This article was originally published on The Drum.
Robert Yardy, our Head of Business Development, has been nominated for the BD100, a ranking of the best in the business when it comes to business development. As part of the voting process, The Drum spoke to Rob to get an insight into his role and his thoughts on the current world of business development.
How have you found business development over the last 12 months?
Same as every year….stressful, enjoyable, disappointing, exciting, glorious, frustrating but above all….never boring!
In terms of the services that we provide, the requirements from large organisations have certainly changed in the last 12 months. There is a strong focus on being more agile and flexible in terms of technical infrastructure.
We have seen a shift in companies wanting to move away from the legacy tech debt they currently have, and onto a more microservices approach.
We have also had a lot of demand from our clients wanting extremely high dev ops expertise. For example, we have recently helped Vodafone convert all their third-party implemented AWS work (which was done manually) to IaC (Infrastructure as code) using CI-CD and CloudFormation.
In terms of how we are winning clients, this has definitely changed in recent times. We have found ourselves doing a lot less pitches and instead, winning clients via word of mouth, through relationship building, or a series of face to face meetings. We will still need to provide costs and a proposal, but by having more face time with the client than is often allowed during a formal procurement process, we gain a fantastic understanding of the client’s business needs.
What have been your highlights over the last year?
There have been many highlights which is obviously awesome! That is certainly not to say that there have not been low points as well (every business development person knows the roller-coaster ride we go on each year!).
Starting to work with NHS England has been a particular highlight. To work with such a huge organisation is a great challenge but the people we have been working with have amazingly forward thinking, ambitious, pragmatic, knowledgeable and just a perfect fit for MMT.
I actually get a real buzz in seeing our projects go live and accounts blossom even though I am not really involved on the delivery side of things. I will have been heavily involved at the start of the relationship, in terms of understanding what the client wants and how we can deliver beyond their expectations. Then to see that come to fruition some months later, it is nice to know that you were part of making it possible. Business Development people will always get forgotten when the pats on the back take place over celebratory drinks to mark a successful delivery, but that’s ok. Business Development can be a lonely existence at the best of times! That’s why I really love what the BD100 stands for!
What do you think is the most important trait of a successful business developer?
You have to be a good listener. You have to really hear what the client is saying and not just nod along, whilst your mind drifts off to thinking about whether you are going to go to Pret again for lunch!
Also, asking lots and lots of questions is also crucial for putting together an outstanding proposal. You may unearth some information that even the client had not though of initially.
It is also important to approach each new opportunity with the mindset of “we want to build a collaborative partnership (between the client and the agency) for many years to come”. Too many times I hear stories of business development people thinking selfishly and short term i.e. not being completely honest about costs, capabilities, etc. in order to win the work to hit their numbers. With little regard given to their colleagues who are going to have to deliver this work in what will inevitably become a broken relationship with the client.
Sorry, that’s two traits and some moral guidance!
What one thing is vital to you doing your job effectively?
Actually, it’s approximately 185 things! I.e. every person within MMT! There is no way I could do my job without them…. “new business is everyone’s business!”.
If they were not delivering amazing things for our clients, it would be incredibly hard to win any new clients. Luckily, we have some seriously talented people. From UX and Design to Developers and Project Managers and everyone else in between. Winning new business really is a team effort. This is especially true when actually going through the new business process. We bring in expertise from across the business in order to create the best proposal possible.
From a personal point of view, the one thing I need is thick skin! I said the same thing for the BD100 last year. The chances are, if you work in business development you are extremely passionate about what you do and driven to succeed. Therefore, the lows are going to hit you in the kidneys like a Mike Tyson body shot, and the highs are going to make you feel like Johnny Wilkinson at approximately 22:30 (AEDT) on 22nd November in 2003!
Who has been the biggest influence to you over the last 12 months and why?
I have to name two people and that is the two co-founders of MMT; Ben Rudman and James Cannings. They have been incredibly supportive of me since I joined the agency 7 years ago! But they have been much more than just great people to work for, they have helped me get better at my job! I have learnt a tremendous amount from them and that has not changed in the last 12 months.
Whether it be in terms of establishing the commercial impact we can make for a client (Ben) or understanding how the tech all pieces together (James).
What is your secret to success?
I wish I had the secret to success but unfortunately any success in business development will not come easy! It is always down to hard work (new business is pretty much 24/7….Christmas holidays are bliss as everyone else is off work at the same time as you!!).
How do you unwind after a busy day of new business?
It depends on the season. For some of Spring and Summer, I may be able to get 9 holes of golf in before the light fades. If not, I may visit the driving range (I understand my admittance of being a golfer may have minimised my chances for votes!!).
In Autumn and Winter, I will usually try to go to the gym or head home and watch one of the many TV shows on my Sky+ and Netflix. Current favourites are Succession and Peaky Blinders….I also have the last series of Gomorrah to watch.
I am a massive sports fan so watching anything from football and cricket, to boxing and golf is a great way to unwind.
If you would like to vote for Robert, click here.