20 Biz Dev Leaders Offer Career Advice From Their Mentors

Leading a successful business career can often be filled with stumbling blocks along the way. However, when you are willing to branch out and seek guidance from others who have been down the same path, it makes the challenges of reaching your goals less daunting or intimidating.

If you are feeling stuck or in a silo, below, Forbes Business Development Council members each provide the practical advice they’ve received from a mentor in business and how it is helping them to succeed in their industry.

1. Humble Yourself

Seniority can breed a belief that you know more than you do. Oftentimes, you have an opportunity to hire people who have more experience than you do. When you hire those people, listen. It’s an important opportunity to avoid mistakes others have made without you having to make them while also picking up best practices. – Jean-Marc Chanoine, Templafy

2. Seek Your Replacement

Never be afraid to find and develop new talent to take your job. You’ll be seen as smart, and new, more important jobs will come your way. It’s served me well my entire career. – Barry Reicherter, Finn Partners

3. Consider How Much Time People Are Willing To Share

As business development professionals, we talk a lot to potential customers, and many times we hear feedback that people don’t have time right now but would otherwise love to try our product or service. My mentor once told me: People don’t have time—people make time for the things that are important to them. This helped me realize some people are just being polite and few can be your customers. – Janet Todorova, Founder Institute

4. Sell Yourself First

You have to sell yourself before your company or product. If they don’t like you, know you and trust you, they won’t buy from you. – Matt Coyle, Commercial Restoration Company

5. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

The best advice I received was: Keep your eyes on the prize. It took me some years to fully understand the meaning. It has helped me achieve my long-term goals and has also forced me to become the hardest worker in the room. I have managed to establish more patience when I repeat this advice in my head and I also take a step back and think before making any major decisions. – Milan Savanovic, Sarisa Freight Solutions Inc.

6. Take Value In Your Seat At The Table

Always remember you deserve a seat at the table. You will never be the smartest individual in the room, but you are in the room to contribute and add value. This advice helps guide my reaction to situations where I feel overwhelmed, reminding me to focus on the value that I bring and lead with that. – Jessica McDowell, TD SYNNEX

7. Master Consistent Delegation

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve heard is simple yet profoundly true: Master consistent delegation. This offers opportunities for growth and empowers less experienced colleagues, while also conserving your energy. As a leader, you possess a unique set of skills that excel in specific tasks compared to others. Direct your attention toward areas where you can’t be replaced. – Anna Jankowska, RTB House

8. Avoid Mixing Your Emotions With Your Decisions

Keep emotion out of decisions, and don’t make knee-jerk reactions. It’s hard, but it is the foundation of how I built my career by not being emotional. I’m still empathetic, though—you just have to be careful that by taking emotion out of decisions, you don’t become ice cold. – David Strausser, Stellar One Consulting

9. Adjust Your Mindset Based On Your Role

The best advice I received as it pertains to leading salespeople is: For low producers, the sales rep works for me. For average producers, we are co-collaborators, and for top producers, I work for them. I share the above with every salesperson we hire and encourage them to become my “boss.” – Dustin Owen, The Loan Officer Podcast

10. Realize It’s Okay To Walk Away From A Deal

The best advice I’ve ever received was learning that the best kind of power is walk-away power. Not everybody or every opportunity is going to be a fit for your product or service. Knowing that walking away is acceptable is critical in developing as a business development professional. – Tyler Trimbath, Trimbath Advisory Group

11. Know It’s Easier To Improve Skills Than It Is To Change Someone’s Lack Of Attitude

A lack of skills is a much smaller problem compared to a lack of attitude. The former can always be inculcated in easier ways through motivation, training and development, while the latter is incorrigible. – Praneeth Kudithipudi, Sacumen

12. Be Flexible And Willing To Collaborate With Co-Workers

A mentor once told me that you can’t always choose your team members; therefore, it’s important to be flexible and collaborate with all co-workers. It’s necessary to take the time to teach co-workers and develop relationships with those who could eventually become future leaders representing the brand. – Rhonda Gibler, Carenet Health

13. Understand That Majoring In Finance And Business Can Help With Anything

In my freshman year of college, the class I enjoyed the most was economics. My stepdad gave me the formative advice to major in finance and business, with econ electives. His point of view was finance will help you with anything you want to do. Although I hated my first accounting job, I learned the language of business, which enabled me to speak to the C-suite and has helped me immensely in sales. – Julie Thomas, ValueSelling Associates

14. Go Out There And Take Some Risks

A mentor of mine told me to go out there and take some risks. It’s about being bold, leaning in, swinging for the fences. A lot of times it can seem super hard to create the right relationships, especially when you are a small company trying to work with a bigger company, but it’s all about finding the mutual value and angle. – Robin Daniels, LMS365

15. Being Honest Will Help You Build Trust

When clients know that they can trust you to be honest about your capabilities, your pricing and your timeline, they are more likely to do business with you. Honesty also helps you to avoid costly mistakes and delays, which can damage your reputation. Especially when deadlines are crucial, even bad news is better than fake news or no news at all. – Rich Steffy, The Roof Depot, Inc.

16. ‘Play It Away’

I was fortunate enough to work with Charlie Hoehn, author of Play It Away. The experience changed how I thought about “play” as an adult. Hoehn said, “Play before you’re productive.” For me, play is always something that puts me in a flow state but not something I’d consider a work productivity tool. Of course, it’s not quite as fun to look at play as a way to optimize work, but it does help my work become more playful. – Miles Rote, Kevin Anderson & Associates

17. Take A Long-Term View Of Client Relationships

It’s about building trust and how you respond in the good times and bad. I’ve been working with some of our clients for over 20 years and things don’t always go as planned. How you respond to failures makes or breaks relationships. Some of my best clients are ones who have fired me but brought me back once mistakes were fixed and we became one team. – Kathleen Abbott, Arcadis

18. Be Patient, And Trust The Process

In business development, we all have a vision for the endgame, the prize. I learned early on that there are many obstacles, sometimes unforeseen, between a starting point and the end goal. A mentor once demonstrated to me that despite enthusiasm and competition, being patient with and trusting the process is an invaluable attribute of success. – Scotty Elliott, AmeriLife

19. Network And Nurture Relationships

Make a significant amount of time in your calendar for networking and nurturing relationships. This has been the single most important factor in scaling my businesses. I’ve treated networking as a core element of my marketing and sales channels. It has allowed me to have multiple streams of revenue, cross-collaborate between my businesses, partner with many businesses and optimize my ecosystem. – Angelica Kopec, She Knows Business

20. Focus On ‘We,’ Not ‘Me’

The best advice I received as a business development leader was to understand it was no longer about the “me,” but all about the “we.” I was no longer the focus. It was my responsibility to focus on how I could best support my team and ensure their success. It was great advice. The more I focused on helping others achieve their dreams, the more readily I was able to achieve my own goals. – Vincent Burruano, Vince Burruano Consulting Services, LLC

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