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6 things I wish I knew about business development years ago

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

There are different successful personas in sales, but only certain types of people typically get the microphone. Let’s bring other voices into the conversation.

Maybe this will give you perspective. Maybe confidence or courage. Or perhaps we simply get to learn about each other’s journeys which is nice too.

#1 Speak up.

I used to set up meetings for other people to lead, even if I was the one who started the relationship. One conversation stuck with me and changed my perspective.

I had an intro call with the Head of HR regarding a CIO search. He was referred to me by a candidate who I sent on an interview. The candidate didn’t get the job, but he had a good experience. The call with HR went well and he set me up to speak with the CEO.

I hardly spoke on that next call.

They chose another search firm. I asked him for feedback and we caught up on the phone. He told me that he set me up with the CEO because of our conversation, because of me, and that I was the one who was referred to him. He wished I spoke more. Why didn’t I? We talked for a while. And ever since then I realized that I am good enough to be in the room and lead.

#2 Be myself

When I interviewed at CTPartners I remember leafing through the binder in the waiting room. I read the articles and everyone’s bios. I was impressed. I had years of experience but knew nothing about executive search. Buckle up.

Throughout my career I’ve spent years absorbing, watching, and trying to emulate the traits of successful people around me.

I worried about looking young; it came up in conversation. I bought fancy suits and shoes. I elevated my language. I learned how to communicate with structure.

I set up meetings and tried to impress people by talking about things that I thought they’d find useful, even if my depth went only so far.

It took me years but I finally realized that all I have to be is me, not anyone else.

I took the best from everyone and made it my own, inserting back in my expertise, personality, and thus my confidence.

It’s fun to level with people and approach a conversation with curiosity versus worrying about being impressive. I remember the first time I told someone that the pitch deck I put together for them was pretty boring but I’m happy to go through it if they’d like, otherwise we can just talk about their role and how to fill it.

That’s where the magic happens.

#3 Double down on my strengths

There always seemed to be a great divide between “business development time” and everything else.

In my early years recruiting, we spent the mornings on BD and the afternoons with candidates.

Then in executive search BD seemed synonymous with flights, coffees, meals and drinks. These were all things I didn’t have much interest in, mainly because I was busy. We had positions to fill, and that required being at my desk, working with my team, recruiting and interviewing.

In my mid 30s I had the epiphany. This is it. This is who I am. These are the things I’m good at. I'm focusing on my strengths. I didn’t kick my weaknesses to the curb, but I decided to stop over indexing on them.

Rather than “BD time”, everything I did was business development, even if it wasn't deliberate. Great search execution led to inbound searches.

And the candidate side! If you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I’m a candidate cheerleader. Treating all candidates with respect has been my mantra since day one.

Candidates and clients are the same people, the only difference is when.

It’s all about doing great work and doing the right thing, every day.

Stay tuned for the rest!


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