When my friends or colleagues need to find a person to do a job for them — they come to me. A successful startup founder to learn from, lawyer, coach, an event speaker, connection in The Big 4, or even a date, you name it. They know I have a massive network of contacts and will be able to point out where to dig, if not connect them directly to the right person.
Personal connections help a lot when I do business. I talk to many stakeholders and collect stories and experiences. They help with running events, especially in this post-COVID-19 era, as people tend to join one if they know the organizers or facilitators. Last January, I helped organize an event for businesswomen in Taipei last January, which included participants talking about their passion projects. There were many attendees, some of whom were my friends I invited personally. The most important payoff was that everyone found courage and felt empowered to go to the stage and share their stories.
Recently, the Oursky team managed to pull off an event for startup founders. We only had 10 days to make it happen, but thankfully (and with the team’s hard work and much-needed connections), we pulled through and 50 people showed up at the event.
So what has these got to do with business development?
Business development and sales are not an either/or
Many people confuse the terms “business development” and “sales,” and sometimes even use it interchangeably. Some even feel intimidated, anticipating aggressive sales tactics for a product they might not even need.
While they may be related, business development and sales are different. I like the comparison that my therapist used to distinguish them. Business developers are like treasure hunters, sent to a new territory to see if the land has gold. They research, ask around, and make connections with the locals. After some time exploring, they decide if there is potential to find gold. If there’s opportunity, they send engineers, drillers, miners, operators, and offsiders (collectively, the sales people) to work on it. If there’s none – they move on to a new terrain to further explore.
Business developers research, identify the product/market fit, and see if it’s worth sending in the sales people to close deals and hit targets.
As a business development manager, of course I want to close deals. But I also acknowledge that very few of those I talk to are qualified leads. So, I treat it as a numbers game and try to help every person I connect to by sharing resources, making introductions, and brainstorming potential solutions together. Every conversation I have is an experience that helps me the next time I meet a new person. I have a ”give-first” and pay-it-forward principle that allows me to not only close deals, but also help other companies and people while building a strong network along the way.
If you’re still cautious talking to a business development person, here’s what a productive chat with them can give you:
You have a super connector in your network.
Whether you’re looking into hiring great talent, connecting with investors or searching for a specific topic, having someone in your network to help you is a plus. It’s always safer (and faster) to ask within your network first, and a business development manager would be more than willing to help you.
When you sign a partnership with a vendor, it’s crucially important to have smooth communication and ensure that your partner actually took the time to understand your business requirements and the main challenges you’re trying to solve. Business development partners can often already sense the culture of the company and the way they treat clients.
You have lending hands to help solve your problems.
Talking to a business development manager is like reflecting on your business and looking at it from another fresh angle. They are usually trained to ask the right questions about risks, strategies, goals, and pain points. Business developers, trained to find opportunities and uncertainties, can provide you independent feedback on your product
Business development managers are trained to communicate based on the principles of mutual respect, deep listening, and empathy. You get a conversation where you are treated with respect, curiosity, and professionalism.
Not only are you heard; you also can ask whatever work- or business-related problem is bothering you. There is a decent chance that a business development professional or their clients faced similar problems. The experience they share provides a new perspective, and even if the solution cannot apply to your case, you might come up with your own based on similar experiences.
You have an interesting person to talk to.
It’s easier to hold a good conversation with a person who has hobbies, passions, or volunteering experience. I try to learn new things all the time, whether it is painting, driving, dancing, product design, or taking courses about politics or feminism. I also learn about different countries. Taiwan is the third country I’ve lived in (and still am), which gives me a multicultural lens to look through things and lots of crazy stories to share. So, you can learn interesting insights about travelling, living abroad, and working in different cultures and industries.
Business development also requires project management and research skills. Personally, my experience in project management and data analysis helps a lot in my current role. I can sometimes advise on the operations and project management side, and share what I’ve learned from working in e-commerce, education, and social enterprise in Russia, data analysis and FinTech in Myanmar, and software development in Taiwan. I am also deeply passionate about women empowerment.
Communication is powerful
To create partnerships, you need exceptional people and proactive communication, and especially so for startups where they usually go into a market where their brand, product, or service is unproven and barely recognized or referenceable. Business development people are your entrepreneurial treasure hunters. They can help you bring together the team you need to solve your difficulties and create meaningful value in the long term.
Business development people are trained to envision win-win scenarios, ask the right questions, and help with an emphatic ear. I enjoy my job a lot and it’s energizing to talk to people. There are so many amazing inspiring people I meet every day — startup founders, multinational executives, fellow business developers, colleagues, friends. I always learn from them and strive to give back to the community.
Kick-starting a project? Exploring solutions for your startup? Want to validate your strategy? Oursky works with startups in bringing their ideas to life with the right people and technology. Talk to us and we can explore how to creatively harness the digital space to solve problems.
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