Posts by: slpollack

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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How Big Companies Think

You probably know that inside your skull there is a brain divided into two halves, a right brain and a left brain, that collectively control the way you think, react, and behave.

Similarly, decisions at Big Companies are a team effort, the result of a shared opinion between two forces that guide a company’s thinking: the Organizational Mind and the Individual Mind.

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You Solve a Person’s Problems, Not a Company’s Problems

I had coffee with a smart entrepreneur today, and he said something that struck me. He said: “We had a great meeting with Microsoft.”

It’s a line we all utter so naturally, but when you think about it, that’s kind of a strange statement. We often tell others and ourselves that “I’m meeting with Big Company” without stopping to consider the obvious: that we do not have meetings with Big Companies.

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How I Built a Career in Business Development

I’m often asked questions like “what steps should I take to build a career in business development?” and my first instinct is to relay parts of my personal career story. It’s my feeble attempt to provide a thoughtful, structured answer for how they can do the same thing.

I’ve spent over 10 years working in all facets of partnerships, but labeling myself a “business development” guy is a relatively recent phenomenon. Here’s the story of my winding road to a career that I’ve loved.

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