I get many inbound questions about first time BD jobs. The questions range from salary to if one should take the job or not.
The most important thing one should know about first time BD jobs is that if you are (or are going to be) the person responsible for closing deals and scaling the business, you need to either reject the offer (if you haven’t started yet) or quit your job (if you are currently that person). I honestly don’t care about how much you believe in the company. There is a 99% chance you will fail at your job.
The problem here is that without someone showing you the ropes, you will make mistakes. Sure, there will be some wins, but for the most part it will be trial by error. In the startup world and with a company that depends on partnerships, you can’t make elementary mistakes. They will kill you. You may even be dead without knowing it.
To combat this, in your first BD job you need a boss who will help you avoid these mistakes. I always tell people that if there are two first-time BD offers on the table: one from a startup where you are the chief of deals and the other where you work with someone who has done it before. You need to choose the one where you will work for the person who knows what they are doing. Even if it is less money. This is single-handedly the most important thing you can do to start your career off right.
I’ve learned the hard way, when attempting to do a product partnership with another company (i.e. wanting them to integrate your offering) it is best to avoid people in business development roles. Business development can be great in many aspects, but in this area they will slow you down.
What I like to do is map out what an integration would look like. Who is needed to make the integration happen? It is usually a combo of product and engineering folks. If you have a strong offering that directly helps your prospective partner, you will go from zero to integration much faster by going directly through them.
Bottom line: In terms of product integrations, it’s a lot better for the product/engineering team to recommend something to the business side of company than the other way around.
I received an email last week from a friend. She wanted my feedback on the best way to ask someone she knows if they would be open to accepting an introduction. Her friend, Steven, had asked her for an introduction to Rachel. This is what I shared with her.
First Step: Ask Steven for a fresh email with the ask so you can forward it along to Rachel and add a note.
Second Step: Once Steven sends the email to you, forward it along to Rachel with a note in the body saying something like (obviously depends on context):
I hope all is well! My friend Steven from Company X sent me the below note. He would love to connect with someone at Company Y for his brother. See the note and let me know if you are interested in connecting with him.
The context here is my friend was looking to connect Steven’s brother with Rachel and her company for a job. Sometimes the context is introducing someone to investors, press, partnership opportunities. Just tweak the note.
Third Step: Tell Steven you asked Rachel and to stay tuned. Rachel will either respond or not. If she responds and says yes then respond and cc Steven on the email saying:
“Thanks Rachel. Meet Steven!
Keep it short and keep moving.
Fourth Step: If Rachel doesn’t respond within four business days, hit her again asking if she saw the email.
If she says no (in a nice way obviously) to the original email or the follow up- say thanks.
And this is the proper way to ask if you can make an introduction.
At a certain point in business development and partnerships you have more meetings than you can remember. Each meeting should have some specific follow up. It is impossible to remember them all. This is why it is imperative to take diligent notes at every meeting.
I use a basic structure: random notes, roadblocks, and next steps. The random notes section allows me to add anything that jumps out to me, key metrics, etc. The roadblocks reminds me of any issues that would hold up the deal. Lastly, next steps gives me clear action items of what to do after the call/meeting.
I see a very big difference between when I take notes and when I don’t. My advice: always take notes.
When working in business development and partnerships at a startup, with a product integration solution, you are always looking to the next deal. There is never time to rest. You typically have an API and you need to hand hold the next partner to get their integration up and running.
This is not to say you can’t enjoy the wins as they come. Enjoy them. But remember with every new deal the expectations get higher, the numbers need to continue to go up, etc.
For all the glamour and sexiness that comes with working on the business side of a startup, the reality is that you are only good as your last deal and there is very little time to rest and enjoy current success.
I’ve cut down on how many networking events I attend. The past 3+ years I have been to at least 1-2 events a week, ranging from events I organized (BD Meetup, Digital Learning Series, Speaker Series for VCs, etc.) to just enjoyable events in NY startup scene.
I am not recommending that everyone cut down on how many networking events they go to. On the contrary, when you are looking to break into the startup world, attending networking events is your lifeblood. For me, though, I have found other ways to network without attending meetups and spending 2-3 hours after work running around NYC.
At this point I am very selective with the events I attend, and try to make up the networking by doing a few things:
1) Writing four times a week and contributing to Forbes
2) Being active on social media (Twitter being the biggest one)
3) Skillshare classes: I haven’t taught one since the end of 2012, but Skillshare is a great networking tool to meet like-minded individuals. I will be releasing a hybrid online skillshare class fairly soon. So stay tuned.
I have found that doing these instead is giving me more time to spend with my wife and focus on the business at hand. Networking is great, but spending a few hours at events after a long and exhausting workday can take a toll. This plan helps me balance my life.
Do you have any tools on building your network that doesn’t consist of physical networking?
There are lots of pieces to the startup world that are affected by forcing something that doesn’t work. This could be a product that isn’t gaining enough traction, it could be a plan of business development action that isn’t working, or something else.
I’ve been there before. I’ve tried to force products and offerings that didn’t make sense. It never works. The best bet is to build or offer something you truly believe in. Something that you sincerely know will help your users or partners. If you do that, you will then have all the success in the world, because sincerity sells and people can see through the bullshit. If you don’t, you’ll just be spinning your wheels, wasting everyone’s time.
A bright spot in the New York tech business development scene has been Scott Britton, from SinglePlatform. Scott loves to teach and learn. He has a great blog that’s a must-read.
A few weeks ago Scott started a BD Newsletter. I must say, it is awesome. He sends a few articles on Sales/BD/Partnership topics, as well as some helpful tips. The one about a cool tool called Falcon this past week was great.
If you don’t subscribe already, you can find it here.
Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/13I7xUX.
Let me know your thoughts!