Traits of a Self-Refreshing Biz Dev Exec

In my last post I wrote about the potential expiration date business development execs and sales people face. My conclusion is this position is still vital in many companies, but businesses need to be careful when hiring.

Here is what I’ve observed as makes a great business development person:

  1. They are attractive.You can fill in whatever that means to you – I’m not writing about gender politics or lookism here, just stating what I’ve seen work. This can mean they wear nice clothes, tailored, well accessorized, they are genetically blessed, they own a gym membership, they smile a lot and tell funny jokes – whatever it is, they are someone people like to see more of.
  2. They are confident.
    This can be wrongly confused with egoism. It’s not about being the badass business school/Ivy league grad with high self value. It’s more about being able to enter a crowded room and not feel self-conscious. To walk about to anyone, introduce yourself, and start up a conversation knowing they will like you.
  3. They “own” your company.
    This doesn’t need to mean a literal ownership. It means they identify, believe in, and can rattle off your company’s mission, core offerings and differentiators at the drop of a hat. They are a citizen of your company before they are an “ambassador”.
  4. They like people.
    Barbara Streisand may have sung it, but the bottom line proves it. Bus dev is based on networking – and creating a “pipeline”. People who don’t like people may be able to do this job for awhile, but as Blank pointed out, they will burn out eventually.
  5. They can make the ask.

    That point when the cocktails run dry and prep school jokes segway to “in all serious though”, does your business development person have the confidence to make the ask? To look rejection from their new “friend” in the face, and to put a number on the table.
  6. They can close.
    This seems obvious, but I put all the weight on this skill as the “ring to rule them all”. What Blank pointed out about the ever pumping sales pipeline is that the number one failing of sales execs was closing a deal. If your bus devver is fresh, that first close may determine their worth. If you’re hiring for experience, my suggestion is asking them “what is the biggest deal you’ve ever personally closed?” Somewhere between the hot lead and getting a signed contract, is where your exec will add the most value.
  7. It’s about the game, not the money.

    In Wall Street 2 the main character asks the villian “What’s your number?”, meaning how much could you make and retire happily. The villian answers, “More.” It’s not about the money with people like Elon Musk of Tesla or Warren Buffet. It’s about the thrill of the chase. Your bus dev people should feel the same thrill, so even when they’ve hit their goals, made their bonus and are ready to take a well-deserved vacation, they will already be looking forward to Q3.

For more insights and help with getting your own business launched, visit me at Onertia is a marketing and business strategy consulting practice for early venture companies.


Does Your Biz Dev Rep Have an Expiration Date?

Recently I wrote a post about Alex Hawkinson, founder of SmartThings, where I quoted him as saying “I was worried I would put my shingle out and no one would show up.” A common worry for any entrepreneur is that “no one will show up” when he or she takes the big risk and goes out to start a business.

For most founders, that lovely shortened title “Biz Dev”, business development, doesn’t yet exist. They are their own business development team, leveraging their friends, family, former coworkers, gym buddies – anyone and everyone to make those first few sales that turn a company from an idea into a business. This is why VCs are evolving into “accelerators”, and startups are often more interested in a potential investors connections than their bank account.

But when the founders begin to get busier, or find they need to focus more on the core product, or “the big picture”, sales begins to be delegated out to smiley, polished, attractive talkers, with resumes reading like a New York socialite: interned at Fortune 500 company, B.A. in Liberal Arts, people skills, raised $XX, worked on Senator So-And-So’s campaign. These charming people are cheerfully willing to do a job no one else wants to do, to look rejection dead in the face and to push-push-push!

When Biz Dev People Expire

Lean Startup teacher Steve Blank has an interesting take on these people. He talks about new ventures hiring VPs of sales on high promises, only to fire them a few months later when the sales weren’t coming in. Joking about common conversations between aggressive CEO/Founders and their freshly minted VP of Sales, he said they would ask what’s going on?  The VP of Sales would answer ‘We have this and this in the pipeline’. The answer was always in the pipeline, until the CEO/founder decided they “needed to pivot. The way we used to pivot in the old days was firing executives.”

Then Where Do We Get Sales?

I’m not going so far as to imply all VP of sales/business development people are full of hot air. There are some amazing go getters out there –  I woefully turned down an opportunity to work for one DC VP of Sales who I will say is probably one of the most connected people in the U.S. But I am suggesting businesses need to reassess what qualities they are looking for in hiring for this high salaried position.

One interesting alternative to sales comes from Salesforce founder, Marc Benioff. On his blog he writes, “We did not have a formal sales organization at this time so in our quest for early customers, everyone on the team was encouraged to contact anyone he or she knew in any industry, or at any start-up.” This approach taps on the network of every employee, creating an interesting ownership for employees with the revenue being generated, as well leveraging the company’s reach.

While Marc’s view is everyone is “sales”, Seth Godin’s boldly claims in “Rework” that “Marketing is Not a Department”. As the manager of a marketing department, I’m not going to pretend that didn’t throw me off, but in practice I see his point. In a software company the customer service team is “marketing” when they resolve customer issues. In a service company the consultants are creating relationships and taking advantage of opportunities to “upsell”, adding on products or services based on needs they identify.

