Sales representative. Business developer. Account management. Strategic manager. The role of growing a business by attracting new clients and building business relationships has many names and many methods.
But what is it really like to work in this forward-facing role, driving revenue growth and exploring new opportunities for your company? To answer this question, TAP looked to one of the most influential companies in the world: Google. We invited three senior Google employees to share everything they know about business growth, global sales trends and what it takes to set yourself apart from the competition. Plus, they graced us with their top tips for landing a job with impact.
This is an extract from a webinar organised by TAP with three professionals in the field of business development:
Maud Debelke, who joined Google in her native Belgium as a Strategic Agency Manager in 2020. Maud’s responsible for driving agency growth at Google and increasing new product adoption. She works with Google agency partners - who are in turn responsible for creating marketing strategies for their clients and implementing the use of different Google products.
Miher Ahmad, who has been a Senior Account Manager at Google in Dublin, Ireland for the last 5 years. He was born in Afghanistan, raised in Belgium and has a background in finance. Miher works with Google clients directly, helping them to achieve their business objectives with different marketing strategies and Google products.
Asli Dinc, Account Strategist at Google in Dublin, Ireland since 2021. Her family is originally from Turkey; Asli grew up in Belgium. She manages a portfolio of 53 clients, mostly small businesses who are looking to grow their reach with Google products and marketing services.
During the webinar, we had the privilege of asking them six questions.
Q: An overarching objective of all your roles is to drive revenue growth through attracting new clients and building long-term relationships. Can you share a key tip or best practice for driving business growth?
Maud: The last three, four years have seen rapid change, not the least in the form of COVID and AI - which has become the word of the year, even at Google. My top tip would be to not fear change, but to stay open to it, and test and try out different things and learn from those things and adapt. Because if you don't change, the world will change without you.
Asli: Another really important aspect of business growth is knowing what your objectives are. It feels like a really obvious question, but a lot of clients can’t actually answer it. And once you know what your objectives are, it’s also important to decide what you need in order to measure your success. What metrics do you need so that at the end of the day you know what has been really successful, and what has not? It’s important to decide this at the beginning.
Miher: In business development, but also as marketers and salespeople, it’s very important to understand how your product is different from other products in the market. Because if you really, deeply understand why what you’re offering is different, you’re no longer competing against other brands. Instead, you're just trying to find a way to understand what is best for your clients, and how your product or solution can help them to achieve their goals. And then it's a whole other conversation.
Asli: To add to that point: you don't have to be always present in every channel. If as a company you’re trying to be present in all the channels, you’ll be splitting your energy and wasting it on channels in which your clients might not even be present. That’s why it’s important to understand which channels you actually need. Pick and choose your battles and invest in the channels that will give you the best return on investment.
Miher: I agree. This goes into understanding the person that you're talking to. And the moment you understand what's important for the person in front of you, you can also change your language towards that person. So if it's a non-technical person, it doesn't make sense to drop technical terms and go into technical detail. If it's a business person who primarily cares about how they can grow their business, you have to speak their language, addressing value and growth.
This also requires you to understand not only your own client - your business partner, the person you’re talking to - but their client or customer as well. All of these processes require some failing forward. Don’t be discouraged when a project goes unexpectedly or when you don’t need more clarity. You have to be willing to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, get into that uncomfortable position of admitting you don’t know something and asking a question about it. Being willing to ask questions is what will help you learn and grow.
Q: How do you make your product stand out? Even if there are a lot of people who have the same kind of service or product?
Asli: In the past, you needed to have maybe 100,000 euros in order to start a business. Now, this opportunity is open to many more people, even with smaller investments. Of course, that’s great. But on the other hand, with so many businesses being started there’s a lot of competition. This is when it becomes even more crucial that you really understand your clients and make sure you're creating a product they really need. The other thing that is really becoming more essential is creating a really good client experience. At the end of the day, it's going to be the quality - the quality of how you're treating your clients, but also how you're treating your employees - that makes the big difference.
Q: What are the trends that will shape companies of the future and the digital landscape they work in? How can companies leverage these opportunities for their business growth?
Maud: There are a couple of trends that have actually put a bit of pressure on brands, but that are also areas with potential for business growth. One important trend is personalisation. As Asli said, if you want to stand out you need to personalise and offer a quality experience. Consumers are more likely to purchase your product if they have a personalised experience.
But at the same time, companies now have to deal with stricter privacy regulations than ever before, driven by demands for privacy by consumers. It’s a paradox, really. On the one hand, clients want to have something personalised, while on the other hand, you have to be more careful than ever before with the data you gather from them. Things like cookies are being phased out, which means we’re a lot more blind when it comes to data. The only choice we now have is investing much more in the data that we are allowed to collect, and that people are giving their consent for.
Businesses are starting to use the data they are allowed to observe, and filling in the gaps with AI-driven models for the data they cannot see. We’re also seeing AI taking over tasks like chat boxes on websites. This means that it’s freeing up salespeople to work at a higher level: being more strategic and creative, and focusing on the complex tasks that deliver more value for the client. AI presents a big change, and we all need to get along with it. Otherwise, I believe we'll miss the train.
