The Debonair Commercialist

A blog about crafting compelling propositions and cultivating commercial nous

Category: Career in commercial propositions

What good looks like when working in business development

What good looks like in business development

My two-part series on ‘Ten behaviours to empower your career in commercial propositions’ spurred an interesting discussion. A few asked ‘Ok, I demonstrate those behaviours and skills, would that qualify me for the job?’ and ‘Would these make me a strong business development manager?’.

Spot on. When I interview people for such roles and ask them for examples to elaborate on these behaviours, I ask myself the same questions – is having those skills enough, have you really practiced applying them in different situations?

What good looks like when working in business development

Here is my take on how a strong business development manager or commercial, proposition professional live those behaviours daily, with examples from the organisations I have operated in.

I am very interested to hear if you find them helpful and easy to practice in your business organisations!

Owner mindset, giving everything you got

You always act the champion of the project, product or the proposition. And you use your determination to deliver it.

What good looks like: You notice when there is discord or procedural delays and you use an appropriate level of energy to remove obstacles standing in the way of delivering the project.

Structured thinking, making things simple and clear

You are able to package up choices or options with clear pros/ cons and make a recommendation.

What good looks like: You tell a concise story relevant to the audience instead of telling the entire story that includes all issues. And you make it clear where subjective judgements have been made.

Also, you can quickly immerse in complex issues and become a “one day expert” versus leaving the complexity to others.

Financial skills, looking for the bottom line

As discussed before, a solid understanding of the relevant profit, revenue, cost drivers, and volume metrics is a hygiene factor for anyone doing business development and commercial propositions.

What good looks like: You can identify the “killer questions” that enable a reasonableness judgement.  Then you identify ways to objectively assess those killer questions.

Also, you make effective judgements on what is important and what is less so and on the back of that you make quick and effective “ball park” calculations to enable this.

A strong manager does not wait for the perfect information before making judgements on the options.

Drive and passion, setting the high standard and trying to improve

Irrespective to organisation size or complexity, a good manager needs to have deep understanding of the processes and people needed to get the business opportunity delivered.

What good looks like: You understand both the organisation’s strengths and its weaknesses and use this to shape the delivery approach (this is one of the examples I always seek to explore in candidates).

You proactively seek out critical success factors to deliver the proposition or the deal instead letting others do their jobs and hoping it all works out nicely.

Customers come first, and you are their champion

There are numerous internal barriers to project the voice of the customer, usually these are non-intentional, but very real! Examples are internal procedures, governance, regulatory demands, so making sure you marry organisational demands to the customers’ needs is an absolute must.

What good looks like: You proactively reach out to all functions (eg. Marketing, Sales, Finance, Delivery, Legal) to gain their input and ensure their needs are considered. Then, you ensure there are “no surprises”, which means lots of communication to make sure that different views are explicitly understood.

You are very confident in using this knowledge to request that other areas deliver, versus not making an explicit request to another area for fear of not having the authority to request.

Doing what you say you will do

People rarely enjoy being challenged, but in business development and propositions it is really the norm the opportunity to be internally debated and challenged until all sides agree this is the right thing to do. Welcome challenges from anyone that might help improve what you do!

What good looks like: You present the arguments in a balanced way that acknowledges legitimate views from all sides. Also, you probe to understand the views of others, to the extent that they can accurately articulate the facts.

And finally, you balance being fair and open minded with sticking to a strong argument  versus being afraid of confrontation.

What good behaviours look like in your practices? If you want to share tips and stories and lessons learned, please feel free to send me your comments.

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Ten behaviours to empower your career in commercial propositions (Part 2)

If you have not read my previous post, in this two-part story I am summarising the behaviours which make a career in commercial propositions and how to make it enjoyable. All of these are transferable, non unique to any profession, neither to a business vertical and their versatility should encourage more professionals to consider a career in propositions.

So, which are the remaining six behaviours?

Ten behaviours to empower your career in propositions management


In commercial propositions, you sometimes find proposing not only new products or services, but also entirely new ways of doing business which require a leap of imagination by many other people in your organisation. For this, you need to think bold and not fear the scepticism of colleagues who would say ‘We tried this before…’ or ‘You have to be more careful…’. If you have the facts that prove you are on the right path, do not get distracted by the nay-sayers. Being creative does not mean inventing something earth shattering, but solving a problem in a novel way and in an efficient manner.

Bold and convincing interaction

Every proposition professional is an owner – he or she believes in the opportunity from Day 1,  has the facts to defend it,  and the skills to relate the proposition to a wider audience in the company, across teams, roles and hierarchies. One of my colleagues calls this ‘telling the story with clarity and passion’ and adapting it for the different audience. Negotiation skills are often cited in job descriptions but while you will never be expected to negotiate a peace treaty, you are expected to be good at telling the story of your proposition convincingly and align people behind your thinking.

