Joseph J. Sherman
Joseph J. Sherman
Marketing Specialist

Business development talk with Paul A. Dillon

Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Rick Lobes)

Israeli professional services firms are increasingly seeking corporate clients in the United States. I turned to Paul A. Dillon to understand how Israeli companies can effectively develop business with American enterprises.

Paul A. Dillon is the president and CEO of Dillon Consulting Services LLC, which serves the veteran community.  Mr. Dillon’s clients have included Crain’s Chicago Business,  Ameritech (now AT&T) International, Amoco (now British Petroleum), and American Airlines.  Paul is currently an Adjunct Instructor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

What do people need to do in order to be successful at business development in the service industry?

Prospective clients must have CONFIDENCE in the COMPETENCE of the people providing the service. All that a professional service organization has is the competence of the collective minds of the people that it employs.

Prospective clients must have confidence that the work will be performed with the highest quality, and at the agreed-upon price. They must have confidence in the integrity of the service provider, and confidence in your integrity.

YOU are the firm. It is you who has to stand behind the work. A “firm” is a faceless entity. If something goes wrong, the client is going to call you, not the “firm.” If you can’t, or aren’t permitted to, stand by the work, then get out. You WILL NOT be successful in this job.

Paul A. Dillon, CMC (Courtesy)

Who do people buy professional services from?

People buy professional services from someone whom they know and trust. A person who is known to the prospective client as trustworthy and competent puts a “face” on the service provided, and gives the prospective client comfort that the service will be provided as stated, and at the agreed-upon price.

You need to listen carefully to a prospective client. Often, they will tell you things about themselves that will enable you to understand their business and to form a relationship with them.

You need to be their business friend, genuinely (they will spot phonies) and may be called upon to help them in many, many ways for which you will never be compensated.

It takes a long, long time to form a relationship with a prospective client that might lead to a purchase decision. There are no quick purchases in this business. So-called “sales quotas” are out; long-term business friendships—that may, and I stress may, lead to a purchase decision — are in.

Is business development an art or a science?

This is an art, not a science.

Most often, the business development process is random, not linear or “targeted.” Treat everyone whom you meet as a potential client. You don’t know where your next piece of business might come from.

Even if you offer the best service in the world, and offer a very competitive price, the purchase decision can be extremely — extremely — arbitrary. First impressions count. You can lose a prospective client because you are too short, too tall, or wear a yellow tie. You can’t worry about losing a prospective client for these arbitrary reasons. Just forge on to the next opportunity.

Consequently, a lot of activity is critical. The more activity you have, the more chances you have to “get up to bat.” And some of that will fall through the cracks.

You win some. You lose some. But hopefully, you win more than you lose.

Finally, in order to have long-term success in the business development of professional services, you need to be a nice person, who is truly concerned with the welfare of others. You have to “give before you get.”

About the Author
Joseph Sherman has worked with companies including Altriga, Isaac Mostovicz - Marketing Solutions, and Vimtag Technology.  He graduated from The University of California, San Diego and KEDGE Business School, a Grande Ecole de Commerce et de Management.  
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