Asli: Agreed, it’s bringing big changes. We just recently launched a product called universal dubbing. It means that while I'm talking in English to you now, thanks to the AI, in the future the system is going to translate everything that I'm saying and synchronise my lips to that translation for a target audience’s language - for example Arabic. My lips are going to be so synchronised that you're not going to even realise that I’m speaking English; it’s as if I’m speaking Arabic to you. I think those things, also in terms of personalization, are going to help us in the future and bring down language barriers for different audiences.
Miher: When it comes to personalisation for small businesses, I think the most important tool they have is collecting client data. With that data, you can create client profiles and segment your clients into different groups: high value clients, medium value clients, et cetera. That will help you target your marketing better. Say, for example, if your high value clients enjoy travelling, you may decide to put a travel angle into your next marketing campaign. It means your marketing is already getting personalised, and you speak to your clients in a way they understand and appreciate. Actually, it's not about having a lot of data, it's actually making use of the data that you have. That's very important.
Q: Developing negotiation skills, interpersonal communication and strategic thinking is a major part of TAP’s curriculum. How do these skills play a role in the strategic guidance and planning you offer clients?
Asli: The main way we actually differ from robots is in our emotions. In general, people still want to talk to people. We want to be able to have small talk, share things about ourselves, our family, our own experiences. At the end of the day, these are the things that will impact your relationship with your client. And that’s what matters. In order for clients to trust you, they have to feel your empathy and that you actually care about their business in the first place. The moment you let them feel like you're just here to sell, it will impact their trust in you.
When it comes to negotiation, this human connection is also essential. Negotiation is about the small things, about asking the questions. Do you want to do this? Why don't you want to do this? Really asking questions, listening to them, and deep diving into the answers. Having that empathy is really important.
Miher: Something I learned to spend more time on is really understanding the objective of the business and the person you’re talking to. Success for you might look very different than success looks for me. Understanding that helps you understand why this person would ever spend time talking to you in the first place, and helps you define right away what your added value is for them. This comes from doing the research, understanding your client, understanding their business, and seeing how your product can actually help them.
Maud: You can learn so much from every meeting. Informal discussions before and after the business part are when you can really get to know them. Another strategy we use here at Google is the SHARP framework. S is for telling stories. H is for using a bit of humour as well. A is for analogies, using metaphors to explain things more clearly. R are for references, real-life examples of what you’re talking about. And P is for pictures, because we all like a visual story. This framework helps and guides us in every conversation we have with our clients.
Q: We’re curious! How did you get started in the field of business development?
Asli: I used to work in construction, but it didn’t align with my interests or career aspirations. I wanted to do a job that centred around connections with other people. I started applying for jobs, but my construction and teaching background meant I wasn’t really getting invited for meetings or interviews.
So I approached it from a different angle, and thought creatively. I actually made a video CV, explaining why people should hire me. I put it on LinkedIn and it kind of went viral, helping me land a job at an advertising agency. Fast forward two years, and a recruiter at Google responded to my video CV. At first I thought it was spam, but it turned out to be genuine. I prepped my interview really, really well. Preparation for an interview is really the most important thing. And no matter what you do, find your creative angle, the thing that will set you apart from others. This goes for everything that you do: always try to look at things from a different perspective.
Miher: I have a business and finance background, and never considered tech or sales as a career. When I was approached by Google, I saw my interview as a two-way conversation. It’s not only for them to get to know you, but it's also for you to get to know them and the company, to see whether it is the right fit. So if you are interviewing for any company, or for Google, now or in the near future, make sure that you also prepare your own questions for them.
Maud: I was super prepared for my interviews at Google. I actually printed out 200 questions I could find online for interviews. I made small cards, just like I used to do back at school, and practised them. I saw Google as a very good kind of benchmark to pass interviews, even if I didn’t get the job.. So I was like: ‘This is an awesome exercise. Let's do it’.
Q: Would you encourage someone to go into the field of business development, and why?
Asli: Business development and sales in general are not always talked about in the most positive way. But honestly, I think it's the best place to start your career. You develop so many skills that are needed in every role in every company, no matter what the size of the company is. You will always need your emotional skills.
I also really love it because it's what you make of it yourself. You can design the role to suit you. If you don't want to be the one who’s pushing their clients for a sale, then don’t push. Find another way. You need to find that creative angle I talked about earlier. Try different kinds of styles. And you will find your authentic self after a while.
Maud: That’s right. Within sales, you can also always choose the areas you want to focus on more. So if you're more of an extrovert and you like to build durable relationships, focus on that. Or if you’re more of a geeky, techy salesperson, you can focus more on the technical side of the business. Honestly, I've seen so many different styles, and we need different styles. Combining different styles, and asking people with different skills for help, allows us to be more successful. That’s what I love at Google. Nobody is afraid to ask for help, because we know we will always get a yes.
Miher: For me, I love business development because you can really have an impact in this job. In the end, in everything we do as human beings, we want to have impact. We want to see our contribution, and we want to see what we're working towards. And I think in business development you can easily see the impact that you’re having.
And honestly, sales doesn’t deserve the negative connotation it gets. It’s not that you're pushing things on people who don't need it. No, it's much more about understanding what products or services am I actually providing? And what does that help my clients with? If you position it that way, you become a very good listener and you can make the impact you want to have.