“What idea links machines and people? The common answer is versus. But the true role of analytics and AI along with other tools is collaborative. The future of artificial intelligence is a future of human potential: people with machines, doing more than either could alone. Welcome to the Age of With™.”
“We’ve learned this year that assumptions you have about the future can be destroyed overnight. That’s true for the poorest to the most successful, the old dry cleaner to the tech startup. It was true in January, and it’ll be true again in the future. Things change.
If that’s the lesson, the question is: what do you do about it? How do you think about a world where fundamental assumptions about the future are so fragile?” – Morgan Housel
We know business development (BD) is not sales, but what’s the difference? There are many, but the key is the endgame. In sales, the endgame is to have a customer purchase an existing product or service. In BD, it’s to develop and implement new business lines, products, partnerships, etc. There is a conventional comparison out there that helps paint the picture:
Marketing brings customers to the front door.
Sales bring customers to the register.
Business development builds new stores.
Knowing this, it’s clear why BD is so crucial for a growing business. While sales and marketing are imperative for driving revenue for today’s business, BD is creating the business of tomorrow. All three functions are critical to the success of a business, but BD is often overlooked. Why is this?
One reason is it requires a combination of skills and traits that is difficult to find. The best business developers have the creativity of an artist, the curiosity and experimental eagerness of a scientist, and the deal-making savvy of a CEO. It’s not that these people don’t exist; it’s that many businesses don’t know which attributes to look for in an exceptional business developer.
Here are three of the most essential:
“While sales and marketing are imperative for driving revenue for today’s business, BD is creating the business of tomorrow”
Consistently Generating AND Executing on Unique Insights.
As Gary Vaynerchuk would say, “Ideas are s**t.” Not everyone would phrase it that way, but we can at least agree with the message. Ideas are easy but ineffective on their own. A star business developer doesn’t just generate ideas; they produce insightful ideas. Insights imply a real understanding of a subject, situation or scenario, and not all ideas are insightful. Being insightful requires a mix of creativity and awareness, which is what you want in a business developer.
But it isn’t enough to generate insightful ideas. An ideal BD candidate must be willing and able to bring those insights to life. For example, let’s say a business developer for a small financial planning firm is tasked with sourcing new partnerships that will help bring in new revenue. The BD knows that the industry is headed for automation, so they conclude that a product partnership with a software development company to develop an automated, client-facing planning software would be the best way forward. That’s great, but that idea alone is not going to bring in any revenue. The business developer needs to put it in motion by sourcing potential partners, exploring synergies, creating a business case, getting the perspectives of all stakeholders, negotiating the right deal, implementing the relationship, and everything in between. Execution is everything.
Thrives in Vague, Obscure, and Uncertain Situations.
For many people, structured, rule-based, and routine environments are where they make magic happen. They enjoy clear, well-defined goals and tasks, and are sure about what they need to do to achieve their objectives. That is not the case for business development people.
Successful business developers often must work with many uncertainties and experiment with an assortment of ideas and approaches to doing things. The best BDs are naturally curious and experimental people who enjoy exploring new and existing avenues to hunt potential opportunities. They are often working on multiple projects across multiple timelines, and each of these projects can change on a dime. BD deals, especially in the early stages, are notorious for being fluid and taking unpredictable twists and turns. While this is less than ideal for most, BD people thrive on it. They love the variety and can see the big picture even when the path forward is unclear. Business developers overcome the fear of the unknown, which allows them to excel even in the most ambiguous situations.
Check out Carl Ed Baker’s TED talk below on how to replace fear with curiosity.
Always Thinking Win-Win.
Elite business developers are masters of negotiation and deal-making, but they are never looking to “win” a deal. BD is all about forming long-lasting partnerships, and the only way to do that is through win-win deals. If you take advantage of your strategic partners, it will come back to haunt you and your business. You want a business developer who loves finding synergies between each side and is obsessed with value creation for all stakeholders. The best business developers always find a way to balance out negotiations by thinking outside the box. They discover what the other side wants and figures out a way to meet this need using all resources at their disposal. This article on Entrepreneur provides an excellent example about how two businesses bridged the gap in negotiations by “broadening the scope.” These companies were able to craft a deal by understanding the other side’s needs while using their available resources to get a win-win result – even though the solution was not obvious at first glimpse. For someone to be a successful business developer, the default thinking should always be win-win.
“You want a business developer who loves finding synergies between each side and is obsessed with value creation for all stakeholders.”
If you are looking to bring on-board a star business developer to grow your business, you now have an idea of what to look for. The ideal mix of these skills and traits may not be easy to find, but not impossible. We covered three essential attributes, but the list is far from extensive.
What do you think are some other crucial qualities of a successful business developer? Comment below with your thoughts.
