How do you if know a business development person is “good” at an early stage startup?
I think one mark of a great BD person is that they’re able to get that initial deal with a meaningful party. Generally speaking, they’re able to convince someone worthwhile to take a chance on them.
If I’m a successful company why should they take a meeting with a lowly startup? Why should I trust you can execute what you say you can? Why should I potentially risk time, energy, and resources on something that’s largely unproven?
A great BD person can answer all these questions. But it takes much more than answers to get these type of deals done. It takes a meaningful relationship to get you in the door followed by a compelling pitch. It requires engendering trust and setting the course the entire way because again, it’s never been done before. It means getting someone to put their pile of chips on you.
The first big deal is the hardest, but it’s the one that sets the table. After the first big deal, you’re armed with ammunition and optics to close other deals. It’s much easier to get someone to buy in when other people already have. You have social proof.
“You mean you’re not interested in X even though Y thought this was a good idea” : )
I really like one of the ways my teammate and mentor Kenny Herman thinks about BD which directly aligns with my belief about what makes a BD person good – you want to create types of deals and partnerships which have never been done before that move the needle with the goal of creating a process that can be executed over and over again, ideally by someone else. It’s almost a special ops mentality.
If you’re able to productize an effective deal, you’re off to the races. But again, that landslide of partnerships is entirely contingent upon that initial deal; that instance where you’re able to convince someone on the other side to give you a chance. That’s good BD.