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?

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The Dangers of the Warm Introduction

“Cold calls are for suckers.”

For years, if you were to ask me what I thought of “cold calling” – reaching out to people with whom you have no existing relationship or connection – I would have quoted that famous(ish) dictum from Keith Ferrazi’s fantastic book Never Eat Alone.

“Find someone who already knows the person you’re trying to reach,” I’d advise instead. “And ask them to make a warm introduction.” A warm introduction, the presumed holy grail of getting in the door, provides you with a head-start: by having someone else who already has invested their time and energy into building a relationship with someone introduce you that person, you draft off of their progress and immediately spark a sense familiarity that would otherwise take time to build.

But lately I’ve started to back away from my reflexive disregard for going in cold. In fact, I’ve come to realize the dangers of the warm introduction.

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Lean Biz Dev: Partner Development

Over the past few years, the teachings of the Lean Startup methodology have become common practice when developing a new product: talk to customers and validate your ideas before you invest too much time in them. Customer Development, as it’s called, is now standard operating procedure.

And yet when we think about pursuing partnerships, it’s easy for even the most ardent followers of Lean to lose sight of those guiding principles and rationalize an investment of time and energy without any data to back it up.

“Getting out of the building” to talk to prospective partners certainly isn’t as easy as going to your local coffee shop to talk with prospective customers, but the need to test your Value Hypothesis and determine for whom the value you can offer resonates is no less important in Partner Development as it is for Customer Development.

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The Best Deal in the History of Deals – An Interview with The Phat Startup

I recently did a fun interview about business development with my good buddy Anthony Fraiser over at The Phat Startup  for their new online course,  Secret Society.
In just over half an hour we boiled down some fundamental principles of business development, ranging from exploring “what, exactly, is business development” to how the partnership between Jay-Z and Samsung was “the best deal in the history of deals.”

Check out more of The Phat Startup’s awesome hip-hop-inspired business interviews with folks ranging from Alexis Ohanian to Gary Vaynerchuk at

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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