There’s No Such Thing as Closing

Have you heard about my new full-day interactive business development workshop, GROWPLAN? It’s on November 16th in NYC and promises to be awesome. Check out the agenda and get your tickets at

I was once teaching a class about partnerships between startups and Big Companies, and one of the students came up to me after class with a complaint.

“To be honest, I was hoping to learn some ‘ninja tactics’ for closing deals,” he said.

“That’s silly,” I told him. “There are no such things as ninjas.”

OK that’s not true. Ninjas are real, and they are dangerous. But seriously, there are no such things as secret “closing tactics” harbored by stealth clans of business developers that can suddenly bring a deal from a standstill to a contract.

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The Three Stages of Business Development

I remember how excited I was when I first got my driver’s license.

I rushed to the Department of Motor Vehicles after 9th period calculus on my 17th birthday so I could finally get my New York State-issued pass to teenage independence. All I wanted to do was drive – it was so freeing and fun! But even back in the late 1990’s, gas was expensive and even a semi-decent high school job didn’t pay enough to get me very far. Soon enough I realized that I couldn’t afford to just joyride forever: I had to plan my route before I put foot to pedal.

I also remember how excited I was when I started out in business development – all I wanted to do was jump in the driver’s seat and start heading down the road to sales and partnerships. It was so freeing and fun!

However, even within a large company, I quickly came to realize that you can easily run out of gas when you start gunning it for sales and partnerships without having a map to your destination.

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Introducing GROWPLAN: Interactive Business Development Workshop

I’m hosting my first-ever, full day, fully interactive business development workshop on Saturday, November 16th in NYC. It’s called GROWPLAN.

Starting a business is hard, but growing a business can be even harder. It’s so easy to get lost in a sea of information with every books and blog post touting a new secret formula with “The 20 Things You Must Do to Succeed in Business”.

Enough of that. There is no one size-fits-all plan for enabling growth in business. You need to develop the knowledge and skills that you can apply to your company’s unique circumstances to identify, pursue, and exploit growth opportunities. That’s what GROWPLAN is all about.

At GROWPLAN, you’ll learn strategies and tactics that you can apply to every business development opportunity. And you’ll test them out on the spot, with a series of immersive, interactive strategy, sales, and partnership negotiation simulations designed to get you ready for the real-world.

Sign up before November 1st and get an early bird special of 50% off (use discount code: EARLYBIRD). Feel free to tell your colleagues and friends!

Think its missing something? I’d love to know what you think, so leave a comment below and let me know what you’d like to see on the agenda.

The Getting In The Door Series #3: The Pattern Interrupt

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about baseball, but I am aware of one thing: a good changeup is a remarkably effective tool for a pitcher. To the average batter, a changeup pitch will look like a fastball when it leaves the pitcher’s hand, only to realize far too late that it’s actually traveling much more slowly. After a series of fastballs a batter learns when to swing, but a changeup throws off their timing and gets the strike.

In a sport where a strong arm has become a commodity, a changeup helps pitchers break the pattern of fastballs to get the ball past the plate.

In our daily lives we pitch emails like fastballs, and busy people with overloaded inboxes have timed their swing to make it easy to swat emails away. There is a tool to throw off their timing and get your pitch across home plate. It’s the business developer’s version of a changeup pitch that I call the Pattern Interrupt.

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The Getting In The Door Series #2: The Secondary Intro

In the first post in the Getting in the Door Series, I shared how “patient persistence” can help you re-open closed doors when a contact stops responding. While patience is an under-valued skill in business development (often in favor of a misguided form of impatience called “hustling”), sometimes time is of the essence.

Relationships take time to build, but there are ways to speed up the process. How?

By demonstrating that you are already a member of their trusted social circle, and getting a secondary introduction.

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The Getting In The Door Series #1: Patient Persistence

In any sales and business development role, you develop a thick skin for rejection. What never ceases to grate against you, however, is the non-response.

Nothing pains BD people more than when your high hopes to connect with someone are met at first with a response, only for them to suddenly stop returning your calls. If you’ve ever had a situation where an email exchange suddenly goes unanswered, it’s easy to be left wondering: “What happened?” And more importantly, “what do I do about it?”

This post is the first of the Getting In The Door series that will share tactics that you can use to open doors and revive those “dead” conversations. Whether you’re closing deals with a potential partner or trying to land a coffee chat with a prospective mentor, these posts will shed light on steps you can take to make sure you get a seat at the table.

First up: Patient Persistence.

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How Business Development Differs Between Startups and Big Companies

I have a confession: I hate the term “business development.”

Despite having spent most of my career “doing business development”, I must admit that I’ve always secretly harbored an uneasy relationship with the label of “business development” as a job title.

I mean, isn’t anyone who works for a business thereby charged with developing it?

According to my own Grand Unified Theory of business development, the goal of this ambiguously-named function is to create long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships. And yet, if you ask a Biz Dev person at a startup to describe their day-to-day role you’re likely to hear a vastly different description than someone doing business development at a more mature company. And the differences are likely to be just as vast between a startup at the seed stage and one after their Series B.

Why is that? The answer: The role of business development changes as a company grows because what is valuable in the long-term changes as the company grows. 

Here’s how the role of business development evolves as a company evolves, from an early stage startup to a mature Big Company:

The Many Faces of Value

Business development may be the creation of long-term value, but value is a subjective concept. All too often, a decision on what value to pursue via partnership deals faces the same weak screen as the Supreme Court’s view of pornography: “I know it when I see it”.

There are usually dozens of opportunities that can pull your attention away from what matters most to your business. Being able to prioritize growth opportunities requires a clearer, more objective way to think about the value that you can create for your company and potential partners. It all starts with understanding what kind of value you’re after.

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Want to Get Better at Business Development? Then Learn to Code

The learn to code movement is all the rage these days, as it increasingly becomes common knowledge that being one’s own technical cofounder is the only path to getting a product off the ground.

While I agree in Marc Andreessen’s famous quote that there will be only two types of people in the working world – “those who tell a computer what to do and those who are told what to do by a computer” – I think there is another reason for business founders to learn to code: it can make you a better business developer.

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