Roger Towers Smith weighs in on the art of business development management

The world of the business development manager is a busy one. It takes an eye for detail, clear communication, and a commitment to delivering the best results possible for clients. Roger Towers Smith, a veteran in the field, understands that all too well. Luckily, he wasn’t too busy to share his thoughts on his career and the future with MultiLingual contributor Nicolás Maximiliano Martín Fontana.

Why do you like reading MultiLingual magazine?

MultiLingual magazine is a gateway to the industry, it’s great to keep up to date, and stay informed of changes and trends, but also, simply, in the “home office” world, to feel part of something bigger than one’s self.

 How did you join the translation business?

I actually come from a vastly varied background and “fell” into the translation business. I’ve been a head chef, hotelier, builder, actor, HGV truck driver, and a few more, but being part of such an inclusive industry as translation has been one of the best experiences I can think of. “Falling” into the industry was as simple as tripping over a social media post looking for a business development manager (BDM) and being completely drawn in. Having now been in the industry for some seven years, I couldn’t imagine my life without it!

How has the business evolved since you started as a Business Development Manager in 2016?

I think that from the perspective of a BDM, the translation business has evolved massively, some good ways, some not so good, but the welcoming feeling of our industry has varied very little. I remember in my first few months of being in the business, I attended a conference in London, and although I was a fresh face, I was drawn into the group and welcomed like an old friend. 

Some parts of the business, however, have evolved in a way which, in my opinion, detracts from that welcome feeling. Technology has advanced and, with that, removes some of the interaction, some of the camaraderie, some of the relationship aspect. 

How has the translation industry developed over the years?

I don’t think it’s a question of development but progress. Like any industry or business, you have to adapt to the environment, and as I said before, technology has become a massive part of what we do. From a BDM point of view, we’re not so immersed in said technology, but as an industry, there’s a feeling that technology may limit or remove an element that gives our industry its identity. 

I’m a strong advocate for the skills and talents of our linguists and project managers, all of whom give our business that unique and admired ability, and like so many, I’m concerned about the pathways that technology might take us, but in the same breath, and returning to the skills and talents, without them, we’ve got no industry or business, I mean, technology, right now, cannot replace the mind or the creativity of a real person.

Also, I think there’s a need for people in our industry — but not only on the production side — creating the relationships between ourselves and our clients, and that of our linguists and project management teams, not only gives strength to our business but creates a bond and long-term relationships that machines cannot ever establish. I honestly believe that the best business relationships come with time and with adding value — not only monetary but as human beings!

 Who was your first client? 

Thinking back, it’s hard to say who was my first client. However, I’ve built many strong business relationships as a BDM. Like many people, I made a few errors in the early days in the industry, but in doing so, I helped build some of the strongest relationships. For example, during my first trip to an in-person conference, I also booked client meetings, which only enhanced the relationship. The human connection is perhaps our strongest ally in our industry and what makes the difference in daily business.

 Is it a good time to be a business development manager?

That’s a really hard question, and it does depend on your experience and position in the industry, not only as an individual but also the company you’re part of and your target market. As I’ve mentioned previously, technology is gripping our industry hard, like many others, and the ease with which clients can access low-cost or free alternatives to our products means it’s harder than ever to “sell.” However, I’m not casting a darkness over our position, but saying we have to be smarter and adapt to how we approach our role. 

For example, I’m a huge advocate for building relationships, and I know that the sales process is never an instant fix, sometimes it takes months to just get in the door, let alone actually pin down a client to make that investment in your service.

I think if you have the ability to remain calm, to be methodical, and never to forget a potential relationship, then yes, it’s a good time. Still, if you’re simply after quick turnover and rapid-fire results, perhaps it’s not the best time to make that move stick!

Like I’ve said, the process takes time, and in my experience, some of the best clients and relationships are forged over a long period, not where you leap blindly and hope for the best!

What is your goal for the future?

I’m never sure what the future holds, but I don’t wish to steer far from this industry, regardless of the technological developments. However, I honestly believe that without the relationships, skills, and artistic value our businesses offer, there will be no industry. So for me, I’m always going to find a way to praise those who perform the magic of translation, going to endeavor to build those relationships that mean our clients trust us to spread their word regardless of the language, I want to maintain my relationships within the industry and expand my knowledge to best explain and support how our industry evolves. 

Put simply, since “falling” into this industry, I don’t feel like falling out of it!

 

Nicolas M. Martin Fontana
Sales and Marketing Manager at Comunica.

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