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For Business Development/Partnerships/Strategy professionals in Tech or Business: what type of skills, methodologies, and frameworks have you developed over time in order to do well in your job and have a positive impact towards your organization?

I’m currently a senior @ Rutgers University studying IT & Entrepreneurship. Highly interested in starting a career in the business side of Tech and would like to one day lead the transaction of billion dollar deals and market partnerships. #business #entrepreneur #strategy #business development #partnerships #product #alliances #sales # #management #technology #marketing


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Dmitri’s Answer

Spending time researching your organisation's industry, your customer's business, and global trends is always helpful. Always start with your customer's business (empathy & relatability) and work your way backwards. Your product/solution should only be introduced once you have a very clear understanding of your customer's business problem or cost/risk of doing nothing.

Also, keep in mind that customers are only open a certain number of hours per day. Face to face time with them for business development, during these hours, is the best use of your time to maximise your result, saving administrative tasks for before/after normal business hours.

Suggested books: Challenger Sales and Challenger Customer.

Thank you so much for the book suggestions! Selling is a valuable skill I am always trying to build on :) Umair M.

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John’s Answer

Hi Umair,

That is quite the goal! I love it! The hard part is building up to that, right?

So, the technical foundation is a must. You need to be able to talk to your product(s) and company. You also need to understand who you are selling to (what are their goals, needs, current products they use, and the common language THEY use). These are the basic NEEDS: the foundation.

After all of this, sales often comes down to relationships. Building trust and networking with other people. These large deals require a level of trust and understanding that can only be accomplished with meaningful relationships. Without that trust, the deals are likely to fall through. So, I recommend getting to know people and practicing building trust and a reputation for high-quality work and integrity. Your reputation and network will lead to bigger and better opportunities as your career grows.

There is no one framework or methodology that works for everyone, but the essentials (what I framed above) are the same for everyone who wants to build a sales/business development career.

Best,
John

Thank you! Umair M.

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Mark’s Answer

One of the most powerful frameworks I have leveraged in my career is using the Rule of Three to help organize my thinking and recommendations. Humans naturally absorb information better when it is framed in terms of three - not four, not 5, not 10, but three. This is why we remember slogans like "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" or "Mind, Body, Spirit" or "Go Fight Win" or " Faith Hope & Charity" etc.

Try to organize your thinking and recommendations in terms of three things. If you have list of 10 things, think about how can compress those 10 things into three.

It takes more time and effort to get to three, but the results are well worth it.

The Rule of Three was first written about by Aristotle in the Book of Rhetoric “Omne Trium Perfectum”
(Everything that comes in threes is perfect)

Good luck!

Hi Mark, Appreciate your answer & time! I actually practice the "Rule of 3" in all my interviews & projects - thanks for reassuring the framework. Umair M.

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Drew’s Answer

You're off to a great start, because you already have the courage to ask questions!

-Ask to Listen, Not to Answer-
People know when you are genuinely listening to them. It builds trust, it uncovers opportunity, and it will pay dividends in your long term growth. Strive to understand the "why" behind everything; don't settle for surface level answers. The more deeply you understand a business challenge, the bigger the opportunity you'll create.

-Feedback-
Ensure those on your team - managers, peers, customers - know that you value feedback. The worst we can hear in the business world is nothing at all. It's much better to have something negative to action than to not know where you stand. If you intend to be a transformational leader, you will need to be able to digest feedback as well as give it. Start now and it will become a fabric of your being!

-Never Get Comfortable-
If you are fully comfortable in a role, you've likely outgrown it. Be willing to say yes to new challenges, even when you may not feel ready or if they veer from the career path you once envisioned. That's where true growth happens. A change may not make sense now, but it will all make sense in your rear view mirror.

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Ginamarie’s Answer

Hands down, I think the most important skill for business development is communication skills. This is internal to your organization, external to your clients, written, verbal, oral, and every single combination of those. Business development is mostly about making connections that help you achieve your goals, whether it be to grow a piece of the business internally or externally. As much as its important to make sure clients like you, it is even more important to have a network of internal colleagues who will support you along the way and help you achieve your goals. Over time, you will learn the words and ways to help you navigate a complex environment.