So Are Bus Dev Execs Obsolete?

The answer to that question is no. While it’s important to train your customer service team to be able to create sustainable relationships and inform about additional benefits and services, as well as leverage all your employee networks, having someone devoted to the constant work of prospecting and “closing” new deals is still essential to building bigger, better companies.

Mostly, in hiring business development execs I would urge businesses to be careful. Think about clear objectives for the new person, what will make you “happy”? Try to understand the needs for the position, maybe even working it for yourself, before you hire someone into it. This is something that worked well for many founders – even if they weren’t the most qualified in a position, at least by trying the work themselves, they understood the challenges and skill set the position would require.

For more insights and help with getting your own business launched, visit me at Onertia is a marketing and business strategy consulting practice for early venture companies.

A GenY Female on Zappos Versus Yahoo!

Recently Zappos was called out for “getting rid of all managers“. While this leads to some Aldous Huxley meets Ayn Rand type arguments about the structure of modern corporations, it drew attention away from a bigger discussion, the value of individual or the “results oriented” workplace.


This means moving away from working in two-by-two cubicles while filling in our select tasks assigned by the manager, and towards a project oriented workplace, where groups can “touchdown” together for a meeting and then split to work separately, culpable for the tasks decided on by the group.

Unless you suffered an internet outage last year, you know the corporate, Silicon Valley and feminist communities were up in a tizzy about Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting. “We need to physically be together”, she said. She believes it’s the best way to communicate ideas and facilitate innovation. I agree.


I’d like to address the telecommuting issue with a GenY female manager’s perspective. I know I also I’m come from a rare line of women: I’m the fourth generation of females in family to hold a white collar profession, mingling with lines of house cleaners and farmers. It was never a question would I work, would my work be a “career”, but only how disciplined I would be to go far.

“Don’t call me at work unless your bleeding, someone is dying, or you set the house on fire…again.”

This was my mother’s rule, and all four of us kids knew she meant it. My mother was from the eighties/early-nineties wave of working women who played by the same rules as the old boy’s club. They didn’t have expectations for maternity leave or special benefits. We supported Planned Parenthood and most of her blazer’s had shoulder pads, but that was the only signs my mother gave there was any gender differences…or anything to be proven.

My childhood memories include waiting in the parking lot of her corporate offices late at night as she worked for a promotion. “Telecommuting” in my house meant after dishes were done and four loads of laundry finished, my mother would lock herself in the downstairs office and work on another piece of ad copy. Sometimes, she’d have to run home on a lunch break and meet the cable/plumber/lawn worker. I have no doubt that balanced with the late nights and weekends she came into the office to “get things done” or maybe to getaway from the noise four active and “creative” children provided.

I work in a very different world than my mother. My current company is so much on the edge of technology I could work from Mount Kilimanjaro, if there was decent wifi. If it’s say -30 degrees below zero with the windchill, I could feasible curl up under fleecey blankets and never leave my home. I could go weeks without seeing a single soul…


Except not really. Because I have worked in social media, I know so much more poignantly how important the face-to-face interactions are. The time to brainstorm, to let words fly across the air in conference room, grabbing a markers to draw over each others diagrams, and, most importantly, not having the inevitable awkward cat/dog/baby running across the background of someone’s Google hangout image. Talking a walk for coffee, running by someone’s cubicle to clarify an email, overhearing a conversation and jumping in, grabbing someone you forgot to include in a meeting – all this spontaneity and physical movement can only take place when we are invariable forced to be together.

CLEAR-1And yes, sometimes your manager just needs to come by your cubicle to check in on you. If we were all so self-disciplined, coaches, mentors, personal trainers, teachers, professors, all would cease to exist. So get over it, and get off Facebook.

Oh wait, that’s your job…

From a Hiring Manager: I Want to Want You

In my department I have a lot of turn over; I have three interns. Each semester, the awesome, perfectly trained high achievers get a new class schedule, or another internship, and leave me. After a year of interviewing interns, my department also added a new coordinator role, and I found myself interviewing again.

Now three years out of school, I’ve interviewed a lot myself. Sitting on the other side of the desk you feel like you’re on stage, prepared to make those mistakes your college career counselor, (or protective parents), warned you about. And I made them. I put the wrong phone number on my resume, sent a resume with an address in another city, mispelled the interviewer’s name in a thank you, opened up my mouth and gushed about being shy, admitted to failures and insecurities and all manner of “OMG” interviewing moments.

ImageWhat I wish I’d known in those interviews that I know now, is the interviewer wants to want you. The manager, director, VP, or coordinator looking forward to their new supervisory role, has a problem to solve: They need help . Their team is growing, maybe they’ve just landed a new client, or project or new responsibilities. Maybe a key employee left, or completely failed to meet expectations. It could have been last week, or months ago, and now, after months of interviews, they’re sitting in that chair thinking, “Could you be the one, who will solve my problem?”