If you can find a new approach into a big but apparently played out field, the value of whatever you discover will be multiplied by its enormous surface area. – Paul Graham
This insightful quote is taken from Paul Graham’s December 2019 essay titled “Fashionable Problems.” In the piece, the legendary programmer, writer, and investor discussed the idea that even though many people have worked hard in a field, most get sucked into working on similar things (fashionable problems). Graham suggests that to find ‘unfashionable problems,’ we should look no further than the areas where everyone else believes there is little left to discover. This theory means even the most saturated and exhausted of industries could be home to undiscovered treasures waiting to be dug up.
The concept is equally useful outside the business world; it applies to the arts, sciences, even athletics. No matter what the field, there is always room for innovation. But to find these treasures, it takes passion, commitment, and courage to and press on where others gave up. It won’t be easy, but the ROI could be extraordinary.
As the world slowly begins to re-emerge from wide-spread lockdowns, the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to remain for some time. The impact will differ from across countries, workforce segments, and industries. Some will experience drastic and lasting changes, while others may come out relatively unscathed. So what does this mean for freelancers who already make up an ever-growing segment of the global workforce?
In a recent article, HR thought-leader Jon Younger reported the perspectives of 21 CEOs and thought-leaders on the subject, and most to believe the demand for freelancers will continue to grow. The list of those surveyed includes Guillaume Lissorgues (CEO of Apy), Ben Huffman (Co-founder of Contra), Rob Biederman (Co-CEO of Catalant), and more. To read the insights of each of the 21 experts, we encourage you to read Younger’s full article here.
As Gen Z continuous to make a growing impact, the workplace is evolving accordingly. As change continues to accelerate, navigating the future of the workplace requires planning and preparation from managers. But where should they start?
While there are many areas that managers may need to adjust, there is a great blog post from Lane, a Toronto-based prop-tech company, that can be used as a launch point.
The post outlines strategies for navigating the future of work in four areas, including:
Implementing Review-Based Rankings
If you’re interested in learning more about these strategies, we reccomend reading the full post on the Lane website.
When it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, it can feel like an uphill battle for entrepreneurs with small, growing companies. They will likely have less capital at their disposal than their larger competitors, so attempts at salary bidding wars might not be a viable option.
But instead of playing to their weakness, the entrepreneur can leverage the advantages they have over many larger enterprises: flexibility, growth, innovation, and purpose.
Smaller companies have the luxury of being more malleable and adaptable to the unique situation of each employee. Flexibility is a critical advantage in recruiting and retaining employees looking for flexible working hours/locations, a significant component of wellness that many employers still (shockingly) overlook. Large corporations with rigid, bureaucratic corporate cultures have an especially difficult time competing with this.
For those not interested in climbing the corporate ladder in exchange for a few decades of their lives, smaller businesses are an ideal place to learn and grow at their own pace. Due to the flat organizational structure and entrepreneurial culture, small businesses can provide employees with plenty of career advancement as the business itself grows. This tends to be just as critical in retaining employees as recruiting them.
Allowing employees to be exposed to new skills and responsibilities offers tremendous growth opportunities for both the individual and the business. A chance to work in this environment will be a breath of fresh air for people coming from an archaic, arbitrary, and political employee advancement process that has crippled the spirit of so many in the corporate world.By focusing on helping the employee advance in their career, instead of just the company, small businesses are better equiped to attract and retain prime talent across the board.
Advancements in technology has made it possible to automate and even eliminate many tedious and boring tasks, and often for a fraction of the cost. Many corporations have embraced this technology for good. Still, others use it as an excuse to cut salary costs at the expense of their employees. Perhaps this makes the firm cost-efficient, but is it a truly efficient use of resources?
By substituting humans for technology, these businesses are draining their sources of innovation. A conscious entrepreneur will instead use this technology to enhance the employee output, rather than replace it. There is an abundance of cost-effective tools out there that can reduce the menial tasks so that employees have more time for creative and strategic work. Not only is this beneficial for employee wellness, but it also helps maximize returns on both human and tech resources.
This one is self-explanatory. Humans ultimately want purpose and meaning in life. Most large corporations still do a mediocre job of connecting their employees to their mission. Others simply have a shallow mission to begin with. Organizations whose top priority is to generate profits fail to inspire their people, and these businesses are bound to have unsatisfied people searching for an escape route. Entrepreneurs by design are chasing a specific and meaningful purpose, and this becomes an incredible strategic advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining personnel. Finding someone who buys into the same vision and mission will go a long way in persuading them to join your team, even if your financial offer isn’t as strong.
There is no shortage of companies who are lacking in each of the above areas, and chances are they have great people who feel overworked, undervalued, or otherwise unwell. This is where small business can leverage their strengths to help these people achieve flexibility, growth, innovation, and purpose in their work.