Business development mindset

A lot of people don't like business development types but business development is critical to ensuring the company has money to operate. Like it or not, its really important.

The business development mindset has three points:

  1. Firmly believe that what you have to offer is good for the person on the other side of the table, even if they don't realize it. Even if the product you have doesn't accomplish 100% of what it needs to yet. You are building something that will make them better.
  2. Spend 25% of your time in front of a client selling
  3. Spend 75% of your team in front of a client educating or learning

If I firmly believe that what I'm selling is good for someone I can never lose a deal. There is almost always a way to close a deal if what you offer is fundamentally better for the person on the other side of the table. Some deals just take longer than others to close. Its almost a religious awakening with you take this to heart.

Educate the other side and learn all you can about them. Know your customer and your partners.
I learned this lesson when I started my security consulting business and had Japanese companies as my major clients. I always made a point to know what my Japanese clients were doing in their business. Even if it was unrelated to security. And I brought these new developments up in conversation when appropriate. They loved it. And still do.

Educating customers and partners is the difference between selling a Kia and selling a Maybach.

I went to a charity event and there was a Maybach and a Maybach salesman nearby. He caught me looking at the car. The event was organized by a super wealthy minority, I was probably one of the poorest minorities floating around. But he had no idea. When the salesmen started pitching he didn't actually say anything about the price. Instead he started telling me about his customers who own Maybach's. Why some customers preferred a divider between the driver and the passenger seat. How many customers actually drove the car themselves verses using a driver. Slowly it moved from education to conversation. Interesting stories about customers buying cars as gifts. He asked about myself, my business and we joked about a few things. It wasn't deep, but it was memorable.

I was really happy the Maybach sales guy gave me a pleasant break from the occasional boredoms of charity events. I really wanted to buy the car because I felt like this is a sales guy I'd want keep in touch with (I didn't buy the car, my credit card was maxed out that night). This is the feeling that I try to leave the other side of the table with whenever I meet them or email them. And I'm really, really, good at it.

If I go into the meeting with a partner and I can't educate them about something then I try to learn as much about them as possible, clearly they know more about whatever I'm trying to sell them than I do. So I just listen. Then I go out and research something I found interesting in our conversation and I come back to the next meeting more informed. Eventually the educating becomes conversation and that's when you have a relationship. From there sales is easy.

I'm really good at this. It's my single most valuable contribution to any business I've buit and when I can't focus on "business development" the company suffers. When I don't have enough time to prep for a meeting, business suffers. If business development isn't taken seriously, business suffers.

A good business development meeting is 25% you selling your widget and 75% education. Either you learning about them, or you teaching about something that is tangentially related to your product.

When the meetings start going from education to conversation, a relationship conducive to sales has been established. That's what the business development guy should focus on doing.