By the time you’ve made it to the interview, someone already thinks you’re great. Maybe it was a friend who recommended you, an employee, or the H.R. director, but someone said you have the skills and talent necessary to solve the interviewer’s problem. All you have to do is confirm you are everything your resume says you are…so just don’t mess it up.

Not look at their website or other web presence!

Not read the job description!

Overshare personal details or opinions

Wear anything an American Idol contestant would wear on stage.


Be relateable – the interviewer wants to like you, so give them a reason to!

Be prepared with ideas – the interviewer wants to know what beyond your resume you have to offer.

Ask questions that show you care about doing a great job, not just what the job will give you.

And remember….

9 First Lessons in Management and Other Business Arts

I have a degree in the “science” of business. I always confuse my “BS” with a “BA” because it seemed to contrast better with my chemistry minor, which was an attempt at a bachelors of science…in science. It also seemed more reminiscent of a sinophilic business major’s favorite: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Either way, $40+ a year for four years, (ok five), was supposed to have taught me something about business and management. A few years later, as a manager, I am finding out how very, very little I learned in those classes, and how very, very much business is an art.

I started two School of Life classes in leadership and management last year: Leading the DC social media club as a vice president, and managing one employee and two interns in marketing. Since this is my first year in the School of Life’s leadership and management courses, you may call this “Management Kindergarten”.

1. “Management’s job is to remove obstacles and provide resources.”
After dismissing my business degree, I had to start by quoting something I did learn at American University. This credo was so engrained in Kogodians, that after four years we would respond automatically on prompt.

2. “Surround yourself with people who know more than you.”
I will attribute this to an AU professor who is so well remembered, I need only to reference one punch line or outrageous phrase to conjure him up in my coeds’s minds. This doesn’t mean hire people smarter than you, but to hire or find the people in your company who are experts on the subjects you need. While you are looking at strategy and the bigger picture, experts will be essential in making each piece of the plan or company work the better than you could.

3. Find an amazing boss.
I’m not sure how Babe Ruth learned to play baseball, probably practice and being born talented, but I am fairly certain every great manager had one in their lives. There is no one better to learn from than a great example, and a great manager will invest in training you to make her job easier.

4. It is always your responsibility, because you are the one leading it.
I have in this past year done some ridiculously stupid tasks, been stressed to the brink and missed out on countless hours of reality television and Pinning while wondering “Why am I the one doing this?” As the things I did were completed, “shipped”, amazing, and exactly how I wanted, I realized this answer. Never begrudge your workload, but focus on making things happen.

5. “Kid, you gotta learn to delegate.”
This quote is from my mother, as I sat shotgun in her Surburban, her daily planner open on my lap, circling, highlighting and most likely complaining about how she’d just “delegated” washing the kitchen floor to me. While everything you need/want to do is your responsibility, the reason you have people working for you is you can’t ever possibly do everything there is to do. Learning what tasks you can hand off, how to politely task them away and how to leverage your coworkers talents is an art in management, and according to my mom, in parenting.

6. When it’s time, make the decision.
If you’re lucky enough to work with people who are amazing, everyone has an opinion. It’s an art to step back and let others have their say, then swiftly finalize decisions so a project can move forward. Your job as a manager is to make sure things get done, while leveraging expert input. Most of us actually want a leader who can make decisions for us, and people will respect a record of good decisions.

7. Know what you don’t know.
I am currently reading Buffet’s biography and eating helpings of humble pie. It is illuminating to realize the Midwestern temperament of humility can be a manager’s best quality. It makes you more likeable, it helps you identify your weaknesses, and it allows you to ask for help, which makes you a better worker and a better manager. (One thing I really don’t know is politics.)

8. Know how your coworkers take criticism.
Dale Carnegie famously said that “no one likes criticism”. Correcting people can be an essential part of management, but it’s a quick route to anger, resentment, tears, laziness and quitting. (I know because I’ve had all of those reactions.) Learning how different people react when you criticize them, and heaping compliments in with every correction, is the art in this essential management task.

9. Know what your coworkers want.
Delegating is more than just leveraging your subordinates time and talents; It’s about getting them to do things in a better way, the way you want, or inspiring them to find a better way themselves. In not just management, but every business negotiation every made, finding out what the other party wants is the best way to get what you want. Bribe, trade, promise, tempt or reward, but best of all, show them how doing the tasks you want will help them achieve their personal goals.

10. Chinese Business Bonus: In China, guanxi means somewhere between friend and business associate. The first step to creating guanxi with someone is asking or doing a favor. Each trade or favor builds a relationship which bonds you. Building these bonds with your coworkers or associates can last beyond the job, and create lifelong relationships which offer benefits for you both for years to come.

Gratis to Alan Berkson for needling me to post and one of my interns for asking me why I wasn’t blogging after recommending she start. This post was inspired by my 90 day feedback, a nice alternative from a review, which required me to stop, think and question what it is I’m doing, as well as a LinkedIn Article, “Use the Theory of Seven to Motivate Others“. After reading it, I reacted like a true business major: I thought I could do better.