Business development representatives can be among some of the most influential people within a business, so when the time comes to hire one, you want to do everything you can to ensure you make the right choice. While your first instinct may be to go for the person with the most experience, there are a lot of things that should be considered if you want to find the right person for you. With that in mind, here are 8 steps to hiring the perfect business development representative.
1. Define The Role
The first question you should ask yourself is why you want to hire a business development representative at all. Although there are a lot of advantages to hiring one, you shouldn’t do so just because you have room in the budget for another employee. Before you can even begin your search for the right person, you have to know what it is you want that person to deliver.
At its core, business development is about identifying and securing opportunities that will grow the business and create value for its stakeholders. But this mandate is so broad that a successful business development representative in one company could be completely ineffectual in another. For example, expanding the client base, establishing strategic partnerships, and product innovation are all aspects of business development, but require different skills. While most business development representatives will be skilled in multiple areas, you should identify which are most important and focus on those.
2. Identify Your Company Culture
Another thing to consider, particularly when hiring someone in from another industry, is the kind of company culture you have. There are four main types of company culture, and in order to get the most out of your representative, you have to make sure that their tactics line up with your culture.
A “clan culture” is one in which employees work closely together, often sharing tasks. Someone with team-building and mentoring skills will get the best results from a group such as this. An “adhocracy culture” is one that is flexible, where creativity and innovation thrive, and is best led by someone who dreams big and is willing to try new things. A “market culture” is purely sales and profit driven, meaning a competitive and diligent leader will be most effective. Finally, a “hierarchy culture” is formal and bureaucratic, and best suited for someone who can monitor and coordinate large groups.
3. Speak to Department Heads
No matter how your representative decides to approach the task of developing the business, odds are they are going to be working across a number of different departments. Ultimately, you are bringing in this representative for their insight and expertise, and giving them the authority to pull the business in one direction or another, so they may technically “outrank” your existing employees, depending on your arrangement.
Some of your more senior staff may not take to kindly to a newbie walking in and telling them what to do, while others will be delighted to get the extra help. Either way, in order to get the best results and build a team that can work together, you should speak to the heads of your various departments before beginning the hiring process. Not only will this reassure your employees that their opinions still carry weight, but it also allows you to identify any skills gaps that you should look for in your new representative.
4. Speak to Floor Staff
They may not have the same levels of business experience as your more senior staff, but that doesn’t mean your floor staff can’t provide you with some useful observations. It goes without saying that there are certain viewpoints employees would never express directly to their bosses, and how they think their bosses could improve is right at the top of that list.
Your floor staff will be able to see more or less everything your department heads can, but from a different perspective. They may feel that their manager is very creative, but unorganised for example. Or they could say that they are so results-driven it stymies innovation. By speaking to your floor staff about the issues they feel are holding the business back, you can learn things you would never hear from senior staff.
5. Advertising the Role
At this point, you should have a pretty clear idea of the kind of individual you’re looking for, so the next thing to do is decide how you’re going to advertise the role. The first option is simply for you or your HR team to push out a public ad. This option gives the role a lot of reach, but with that will come a high volume of low-quality applications that someone will have to sift through.
The second option is to outsource the hiring process to a recruitment agency. Advantages of this include less time wasted on fruitless applications, a variety of strong contenders, and access to people who are not actively seeking work and might not spot an ad. The main disadvantage of using a recruiter is that they will not understand your company culture as well as you do, but you can use the final rounds of interviews to ensure the chosen candidate is a good fit.
A third option comes from a famous 1978 sociological study “The Strength of Weak Ties”, which should that 28% of successful professionals found their jobs through a “weak tie”, such as a former colleague or friend of a friend. The study found these hires tend to be quite a successful match, possibly because acquaintances feel they can be more honest than either close friends or complete strangers.
6. Test their Skills
As we said earlier, a representative who has a successful track record in one area may not necessarily be able to carry that over into another. With something like business development, the person in the role needs to have an exceptional understanding of the industry, so testing their knowledge is an absolutely crucial step in the process.
Depending on your industry, you may find that a detailed conversation is enough to suss this out, or you may decide to include a more formal exam. Since communication is one of the most fundamental skills for any business development representative, one option that works well in all industries is to ask the candidate to explain a complex subject to someone with no industry knowledge. If they can’t do that, you can almost definitely rule them out.
7. Assess Their Attitude
The interview is probably your first chance to meet a candidate, so beyond assessing their skills, which you probably have some idea of already, you should also be astutely aware of their attitude, which 96% of Irish employers say is more important than skill. Most people will, of course, be on their best behaviour during an interview, so you will have to keep your eyes and ears open for any indications of their real selves.
Apart from looking out for small things such as how they greet you and whether or not they wait to take a seat, one of the best ways to get an accurate picture of someone’s attitude is to ask the receptionist who greeted them. While most interviewees try to be on their best behaviour, many often focus solely on the interviewer, disregarding the people they pass in the halls on their way in. A receptionist may not be able to tell you if a person is right for the job, but they can often tell you if a person is a poor choice.
8. Offer Benefits
Although paying more doesn’t always mean you end up with a better employee, in general, you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean the best way to use your money is to put it in their pocket. A growing number of people are opting for the option of choosing their benefits, which can end up saving money for both the employee and the employer.
According to research by Lincoln Recruitment, benefits are now the third most influential factor in determining whether or not a candidate accepts a job offer, and 70% of employees say flexible benefits would increase their loyalty to a business.
Hiring a business development representative can be a huge boon to your business, as long as you do it right. Find the right person is not a matter of simply looking at a number of CVs and getting as many of the best people through the door as you can. It requires communication between the various levels of your team, a strong understanding of what exactly the role is, and a clear vision of the future that everyone can get behind.