You roll into a biz dev meeting ready to crush it. You got the meeting, so you’re half way home. Right?
But you leave wondering What just happened?
I’ve been there, too.
Early in my career, I thought charm and intelligence were enough to “do biz dev”. After falling on my face a few times, I learned that business development is a process. Like sales and marketing.
But when you’re getting started, it can be tempting to wing it, or let the other party drive. That’s not how you get where you want to go.
In the discovery stage, success is to win the meeting—to earn the right to take the next step. Or to uncover deal-killers and move on.
Here’s the blueprint I follow to accomplish that.
Prepare for success
A little research goes a long way. And the right preparation makes a big difference the day of the meeting.
- Do your research. Look at their LinkedIn and other social media profiles. Get to know their back story. It will help you build rapport, the bedrock of a sound relationship.
- Tailor your pitch. Don’t go in with a generic pitch. Tailor it to the their business. Show them you get who they are and what they care about.
- Know your ask. Get clear about what you want from your prospective partner. Show that you know what you want and why you want it. You won’t get it in the first meeting, but this is when you set the stage.
Lead the meeting
This is your opportunity to guide the meeting to the outcomes you want. Here are ten important steps along that path.
- Confirm the agenda. Get everyone on the same page by playing back the agenda (you set one up front, right?). Ask your counterpart if they have anything to add or change. Once confirmed, there should be no confusion about why you’re in the room together.
- Establish roles and responsibilities. Don’t fly into agenda items before knowing who’s who. Ask the other lead and their team what they’re responsible for and what they care about.
- Understand the other’s needs and how they measure success. Now that you know who does what, expand on that knowledge. Show genuine curiosity about what moves the needle for them as a team and organization.
- Tell your story. Once you know roles and responsibilities, you can make your highly targeted pitch. As you do, their feedback should provide more intel that lets you further tailor on the fly.
- Probe for objections. Actively seek out deal-killers or other objections. Ask probing questions. If there’s no fit, you’re better off finding out early.
- Make the ask. For any deal worth doing, there are many steps ahead. But this is where you sow the seed. Ask for what you want.
- Understand how they make decisions. If your potential partner is a large organization, they’re complex machines with many moving parts. It’s important to understand the process and people involved in reaching a decision.
- Ground your understanding. “The last time you took on a project like this, how did it go? In addition to you, who was key to making it happen?” You’ll learn a lot about what hurdles you’ll have to clear and how much time it may take.
- Help them help you. Now that you know who will need to sign-off or support the deal, it’s your job to equip them with what they need to sell it internally. Now is the time to find out what that is.
- Establish next steps and timeline. Talk through what the next steps to doing the deal are and how much time they.ll need to get there. This is their opportunity to set expectations (or not), and for you to gauge the time and energy you’ll need to invest.
Follow up and follow through
Obvious, but too often overlooked. Don’t assume they came away with the same take on the meeting as you. Document and share to confirm you’re aligned.
- Send a recap. The day after the meeting, recap the key points. Restate your enthusiasm for the goals and outcome of the partnership, the steps you’ve agreed to take, and what you’re going to deliver.
- Do what you say you would do. And by when you said you would do it. You’ll set the right tone and expectation for the partnership.
Follow this pattern, and you’ll have a better qualified opportunity and a deeper understanding of your potential partner. And greatly increase your odds of moving to the next stage with them.