Thank you Ginamarie! Umair M.

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Rebecca’s Answer

There's a lot of great answers here already!

From my own experience as a young SDR/BDR, when you enter the industry you'll be inundated with different sales frameworks and methodologies to learn. In honesty, a lot of these frameworks are the same message, dressed up in different ways.

I can definitely say that the thing that helps me the most - no matter what company I'm working in - is to have a good understanding of how whatever it is that your company provides actually helps people. No matter what you're selling, you need to see things from the customer's point of view, and connect with them based on their needs and challenges.

So gaining a good understanding of the common pitfalls or challenges in the industry of your company, and how your solution helps that is a key first step. Then you can start to ask questions around these things and uncover if your prospect has the same issues. When you have a good understanding of what their working life is like, then you can start to see where you can improve things for them! There are many wonderful and useful frameworks out there, but if you don't know your audience, you don't know how you can help them!

Thank you so much for your answer! Umair M.

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Jackie’s Answer

The most effective way to connect with your audience is to find ways to be personalized and relevant.
When you get into your role, you'll likely want to learn 2 key things: use-cases (problems that your solution solves), and typical buyer personas.
When thinking about building relationships, you'll want to be personalized and relevant (at scale). Understand your buyers and their problems and it's easy to put together language that will speak their language.

On LinkedIn: I recommend following Kevin Dorsey, Josh Braun (and listening to his podcast, Sales DNA), John Barrows, Dale Dupree, and Trish Bertizzi, Jeb Blount, and Anthony Iannarino.
For podcasts: Sales Gravy, Sales DNA, Conversations with Women in Sales, and the GaryVee Podcast.
For reading: I'd start with Fanatical Prospecting, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, The Challenger Sale, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Hi Jackie, Thank you so much for those specific resource suggestions! I already have an interest in doing customer interviews and understanding their pain-points in the process of their existing use-cases, so definitely helps give me direction with your advice above. Does a Sales track prepare a person to be an effective deliverer on Partnerships/Alliances? Umair M.

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Patrick’s Answer

First off - I think you have a very good balance with having IT and entrepreneurship. My best advice for you would be to learn sales. If you are talking big deals, you will need to know how to sell someone. If you have IT, entrepreneurship and sales abilities you can quite literally do anything. While you're still in college, I would recommend trying to start your own business. Think small to start and it could grow from there. I was in sales for years and just got into the channel (partnerships), to learn a different aspect of the business.

I would say there is no "framework", but the framework would be experience. The more you have, the better off you'll be.

Best of luck!

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Anthony’s Answer

Networks are important! Remember that growth in any organization requires people to vouch for you. Your managers, teammates, and direct partners within an organization will be your biggest advocates.

In terms of sales methodologies, I'd invest in understanding MEDDIC and learn more about the Sandler selling strategies.

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Gloria’s Answer

You have gotten a great deal of wonderful feedback. You have a couple of different strategies that you might want to undertake. I would add that you should make a point of being a lifelong learner. Technology and business skills are often growing at a pace where you can go six months and be behind if you are not paying attention. I work hard to make sure that I am keeping up with trends by being early to take classes on new topics or the next big thing in my company or industry. I used to go to a yearly Learning and Development conference to stay abreast of trends in my chosen career which is Instructional Design. You can become a powerful leader in your organization by simply having knowledge of what is coming up.

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Vi’s Answer

Knowing where you want to be in the future is awesome!

Prior to my current role, I worked in technology partnerships in tech. Most medium size or above tech companies have an alliances/partnerships organization that helps define go-to-market strategy for the company + a partner. You might want to look into some of those types of roles if you're interested in building out partnerships.

If you're looking at tech, one of the things to keep in mind is understand the part of the tech industry you want to focus on because it's different for SaaS companies vs hardware vs consumer-based software. That's something to keep in mind - research is key.