Numerical dexterity

Notice I do not say ‘commercial skills’. In my book, commercial acumen is not a given, nor a birth right. It is nurtured and encouraged, but the basic prerequisite is to be very comfortable with numbers. By this I mean the quickness of wit as well as understanding of how a basic business case works in order to enable decision making. You should enjoy the level of detail which business cases bring because you are most likely to be the only person in the room with the numbers. And behind every winning proposition, there is a thorough business case with many scenarios which explore future outcomes.  The numbers will make you very convincing when it comes to telling the story (see the previous tip). Which brings me to the next skill…

Structured thinking

The commercial side of propositions is about generating options or hypotheses and knowing how to gather evidence and analyse it. Your excellence shines through analysing those options to discard all weak ones, summarising those that remain well and supporting a final recommendation. It is a process that you apply to every commercial decision – no matter how trivial or impactful. Being able to defend your thinking with strong analysis of the available options is invaluable skill across many professions, but certainly it is essential in propositions development.

Ability to make things real

This is the part which in my opinion requires most tenacity and resilience both in big and small companies. This is the part where your idea is picked up by others who will help you turn it into something real. And your role is to ensure that your original idea and the customer experience behind it stay the same in the finished product. This means working with Design and Product teams  to turn your proposition into a solution story that reflect your requirements, but also be flexible when issues are identified and need a resolution.

Last but not least, which is my tenth behaviour? I would say Passion, as it wraps all other nine behaviours in it.

On passion for proposition development

If you work in commercial propositions, I am very interested to hear your views on what makes you tick in this area. Feel free to comment on this post or send me your ideas.

If you have any questions, or you want to share stories, lessons learned around proposition development and commercial innovation please feel free to leave a comment.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

Ten behaviours to empower your career in commercial propositions (Part 1)

Exciting times! My team is hiring a new commercial and propositions manager. A new journey to find a great balance between financial acumen and creativity has begun! And I hope this journey does not last long.

I often get asked whether you need to have previous experience in propositions in order to work in a commercial propositions team.

My answer is NO! Hiring a job title is not what we are after, but we are after the right skills and behaviours as commercial propositions’ area require versatile talents.

If you see yourself exercising and living those 10 behaviors below then you will excel in propositions. Most of those skills are transferable, you can exercise those in any industry and in a good propositions team you will be able to hone them further.

10 behaviors to enjoy commercial propositions

Owner’s mind-set

It is your baby end to end – from the raw idea to the finished product. It takes passion, tenacity, attention to detail and proactiveness every step of the way. And great accountability – you own it and if you do not care for it as an owner then it will always be a task you do to meet somebody else’s requirement, rather than your own creation.

Make it personal

Do not just put yourself in customers’ shoes, try to make it personal and defend the customer perspective in front of other teams or internal experts who might not have the inclination to look into the customer lens all the time. It happens more often than anyone would confess, but not all teams look after the customer experience in the same way.

Inquisitive and recognising the big picture

Whatever the industry you are working in, you have to understand how your market works and the customer dynamics within that market. This takes not only natural curiosity about the ongoing market trends but also a grasp of what these trends mean for your business in the next one to five years.

Comfortable with ambiguity

Propositions is all about charting new lands and putting new ideas forward. More often than not the opportunity you are developing has no precedent in your product (or service) set or historical information is scarce and cannot back your analysis. This is where someone who thrives in ambiguity shines through. In commercial terms this means inventing assumptions of how your product or service is going to be sold, consumed, and marketed or all of those.

You’re well on your way at this point. In Part 2, I will talk about numeracy, structured thinking and creativity. Ta!


If you have any questions, or you want to share stories, lessons learned around proposition development and commercial innovation please feel free to leave a comment.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

On passion for proposition development

In the last 10 years I have brought to market many technology products and services. And I have learned that what is required to bring a new idea from the whiteboard, through business case with tens of scenarios exploring multiple assumptions, followed by proof of concept, and ultimately a launch takes more than good numerical skills and creativity. It requires passion.

On passion for proposition development


Passion is the most essential precondition for being a successful commercial propositions professional. What do I mean by that? I mean:

  • Passion to evangelise about your new product or service, which at times goes against the current flow of the business and charts new ground where no precedent exists – e.g. targeting a new market segment, developing new capability, trying out a new commercial model.
  • Passion to take on board throngs of internal stakeholders up to the point that they not only support, but also believe in your ability to bring customers in volume, believe your revenue forecast and overall benefits in order to give their omnipotent sign-offs.
  • Passion and grit to go through endless workshops to test your assumptions, and work with Product and Delivery teams to fine tune what the proposition delivers as customer experience.
  • Passion to see your idea through, into a finished physical product you can touch or a service you can seamlessly use.

Funnily, no job description for commercial and proposition managers mentions the word ‘passion’. Job ads talk about ‘energy’ and ‘excitement’, but these can take you that far, you need more than these to get a winning proposition on the market.

You need passion.

This blog is about sharing my passion for innovative propositions and the lessons I have learned along the way.