Seven criteria of the strategic business leader in energy

by Bill Schessele

Is your company ready to move beyond the strategy of merely farming for organic growth? If so, you may be ready to build a hunting strategy, looking for those unique individuals who can deliver new business to your firm. With the advent of innovative and promising initiatives like those of renewable energy, the question is, do you really have an individual who can lead your company’s business development organization and take advantage of these opportunities?

The typical profile of this individual is a person who already has established working, personal relationships with the senior management of the organizations being pursued. He or she brings an extensive contact base and ready access to the appropriate individuals.

Have you settled for this minimalist approach?

There are a lot of individuals with this basic profile who declare they are business development professionals but in reality, they aren’t. Many have excellent qualifications—leadership credentials, operational and tactical planning, program, project and resource management experience, as well as the requisite technical expertise. They seem like perfect candidates and many are hired. Perhaps you are one of them or maybe one or two names come to mind. However, most have not made the commitment to use their experience to acquire new business. As a result, many dig a circular ditch, digging themselves and the company into a deeper hole.

Are you digging deeper or wider? Maybe you need to dig strategically. To be a strategic business leader who is innovative, creative and successful, you must be able to innately apply the following seven critical concepts.

1) The hunter mentality

Are you a hunter? Be honest. The business of hunting is not pretty and it’s not for the weak. You must exhibit the hunter profile, always pursuing the next best strategic opportunities for your company and crafting those opportunities before competitors recognize them. In many ways, hunting is scientific in nature, breaking open new energy avenues, developing new relationships and testing new opportunities.

2) Purpose and goal

It’s critical that you understand the goal and purpose of business development. What is BD to you? In addition to your goal of developing a substantial pipeline, the purpose of your role is to help organizations understand their real issues, challenges or concerns, and identify their pain. This is a tough, trust-building and affirming step.

3) Behavioral psychology

You must have a developed knowledge of psychology, understanding how and why people behave. What is it that motivates a prospect to trust an individual and share information? It’s people knowledge.

4) Gathering information

Do you have the capacity to develop the behavioral characteristics of an intelligence-gatherer? This is not marketing—far from it. You must be as skilled at asking intelligently “dumb” questions as you are at giving high-level presentations. This is the critical ability to know what information is important to gather early on, from whom to gather it and how.

5) Just say no, more often

The successful strategic business leader has to have the ability and courage to disqualify opportunities early and efficiently. Can you say “no”? You must be able to let go, close the door, walk away and move on to a better opportunity for your company.

6) Building the pipeline

You must have the skill to quickly build both a short- and long-term pipeline. You must develop and hone the thinking, have the character and be educated or re-educated in the role of professional business development. Real BD leaders are able to quickly engage people at the highest level within an organization and have a knack for discovering opportunities, both short and long, on an ongoing basis. How is this currently working for you?

7) Alpha prone

A strategic business leader must have the ego drive to continually pursue new opportunities, like an alpha wolf. Alpha wolves have a heightened sixth sense, the ability to see leverage points and make connections that others fail to make. You’re not playing follow-the-leader.

People often ask if strategic business leaders are born with the BD gene. Is it inherent in their DNA or can they be developed in this role? After three decades in this business, I can say the simple answer is that it’s really a little of both. Few individuals bring it all. That’s where professional development and mastery education come into the strategic BD equation.

Is this the right role for you? Are you ready to take the next step?


Bill Scheessele is chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, an international business development professional services firm. He can be reached at (704)553-0000 or

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