KNOW AND UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE − The first essential rule of business development is to always remember that no two individuals or organizations are exactly alike, nor are the operating realities and opportunities or challenges that others face. Noting this, successful business development professionals understand that it’s critical to research and come to intimately understand other parties; the core audiences and stakeholders that they serve; and the various products, services, and solutions that they offer, as well as the changing industry landscapes within which they work and do business. Noting this, every pitch, presentation, and opportunity should be customized to the individual organization, team, or executive that you’re considering working with, keeping in mind the types of day-to-day challenges and concerns that your audience routinely confronts. Naturally, that means having to more accurately comprehend and intuit what’s top of mind for them. Likewise, it also means having to incorporate offers, commentary, examples, and pathways to opportunity into every business development pitch that offer meaningful areas for growth and advancement, address their concerns, and parallel their hands-on experiences. Where multiple stakeholders, departments and initiatives are involved, it also helps to couch everything in terms that are universally applicable — what ultimately matters is context and strategic takeaway, and that new initiatives or opportunities align with their vision and goals. In effect, successfully engaging in business development requires you to think more like a trusted consultant to a firm who can recommend preferred strategies and solutions, and less like a salesperson looking to pitch individual services or one-off engagements.

DON’T LEAD WITH A SALES PITCH OR ADVERTISEMENT — With regard to online networking and outreach, it also bears reminding: Social media is in many ways the world’s largest cocktail party, and it’s often hard to rise above the online din of conversation. But just as you wouldn’t just walk up randomly to someone at a cocktail party at a friend’s home or business networking event and lead with a quick-hit introduction and sales pitch, don’t direct message a business prospect online and do the same straight out of the gate either. In other words, if you’re randomly popping up online offering someone services or asking for a meeting in your first message, you’re putting the cart before the horse and jumping the gun here. Worse, you’re also sending the wrong message − that you don’t care much about the actual person, only what they potentially have to offer you. A smarter approach than to proposition someone right away (ew!) is to rather take a gentler tack and think about how you can get to know them better first and consider what you can do for them instead. In other words, if you’re looking to meet and work with someone new, it’s important to (a) understand their personality, interests, and operating reality, as above (b) consider what might legitimately catch their attention (c) contemplate how you might help offer additive value, and assist them in pursuit of their mission and goals (d) approach them in a more human and genial manner and (e) take a long-term tack and strategize effective ways to incentivize them over time to collaborate with you. Remember: People trust, team up, and do business with other people that they like, and whose values align with their own − not random strangers who pop up out of nowhere hoping to raid their pocketbook.

NEVER ASK FOR ANYTHING WITHOUT OFFERING SOMETHING OF EQUAL VALUE IN RETURN — Remember: One-way relationships (i.e. those that largely work to a single party’s benefit) are typically exploitative in nature and are hugely self-defeating as they provide little, if any, incentive for others to enter into them. Keeping this in mind, your goal should always be to create win-win opportunities for all parties involved in any exchange or transaction at every turn. Upsides for those you’re considering courting don’t always have to include financial payouts either: Chances to grow one’s resources, capabilities, and insights; demonstrate their skill and expertise to new markets or audiences; and gain experience working with unfamiliar areas or technologies can all present potential windfalls for others as well. Whatever the case, unless you’re friends with someone else in real-life, as a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to come around asking for a favor, and if you don’t know them well, you certainly don’t want to simply walk up and ask for a handout. Even if you all have to offer another working professional or organization is an introduction, free trade of services, or the chance to present their products and solutions to your network of industry contacts, don’t show up empty-handed. Mind you: As above, this means having to understand what makes potential partners tick, and what holds potential worth to them. Consider it a sign of respect in both the real and virtual worlds: Just as you wouldn’t walk up in real life and ask someone “what can you do for me?” don’t do it online or via social networks either.

CREATE GOOD EXCUSES TO BE IN CONTACT − If you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, and pulled in more directions than ever, join the club: We’re all being asked to do more with fewer resources these days, and operate under greater time crunches and increasing practical constraints. So if you want win greater mindshare with your clients, or score more time on their growingly-crowded schedules? Make them a time-, effort-, energy-, or money-saving offer that helps them solve pressing problems, and that they therefore simply cannot refuse. By way of illustration, you might offer your clients exclusive access to events with VIP thought leaders, early hands-on time with breaking research, or an invite to training workshops and educational sessions that help get them up to speed on emerging topics or pressing trends or concerns of interest. Alternately, you might consider inviting them to be part of advisory boards who share regular discussion and insight, or the chance to be among the first to try a new prototype product or service. Note that it’s critical to be eye-catching and creative in how you approach others as well though, and crystal clear in terms of the value and benefits that you’re looking to offer them. Focus on helping others solve problems in original ways and you won’t go wrong here: The quicker you can help them gain the resources, insights, and tools that they need to stay one step ahead of the curve, the more of a go-to resource that you’ll be.

ESTABLISH YOURSELF AS A TRUSTED SOURCE OF INSIGHT – Speaking of being a go-to resource, take note: You can also elicit more cheers than groans when you appear in someone’s e-mail inbox when you make a point to constantly steer them towards useful hints, tips, and solutions. The fastest way to do this is to become a skillful curator of content and perceptive thought leader who can provide additive insights that help them in their daily work. You might do this by offering your partners access to resources such as articles, whitepapers, videos, online classes, and other forms of helpful content that get them up to speed on trending topics. Then again, you might seek to instead create online communities and messaging platforms where they can trade input and commentary with peers. Another avenue for excelling here might further include using your company website to publish learning content and asking subject matters on your team to post hints, tips, and advice on breaking events and emerging topics. In any event, your goal should be to cement your standing as a partner who offers singular insights and value; a credible source of input, opinions, and feedback; and someone that others look to as a thought leader in your field. It becomes a lot easier to get a response to an email or call when people are familiar with the person on the other end of the line − and trust that they’ll have something meaningful to say when they respond.