Business Development is NOT sales. Sales is closing deals and should be 100% about closing deals. A great business development department most often will ask in an interview what the difference is between sales and business development. If the interviewee likens the position to sales, its usually a bad sign for the interview.
Biz Dev is a strategic look at a business with the primary question being “What will create greater value?” and sometimes, “What is the future?” While the President of a firm is looking inward asking that question. Biz Dev is looking outward into the sea of the unknown. For some this is M&A work, looking for new opportunities to buy growth. For others it is looking for synergistic partnerships where common customers are shared, looking for new opportunities to build growth. And for others it is looking at your short comings as a company (short comings you may choose for strategic reasons) and find those who do what you cannot, looking for true partnership and symbiosis. A great Biz Dev team does all three.
The joy and terror of Business Development is that you don’t have a page of music to read from the way you might in other departments — you are more or less playing jazz, where you know more or less the theme but how you navigate is unclear.
As an example:
Personally I work with sales every day: funneling leads to them through the contacts and relationship I gain in my time, teaching them about ways our partnerships can fill in gaps when a lead needs us and something we cannot provide, helping them sell white label solutions with firms that want more than simple partnership provides, and even forging relationships between our sales team and that of others because often a combined offering and pitch is more elegant than ones done alone.
I work with marketing every day: finding ways to promote our partners and ways they can promote us, pondering new products we might share, offering education to our staff and our clients above and beyond our small slice of the pie, and of course evangelizing the wonder and greatness that is my own firm.
I work with tech every day: Helping choose which integrations make the most sense (leads gen wise, GMV wise, and Dev time wise), opening doors so that our Dev team can speak to another firm’s Dev team, helping elevate issues that happen when firms work together by eliminating the passing of the buck, and generally being the warm face of our company when introverts come together.
I work with our CEO every day: Funneling strategic and market knowledge long before it is well known, making introductions to other CEOs that resonate with our business philosophy, offering options that would not otherwise be possible if we hid in a cave, and helping court long term relationships that may at some point end in an M&A opportunity.
And all day I speak with partners, potential partners, people who seem interesting in our space but that I cannot categorize, and yes, even competitors (some of which share leads and integrations). I create relationships. When someone tries to tell me or my team how they are going to give us $X per lead (while calling it “business development”) I start planning my exit from the conversation. Our business is our business, not promoting someone else’s business. Some of our best lead generation partners make $0 from us and some of our most loved relationships get buckets of leads from us and not a single $ exchanges hands.
Business Development is entirely outward facing strategy.
Shawna Denise Snukst, 20 years of start-up Biz Dev experience