April 4, 2013

Tactics for Better Business Development


After years of working in business development, Bernie Brenner thought he had some valuable insights to share. “I’ve been living this for 20-plus years,” said Brenner.

So how to best disseminate this knowledge and at the same raise his own stature? Brenner decided the best way was to write a book.

Brenner is a founding partner and the Chief Strategy Officer of TRUECar.com. TRUECar is an automotive solutions innovator focused on changing how cars are sold. He oversees TrueCar's business development, strategy and partner relationship management.

Prior to TRUECar, Brenner was a senior executive at CARFAX, where he established the company's  business development department and manged every third-party relationship for the company. These partnerships included 26 car manufacturers, Autotrader.com, Cars.com, Kelley Blue Book, and Edmunds.com.

Earlier in his career, Brenner was founder and CEO of PromiseMark, Inc., an online consumer protection and recovery service for victims of identity theft, which was ultimately acquired by the credit reporting agency Experian. He also founded 1-800-CAR-SEARCH, where he served as vice president of marketing and product development.

So he knows whereof he speaks. As you might expect, Brenner’s experience has given him insights into the do’s and don’ts of business development.

“Is there some foundation or theory that can be distilled?” he asks rhetorically. Answering his own question, he continues, “I’ve identified some fundamental principles.”

Those principles are:

1. Business Development is strategic. Sales is not.
2. There is no direct revenue in Business Development.
3. In the Business Development world, everyone’s plate is full. There’s not an assigned person to oversee Business Development, and it’s hard to get to yes.
4. Business Development focuses on not getting a no.

Brenner believes that illustrating these principles will go a long way toward establishing a benchmark for business development. He also anticipates that codifying them in a book will generate credibility and increased visibility.

“I’ve been successful in the business development world. That shaped the storyline for the book,” he said.

“I’ve been getting a positive response (regarding the principles and the book). It’s something of value, and it’s not well understood. It’s an opportunity to help others, and they’ll get more out of a book. It’s more scaleable, and people can refer back to it.”

Brenner believes that writing the book will also help himself.

“It represents a good amount of credibility,” he said. “I want to get more speaking (engagements).”

Brenner believes that incorporating the book into his other marketing efforts will stimulate not only sales of the book but generate additional speaking engagements, leading to an unending circle.

“As I speak more and more, the book will start to sell more. Then I look for greater demand for speaking and other engagements.”

He is looking toward numerous methods to get out his message. “I’ll be doing book signings, and will send copies out to my network,” he said. “I talk about it to a lot of contacts. Word of mouth is great – people in companies of five to 500 can further (the network).

Brenner is also cognizant of the role social media can play, and is looking to Facebook and espcially LinkedIn to further publicize the upcoming book.

Brenner says his book has been a long time coming. “I made the decision (to write a book) several years ago, but it’s a big commitment. I shelved it for years. I committed to doing it last year.”

Brenner isn’t sure how to put a precise value on his book. As he notes, that’s not easy to do with business development, either. But he is sure it will be a welcome addition to his resume.

“A book helps confer the expert position. I’m not looking to sell a million or 500,000 copies and make a lot of money from the book.

“The book is a big component of helping me teach others.”

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