I recently was engaged in a Skype conversation with my friend Aaron Brazell. Aaron recently left b5media where he was the Director of Technology, and has decided to change careers. Of all the things he could choose to do, Business Development happened to be on his list.
So, probably because I am the coolest person in the world (in addition to my status as the #1 douchebag in the world), I asked Aaron to try his hand at Business Development at Lijit Networks.
Its been fun over the past week or so talking to Aaron about publishers and Lijit, but more interestingly is the discussions we have had about business development.
So, back to the Skype conversation.
Aaron and I were discussing a plan of attack for a large publisher. One that neither of us had a warm introduction into. As the conversation continued, I began to explain to Aaron the difference between business development now and during the Great Dot Com Bubble of 2000.
In the “old days,” business development was more about strategic alliances, which was a silly way to say, “lets find a way to drive traffic to each other.” (Notice the word traffic. I didnt accidentally substitute that for the word revenue.)
Many companies owned a certain space and could demand many things for the access to their traffic or data. Business Development was really just sales with out the quota. It was all about traffic and eyeballs, and there was little to no focus on creating bi-directional relationships. As I just explained to another friend:
Business Development is about working with people who want to make your company better while you work to make their company better.
And that, in a nutshell, is the difference in todays world.
The world is smaller. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the like make it easy to interact with people all times of day and builds a level of understanding and connection that is unprecedented.
So, what advice would I give a new business development guy? What advice did I give Aaron? Here are my three rules to being a fantastic Business Development guy:
- Be yourself. You are now intertwined with the brand of the company you are pitching. If you are fake, then the company will be seen as fake. Just be yourself.
- Do what you would do normally. If you are not a blogger. Dont blog. If you dont like twitter, dont tweet. Basically, chose the communication medium that best suits you.
- Look for connections. Not just between people, but between companies. Does it make sense for Lijit to work with hardware manufacturers? Probably not. So think of connections in three ways:
- Direct: These are people that you know directly or can be introduced directly. In this case, you are looking to directly pitch the person on your product or service.
- Indirect: These are tangential connections, where you want to pitch your product or service to someone because of the people that like, follow, respect the direct connection.
- Enhanced: Dont really have a better word for this, but its basically a connection where there may be no immediate business to pitch, but since the two companies are like minded and the product or service is complimentary, that a connection will enhance both companies.
The first type, Direct, is the most like sales. You have something you want someone else to use or pay for, so you explain the features and benefits, and you are off to the races. The second, Indirect, is very much like a Direct connection, but your target isnt the initial person, its the intial person’s fans and friends.
Both of those are necessary for the growth of a company. As long as one is open and honest about it and straight forward, there is nothing shady about the practice.
The third type, enhance, is the most difficult and esoteric for most people. People that are successful at Enhanced Connections usually dont work for commission. They usually arent great sales people. But, they see the potential in both their company, and the target company, and understand that together they are stronger than individually. And most importantly, they understand its about sharing and giving, not just taking.
I also often joke that my title is VP, Favors and Introductions. 99% of my job doing favors, giving introductions or asking for favors or introductions. To me, the only capital I possess is my reputation and the trust my friends have that I will introduce someone that is worthy and wont waste their time.
The key to being successful at this is understanding one simple thing:
To get, one must give, and trust that the gift is compelling enough to have the other give in return.
And that one sentence, is what Business Development in a Web 2.0 World is. Its not wineing and dining, or business trips, or even expense accounts. Its being in a state of constantly giving, making sure that you have given more daily than received. And, most importantly, if, at the end of the day, what you are giving away (whether it is time, connections, a product or service, or even just an ear to listen) is not worthy of the people you are giving it to, and not given freely, you will lose. Every time.