I’ve been in and around business development for just over 20 years now, I’ve also been a Lighting Technician in live music for almost as long. I’ve been a Dad for half that time and many other things too. Including the opposite side of sales as a Purchasing Manager for several years.
I used to think each part needs to be kept apart, as separate personalities for each part of my life. That’s hard work though!
It took me far too long to realise it’s all me, each different part. And when combined, I can be so much better.
I’m meticulous as a lighting tech; I have to be for safety and not make a mistake and turn off all the lights in front of several hundred paying audience members in the middle of a song. Yes, I have done that, but only once!
So why not be as meticulous in Business Development too? Once I started thinking like this and took my time to make sure I had everything right and knew everything I needed to about my “audience” and my product, it made my life so much easier. When I called someone, I already had a fair idea that they would be interested in what I had to say.
It became less about selling and more about having a conversation with a person who does have a requirement, and to do that consistently being meticulous pays off.
When I started in sales, I was taught “the customer is always right” and “you should avoid saying no”. As a Purchasing Manager, I learnt very quickly that I was rarely right. How could I be if I was faced with a new product or service? Had every salesperson I had meetings with said yes to everything I asked, I’d have ended up with many undeliverable promises that I would then have to explain to my boss.
When I moved back into business development, I understood that my job isn’t to “sell”.
It was to help the person I’m talking with make their life easier and give them the chance to make a good impression within their organisation.
I learnt from being a dad and seeing my kids not respond when I talked ‘at’ them that that is not the way to help us all leave the house on time. My son wouldn’t button up his shirt if I just told him to. I needed to take the time to understand that while I can button up my shirt, he’s new to this. Getting down to his level, talking to him and showing how buttons work and making it fun is the only way to make sure we can leave the house on time (ish).
I use this in my work too. Instead of talking at someone, I needed to put myself in the prospect’s position and try to understand what they do and don’t understand. What do they need to make it easier for them? That can only be done with a conversation. Talking at someone is not a conversation. Communicating with someone from a position of understanding is.
Likewise, I take parts of my work into the way I am as a Dad. Though negotiations with directors are far more manageable than negotiating with a five-year-old to eat their dinner!
When I’m working with a new band, I talk them through my capabilities and ask what they are looking for. We work together to make sure the outcome for the audience is the best it could possibly be. Without me trying to take any of the attention away from them on stage with unnecessary flashy things.
I’m happy to sit in the shadows at the back and make it all about them. In business development, that’s what I want too. I want the person I’m working with to be the focus; I want to achieve the best outcome for their audience, be that their customers or their board of directors.
I’ve done some amazing stuff in my time, in all areas of my life. Things I can look back on that make me smile and think I would not have wanted to do that any differently. I’ll do a lot more cool stuff in the future too. As long as I make sure I do the best I can, using everything that makes up who I am.
I am Peter Knight: Dad, Business Development Manager, Purchasing Manager, Lighting Tech, Builder, Leader, Listener, Doer of Cool Things and hopefully all-around nice person.
Published: 19th April 2021