Another soft skill that people take for granted is the ability to work cross-functionally, which means all those nights that you stayed up during college working on team projects is going to pay off. You'll want to be able to work across business development, sales, engineering, marketing, etc. to get your partnerships off the ground. Building the foundation for why a partnership will matter to each group will be important to get stakeholder buy-in.

Another route you can consider is management consulting. My first project in consulting was actually on a partnership and focusing on $B partnership deals.

Good luck!

Hi Vi, Thank you for taking the time out to write an insightful answer! Aside from consulting, do you this Customer Success or Tech Professional Services gives you a good overall track into GTM Strategy based roles or possibly a track into a strategic partnerships role? Is it research/analytics that make a professional an effective strategic partnerships professional OR is it one's ability to negotiate and soft-skills/domain that allows partnerships professional to stand out? Umair M.

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Andrei’s Answer

No matter how technical the subject of the deal is, the main framework is to translate it into the dollar language: how much more money will the customer earn with your solution vs the status quo? how much less money will the customer spend with your solution vs the status quo?


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Erwin’s Answer

I am a Business Analyst and a Software Development Analyst for a retail company for 10 years. What I have noticed is how companies have switched to a more flexible way of doing developments. So I would suggest looking at more Agile Methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe since most companies are looking for these types of skills and experiences. But that does not mean the more traditional Waterfall model is not relevant anymore since there are instances wherein it is still better to use the traditional methods over the more agile methods.

Also, it never hurts to have technical knowledge even when targeting a position towards the business side of tech. Coming from a more a technical software developer role initially, I can use that as an advantage now that I switched over to being a business analyst.

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Peter’s Answer

Hello,
Some key skills are listening and asking good questions. Listening gives you the opportunity to understand the other persons goals, pressures and needs. Asking good questions helps clarify what the need is and brings more context. A challenge people face in business is when Tech crosses with the sales/operational side of the same company. Each group uses different terms and slang, as well as possibly having different views of the same issue. So being able to translate back and forth is very important and will make you a valued member of the team.

Networking with in the organization is very important as well. Not just with higher level managers, but across departments. The informal network helps businesses thrive. Knowing other subject matter experts you can reach out to is big, and you will become someone other people reach out to.

I hope this helps.

Talk to you soon.

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Nick’s Answer

I can take this question in a couple of different ways, but I'll stick with productivity/organization.

Find tools that make your job easier and save you time. I'd recommend getting familiar with Evernote (organization), spreadsheets (productivity), computer shortcuts (productivity).

As a philosophy, always have an appetite for learning. The more multi-faceted you are, the more valuable you are to your company/business. There are so many classes, services, events, etc. (often free) that can provide the training and education needed; you need to commit to starting!

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Austine’s Answer

The greatest things I learnt as an SDR/BDR is confidence and having resilience. Learning how to navigate a conversation with enthusiasm and being able to pick yourself back up are the most important skills I've gained in this industry.

Austine recommends the following next steps:

I would suggest reading New Sales. Simplified. as this book really broke down how I should approach conversations with clients and how to be resilient!

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Matt’s Answer

Make an effort to network internally within your organization.

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Will’s Answer

Hi Umair,

That's a very good question.

Once you start your career in Business Development and Sales there's often a number of physiologies and people from different experiences giving advice on the best methodologies and frameworks to be used.

As a rule of thumb, I'd say there's not one that works every time. I'll outline some of the skills, methodologies and frameworks I've looked into and that I believe you should research and learn more from. Now, bear in mind at the end of the day, you'll need to experiment with different models to see what works best for you, your company and product and maybe develop your own methodology.

Skills: Prospecting, Asking thoughtful questions, Writing e-mails, researching personas and companies, developing business acumen, presentation, Conducting F2F meetings, account mapping, asking for referrals, generating business/leads from events, social selling.

Methodologies: Spin Selling, The Challenger Sale, Value Selling, Sandler Selling System

There's a huge number of books and courses online to help you further develop your skills, follow these people and make sure you're always learning.

