Do Things That Don’t Scale in Business Development

The other day, someone named Jordan left a comment on my post about the Value Hypothesis that got me thinking. Jordan wrote:

“In a world of highly automated marketing and business development efforts to hundreds of prospects, how do you suggest we target each prospect individually while maintaining a high level of touches to reach a closed deal? Are there any best practices or tools we can use in both identifying an efficient value prop and do it on a large scale?”

Jordan’s comment raises a great question: Is it possible to automate the process of establishing genuine relationships based on a mutual exchange of value?

I say “no.”

I’m an efficiency geek to the core, and I love to find ways to automate and eliminate as many of life’s little tasks as possible. But with the relationship-building necessary in business development, I find myself coming back to Paul Graham’s famous dictum: “Do things that don’t scale.

Taking the time to craft a strong Value Hypothesis is an investment. Getting someone to care is the first step in getting them to listen, to buy, or to partner. It is usually neither quick nor easy to research and digest the motivations of a company and an individual to the point where you can clearly articulate why they should care to spend their time on you. But that investment is time well spent when you’re able to cut right to the core of how your relationship can bring value to both sides.

Of course, if you ask a dozen BD people what is their favorite CRM tool, you’ll get a dozen different answers. Tools make our lives easier, and there’s nothing wrong with getting help to do our jobs. What we must remember, however, is that a tool is just an extension of the person using it. Salesforce.com cannot tell you how to get someone’s attention. Yesware cannot turn someone into an advocate. Those tools can help you track your progress as you navigate through a company’s hallways, but it’s up to you craft the message that gets you in the door to begin with.

There is only one way to streamline the processes of business development: invest your time wisely in uncovering the value that a deal brings to both sides, and free yourself from wasting breath on deals that don’t truly matter. Then you’ll see how “doing things that don’t scale” can ultimately be the most efficient path afterall.

10 Responses to Do Things That Don’t Scale in Business Development
  1. Spence Reply

    Great Post Scott. We have tried sending an automated “Thanks for signing up” email to all vendors that sign up to do business with us on our site. It feels cold, impersonal, judgemental, and usually starts the relationship off poorly and awkwardly. This post has made me re-think that policy.
    We are trying to balance the volume of vendors coming into the pipeline with a highly personal touch and good research into each deal. It can be tough to achieve with a small start-up sized staff. However, your blog raises a good point: Efficiency must not be confused with haste. The goal is to create long-term value, and that requires that sometimes you just slow down and really dive deep into each one that you think has value.
    Spence
    Dealers United Business Development

    • slpollack Reply

      That’s great to hear Spence. It’s always a balance between moving fast and moving in the right direction. Keep me posted on how it goes!

  2. Doron Greenspan Reply

    Another great post. Just curious if the initial touch can be automated? When developing a large pipeline wouldn’t it make sense to cast as wide a net as possible and then, once there is interest and preliminary qualification, invest the time developing the value prop/relationship? Would love to hear your thoughts!

    • slpollack Reply

      First impressions, and all that. The first time you reach out to someone is perhaps the most important, so having a tailored message to start can set the stage for more productive conversations to follow. The core value you offer may be the same for multiple contacts — the utility of your product, the size of your audience, etc. – but what matters is customizing the message to reflect why the person you’re contacting would care about that value.

      • Doron Greenspan Reply

        Thanks for clarifying! I was focused earlier up the stream, when deciding whether a prospect is worth contacting and figuring out if they have a need for your service. At such an early stage I’m not looking for a DM as much as trying to ascertain if they have a need for our solution. Doing things that don’t scale make sense once you know there is definitely potential to work together and then you have to carefully research and set the stage for the initial contact, etc.

  3. Franco Eugene Abott Reply

    Great insight.

    • slpollack Reply

      Thanks Franco!

  4. David A. Frankel Reply

    Totally agree. There is a huge difference between sales & business development. While you might be able to generate transactional sales via marketing automation, successful business development requires personalized interaction you don’t get from automation. It takes thought, time, creativity and patience. The best CRM tool is the one that resides between your ears.

    • slpollack Reply

      “The best CRM tool is the one that resides between your ears.” Love that – wise words David!

  5. The Difference Between Biz Dev & Sales: You Can’t Hurry Love | SLINGSTONE Group Reply

    […] was a comment on a blog post written by Scott Pollack who was writing in response to a commenter of a previous blog post he had written over a year ago. […]

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