Development Manager?

A skilled business development manager can make a significant difference to the business of a financial adviser and, as Andy Marshall states, there are three central characteristics which make a good BDM.

A recent adviser poll in riskinfo asked the question “Are you satisfied that the current services you receive from BDMs will remain relevant to your business needs in an evolving advice sector?”  The results would be enough to win a federal election in a landslide with 51% of respondents answering “No”, which begs the question, what services are relevant in this changing environment?

The role of a risk insurance BDM runs across a spectrum of “brochure delivery” to in depth practice management, collaborative business planning and indeed some BDM’s sitting on the board of advice of an advice business.  The type of true professional partnership might be rare, but is truly transformational for the adviser and the BDM.

Scott Pollack wrote in his contribution to Forbes (“What Does A Biz Dev Person Actually Do?” March, 2012) that in his opinion there are three main activities a BDM should excel at:

  • Customers: Find new ones and extract more value from current ones.
  • Markets: Figure out where new customers “live” (both geographically and in terms of “buying mindset“) and find a way to reach them.
  • Relationships: Build and leverage relationships founded on trust and integrity to facilitate opportunities.

Now these seemingly generic “slogans” require further investigating because underneath them there is absolute value.  The question is: Are the current crop of BDMs actually able to deliver that value?

Customers

This is surely about referral techniques and sharing best practice, about niche plays and about expanding services, for example, beyond insurance to perhaps include things like estate planning and cash flow services right through to a detailed process for intergenerational advice.

Would a business experience growth in revenue, share of wallet and referrals were it to successfully implement processes that delivered an expanded service regime to existing clients and attracted new clients as well?  Undoubtedly yes.

So when you think that there are BDMs who can equip advisers not only with the tools, the processes and the case studies of such successes, it makes me wonder why more advisers are not utilising to the fullest extent what is on offer.

Markets

This is about knowing an adviser’s client base.  There are diagnostics that can be overlaid on an advice book of business.  The analytics can then be used to actively market or plan for filling the gaps in a client base or suite of services.  Further social media expertise can then lead a business to listen and engage with these new and existing opportunities.  Such expertise exists in the ranks of the BDMs I know.

Relationships

None of the above can occur without the relationship.  This is simple but rare.  As an adviser I had a client who was always interested in what I knew, what I’d read, seen and heard. In other words, he wanted me to have an opinion on things. That opinion requires knowledge.  It’s about credibility.

Any BDM should be investigating their own niche and be an expert in that field.  Having a story to tell builds credibility and leads a curious adviser to ponder how such an individual can assist their business.  Such development of knowledge requires curiosity from the BDM.  A genuine interest in not only developing themselves but an interest in the adviser.  That’s the connection.  And that connection leads to trust, to solutions and to advocacy on both sides.

So when I look at the above, all of it, I know lots of BDMs who can add this value to a business.  I also know a lot that don’t add this value.  The disconnect that seems to be represented in this riskinfo poll, is perhaps we (BDMs) aren’t telling the story well enough.

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Andy Marshall is the Head of Sales Strategies and Research, Life Risk at Zurich Financial Services Australia Limited, having previously held the role of Regional Manager, Life Risk for Zurich in Victoria. He has more than 20 years financial services experience across a range of roles, including sales management, staff development and underwriting plus seven years as a financial planner.

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