Great podcast to listen to on the topic is this - https://top1.fm/

Cheers,

Will

Will recommends the following next steps:

Read book - The Challenger Sale, Sell or Be Sold - Grant Cardone

Hi Will, Thank you for your answer! Besides a Revenue KPI for Sales professionals - how does this track help you build upon getting more into a partnerships role? Umair M.

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Robyn’s Answer

I work in a Martech (Marketing Technology) group which is utilizing new offer targeting technology to have a positive impact on the validation side of offer targeting. Keeping up with technology is a must to succeed in most businesses.

Thank you! Umair M.

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Stephen’s Answer

All of the answers so far are great. One add is because you are a senior, and I'm sure this is obvious, but look at paid internships in sales, finance, alliances and channels and marketing and you'll also get great experience on how companies approach Biz Dev and Partnerships. Each is a little different but if you want to do large dollar deals and partnerships, it is a must to understand the dynamics. I agree with the Challenger Sale read and all of the framework, language recommendations since software and dev/ops is evolving so fast its imperative to keep up since things are changing so fast. I'd also recommend subscribing to an on line mag like HBR (Harvard Business Review) or MIT Sloan since they do an amazing job of pushing information and ideas across every industry and technology and they do it daily.

Stephen recommends the following next steps:

Subscribe to an on line mag like Harvard Business Review (HBR)

Thank you so much for your time & answer! I actually read the HBR every month and keep up with market trends in different Tech Verticals - mainly FinTech & Productivity SaaS. Umair M.

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Natasha’s Answer

Two of the most helpful pieces of advice I've received over the years:

1. Be yourself, always. This is incredibly important, particularly if you're aiming for longer cycle sales like enterprise sales. Clients smell a fake from a million miles away. Do what you can to insert your personality and humanity into every interaction, and people will begin to see you as someone other than a vendor. Find ways to connect on topics outside of work.

2. Control what you can control. There's a lot of risk in sales, and so much you cannot control (basically everything to do with the client). So control what you can control. Set up regular rigor for prospecting and scheduling activity to fill the top of your pipeline. Do enough activity and you will inevitably hit your number.

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Siddharth’s Answer

There's some great answers here already, but adding my two cents below.

As someone who's worked in strategy both as an external management consultant and as an internal corporate strategy consultant within a tech firm, I've seen a number of commonalities in terms of the skills required:

1) Articulating the key question: This helps clarify what your goal is and get everyone on the same page. It also acts as the north-star, so you are able to make sure that any work you're doing is going towards achieving that goal
2) Breaking down a problem statement into smaller chunks: Often, the problem statement can be ambiguous and you wouldn't know where to start. Breaking it down into manageable chunks helped provide a structure and a starting point for a workplan. Then you could go solve each chunk, and over time you'd get the entire picture
3) Relationship building, and getting insights from conversations: As a strategy professional, you'll often be relying on functional experts to get their input and perspective. Building a relationship with them, getting their POV, and then distilling that into actionable insights is critical. They often know far more than you, so by getting their insights you're getting expert opinion that'll be important in formulating your strategy
4) Structured communication
5) Ramping up quickly in terms of learning: projects tend to differ from one another, so there's a need to pick up industry context quickly. Similar to the recommendations in the earlier answers, I'd suggest staying abreast of industry trends and company research, so that you have a foundation of knowledge that's ready to go!


Hi Siddharth, Thank you so much for your answer! Relating to strategy, what are some important ways to practice and build a structured thinking mindset (In terms of the questions you ask and you navigate an ambiguous problem)? Besides case interview prep, and understanding how to discern insights from conversations in the industry - what are some critical skills that you learn from strategy consulting, that directly can make you a great operator behind strategic partnerships? I have a goal of getting into Bain one day too :) Umair M.

