Having a good network is very important in BD. I always say that having the ability to get in front of any company and/or person (whether it be a reporter, investor, or someone else) can be the difference between success and failure in a BD role.
But what about the actual work of networking? How do you get good at growing and building your network?
The most important thing you need to know to be successful at networking is that it’s all about finding your vehicle and being able to communicate it properly.
Your vehicle is best described as what your “deal” is. Two questions really: “Who are you?” and “What do you do?”
For example, my vehicle is that I run business development and partnerships for online integrations at Dwolla. I also spend a lot of time writing on my blog here, and I contribute to Forbes every two weeks. Having this vehicle allows me to answer the networking questions.
The biggest concern I hear from people who shy away from networking, is that they don’t know or don’t feel comfortable talking about what they are doing now. Someone in finance, real estate, or accounting, says they don’t know what to tell people when they meet them. The easy answer to that is you need to troubleshoot and position your vehicle for maximum success.
If you are a lawyer with a passion for early-stage education companies and looking to break in, your vehicle is this exact story. You are currently a lawyer and very passionate about education startups. You need to read up about education startups, the companies, the latest news, and everything in between. You need your vehicle but you also need to be well read in the industry you want to break into it.
Once you configure your vehicle and read up about the space you are networking in, you are ready to go out and be successful at networking.
I often have people ask me how they can start their own blog and what they should write about. I always try to tell them that they need to find a vehicle to write about. Once they find their vehicle it will be easy to produce content.
Some example vehicles are - startup newbie, startup VC, lawyer turned startuper, learning programmer, entrepreneur sharing knowledge, VC/entrepreneur combo, etc.
When I was last out in Iowa, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kate Wagner from the Dwolla team. She has been writing a personal blog for quite some time, but wanted to crossover a bit, find a larger readership, and have it relate back to startups.
After some discussion she decided on reviewing female targeted startups and companies as a female in the coveted demographic (18-35) and geographic (Midwest). She is calling it Review Me Kate.The first review is called Go Try It On and you can find it here.
This is a great example of finding a vehicle. I wish Kate luck and know she will do great.