What the World Cup Taught Me About Business Development

The World Cup has a way of turning the casual fan into a crazy, screaming lunatic. Fútbol has never held my attention like football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf (or just about any other sport), yet I’ve been completely captivated by this years Cup. So, why am I so enthralled with these matches? Well, besides the obvious—watching the best of the best athletes compete for nationalistic pride, tiny nations like Costa Rica unseating perennial world powers, and cool one-word athlete names like Hulk, Jô and Beto —I actually see many parallels between World Cup competition and my role in Business Development.

I’ve recently started a consulting firm, Kinected, focusing on helping tech & media firms with strategy, business development and raising capital. We are a young firm and will therefore live and die on the success of our business development efforts (no pressure). A thoughtful strategy and strong execution will be the key to our success, and we’re keeping in mind these three lessons, inspired by the World Cup:

Shots on Goal are Hard to Come By – Make Them Count

The World Cup Final 4 teams (Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Netherlands) are averaging just 11 shots on goal per game, or a shot only once every 9 minutes. This certainly doesn’t leave a lot of scoring opportunities and creates a very small window of opportunity. As a business developer, you also have a finite number of opportunities to impress potential clients, with a minuscule margin of error. You must identify the proper influencers and decision makers, crisply articulate your value proposition and how it benefits your client or partner, present attractive pricing and demonstrate credibility and outstanding listening skills, while carrying yourself in a polished and professional manner. One misstep in any of these actions and you will likely lose the deal.

Utilize your full roster to ensure ‘fresh legs,’ or execute a well-rehearsed play to shift momentum

Like soccer, business development is a team sport requiring tight collaboration across the whole team. Each of the players, coaches and trainers are there to play a very specific role and need to be ready when called upon, if only for a two-minute run during injury time. A well-timed substitution provides a chance to recalibrate strategy or execute a rehearsed play, as well as provide a sudden burst of energy that can swing momentum in your favor and potentially alter the course of the game. As a business developer, your team and extended network are vital to driving deals forward. At Kinected, our on-demand consulting model leverages subject matter experts who provide deep industry expertise to support business development and project delivery.

You Can’t Win by Only Playing Defense

Looking back, if Mexico had a do-over, I’m sure they would have taken a more aggressive approach in the last 2 minutes of their gut-wrenching loss to the Netherlands (no offense Mexico fans, I have lived and worked in Mexico and was pulling for you!). In addition, there have already been five ‘own goals’ scored in this World Cup. While these unfortunate goals are generally the result of a defender’s deflection, they are more often than not the result of an attack-minded offense that continues to apply pressure, keeping the defense on their heels. In either case, the lesson is that good things tend to happen when the offense puts itself in position to win as opposed to playing not to lose. The same is true in BD. You won’t win by playing the ‘prevent’ defense either (e.g. working out of your email inbox all day or creating useless ‘TPS reports‘). You’ll be far more successful over the long-term by planting seeds of opportunity, connecting with former colleagues over lunch or coffee and meeting potential clients at networking events and conferences. Sure, we feel like we’re making progress by achieving ‘inbox zero’, responding to the needs of others, but this approach won’t get us shots on goal, which is the only way to win.

There is still another red-hot week of action left in the 2014 World Cup, and I know I’ll be watching. We may even find more lessons we can apply to business development (as if we needed an excuse to tune in.)

Kevin Berson is the founder of Kinected, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm advising media and technology companies with business development, strategy and raising capital.

Image by Reuters via International Business Times

Kevin Berson

Kevin Berson

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Advisor | Business Broker

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