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Sydney’s Answer

I think with any job, organization is a fundamental building block to success. For me that translates to to-do lists, spreadsheets and reoccurring check-ins with my teammates to make sure we are all driving our sales franchise forward in the most strategic and impactful way possible. Being a strong communicator, especially in this remote environment also enables you to increase your impact. Once you have a strong, organizational grasp on your core responsibilities, sharing your ideas / things that are working well for you and presenting potential solutions to problems (vs just presenting a problem) are great ways to increase your personal brand.

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Patrick’s Answer

In order to lead the large business transactions, you need to work you way up to that level. As others have mentioned, ask questions and listen to the answers first, do not listen to provide answers. People like to be heard. Find a mentor that wants to teach you the trade. Learn as much as you can about the industry and the trends.

Know the financial model of the business. Top line revenue, expenses and margins. Know the revenue sources and how the market trends may change those revenue sources in the future. Read about the industry and how to interact with people. While we are more and more virtual, business is still a person to person interaction, especially the very large business transactions.

Be patient, this does not happen overnight, it takes years.

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Jason’s Answer

I'm in business development in tech. The thing that I've found most beneficial is going after any and every type of prospect. Sales in general is a numbers game but its REALLY a numbers game in tech sales. You can't leave any stone unturned because that could be the person that could lead you to the sale.

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Patrick’s Answer

In order to lead the large business transactions, you need to work you way up to that level. As others have mentioned, ask questions and listen to the answers first, do not listen to provide answers. People like to be heard. Find a mentor that wants to teach you the trade. Learn as much as you can about the industry and the trends.

Know the financial model of the business. Top line revenue, expenses and margins. Know the revenue sources and how the market trends may change those revenue sources in the future. Read about the industry and how to interact with people. While we are more and more virtual, business is still a person to person interaction, especially the very large business transactions.

Be patient, this does not happen overnight, it takes years.

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Michael’s Answer

The best advice I've received:

- Be yourself and be authentic
- Actively listen and don't be afraid to ask questions
- Always be honest with yourself, your teammates and your customers...never over-promise and under-deliver
- Treat every customer like they're your only customer
- Ask for feedback and be open to receiving it

From a business development perspective, a customer is electing to work with you because of who you are. If you maintain a level of service and a product offering that is consistent and surpasses your competitors, you'll have success in your business development efforts. Every time you have the opportunity to show someone what you do before they have an opportunity to experience it - take those opportunities and continually grow.

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Nick’s Answer

Hi Umair,

1. Find a company where you believe in the products/services and mission - I believe in purpose.
2. Set OKRs for yourself (Objectives and Key Results) - these are the bigger lofty goals and end states.
3. Work back from your "end state" to identify areas where you can implement a strategy - this can be time-based.
4. Build a system with multiple variances around those end goals so you can test and compare your strategies.
5. After you identify what works best, build on that success and replicate that system.

Just a thought!

-Nick

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Javier’s Answer

Hi Umir,
Great to see how well you can articulate your interest. BusDev, Partnerships and Alliances is a fascinating field within tech. I find that it requieres a combination of Business knowledge, how business operate and scale along with Entrepreneurship since you will be to an extent finding new business opportunities or lines of business to launch, integrate or scale. Sounds like this is the area you are interested in, not to be confused with BusDev in the context of sales (a common misconception) to me they are two different fields. There are lots of good answers here already, maybe what I could add is an important skill in the type of BusDev you are pursuing is an understanding of financial modeling. One lesson I learned early in my career is that at the end of the day, executives making decisions to launch a new LOB or acquire a company are guided by financials. Learning how to do financial analysis, pro-formas and projections is very important and if you like Finance can even be a niche within this field. As a skill along with the others required it can give you an edge. Best of luck in your future!

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Keith’s Answer

Get to know the business of your prospective clients, speak their language understand their main pain points. You will want to ascertain this information on an individual basis but first understand the general issues within their industry and bring solutions. For your individual interactions as them about their business and listen, don't go through an established power point, listen to their needs and respond to how you will assist them with those needs. Building a trusting partnership with your client and bring to value to their operation will ensure that you are not displaced by a competitor for being a few dollars higher in your pricing.

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