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What is Business Development and how is it different than sales?

Let’s start off with a definition, then we will talk about how Business development is different than sales.

One problem we have to address as we jump into defining Biz Dev. Ask 10 people what it is and you’re likely to get 11 answers.

For instance do a quick Google search and you will find;

Business development is a combination of strategic analysis, marketing, and sales.

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

Business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities between multiple organizations. Good ol Wikipedia

As you can see there is much debate as to what Biz Dev is.

For the sake of this guide we will be focusing on and defining biz dev as “building value through mutually beneficial relationships.”

There. That wasn’t so hard.

Now how does biz dev differ from sales?

I have spent many moons doing both biz dev and sales using cold calls and cold emails. here are a few differences from the trenches.

1. Sales. I am contacting someone with an offer to exchange something I have (product, service, etc) for their money. It’s pretty straight forward. It is my job to convince them they need what I have, and their job to hold on to their money. Well that’s how it feels sometimes.

This can be hard because it seems as if the scales of value are tipped to your side. Whether that’s true or not you are interrupting them from whatever they were doing and asking for something. A sale.

Business Development. I use the same communication channels email, phone, social etc, but this time I am coming to them with an idea that is just as good for them as it is for me. I am showing up with most of the work done. I have thought of a way for them to make money or achieve some other goal and all they have to do is agree. This requires minimal effort on their part and offers a huge value.

Sales is a struggle, and is many times met with resistance that must be broken down. Biz Dev if done right is a no brainer. And is met with a sense of gratitude.

Lets wrap this introduction up with an analogy.

You are showing up to a party uninvited.

In sales you show up and are greeted by the host. You begin telling her how you are the life of the party and if she let you in and eat her food and drink her beer the party will be a better time for having you.

In Biz Dev you show up to the party with pizza and beer in hand. The host sees you and runs over to thank you for showing up. They were running low and you just saved the party.

Okay, lets move on to some tactics of being great at business development.

1. Creating the perfect offer.

The first step is having something to offer. remember the pizza and beer in the above story?

How are you going to bring massive benefit to them?

Do you have a large audience you can expose them to?

Do you have a promotional (good) or free (Much better) offer that will make them look good in front of their audience?

Let’s look at some examples.


AppSumo has it’s chubby hands in all kinds of stuff these days but started with bundle deals.

Noah Kagan started the company on his couch by emailing Alan, the founder of imgur, about a deal for Reddit users.

The idea was there where a lot of Reddit users using the free version of imgur, and Noah thought he could help upgrade them to the Pro version for a discounted price.

Long story short Noah got both Alan from imgur and one of the founders from Reddit to agree to a mutually beneficial partnership.

What did Noah do?

  1. He came up with an idea that would make both him and imgur money.
  2. He convinced Alen to agree.
  3. He made it happen. In this case that meant getting free ad space on Reddit.
  4. Then he handled everything so Alen didn’t get a ton of work dumped on him.

Normally Business Development is used to grow a business but as Noah proved you can just as easily hack a new business together with some creative application of Biz Dev.

Read more about how Noah used Biz Dev to start and build AppSumo.

Lets take a look at one more example.

How the SEO company Inboundable is using Business Development to help their clients grow.

Inboundable helps other business grow. One way they do this is through business development. Here is how they do it.

Inboundable helps a client, in this case a watersports company in Florida, create an offer to build profitable relationships with local Hotels and resorts.

Here is the partnership. The watersport company creates an ad offering X% off watersport rentals if they stay at said hotel. Most people are price shopping when they are on a hotel website. They see that by staying at this hotel they will also get a discount off of renting watersports. If they were planning on renting watersports while in Florida this is a great offer.

It works out very well for both parties. Both are likely to make more money just from partnering with each other without having to do much work at all.

Because of this most hotels and resorts contacted say yes. Of course they do they have one more reason for people to stay with them now. The watersport company also gets more business because people staying at the hotel or resort are very likely to use them instead of a competitor. The watersport company also gets great SEO juice from having so many local hotels and resort linking to them. It’s a win win.

How can you use biz dev in your business?

Once you answer that here is a step by step guide on getting the partnerships set up.

2. Finding your prospects and making a contact list.

-Who are your perfect partners?

Step one is to identify who you will be reaching out to.

AppSumo targeted people with software that freelance designers would love.

Inboundable works to connect watersports and hotels in Florida.

Find who you are going to partner with. Be specific. You are not reaching out to bloggers. Rather bloggers who write about moving to another country to live and run your freelance business.

You need to know this and be very specific so you can craft a perfect deal to present. The more you niche down the more time you will save yourself in the long run and the more yes’s you will get.

Got it? Good. This is very important. Until you nail this one do not pass go do not collect $200.


Finding their info

Step 1 Check their website, and do a few searches on social media. Sometimes you will get lucky and other times it takes more digging.

Step 2 Rapportive

Rapportive is a powerful plug in for Gmail that lets you reverse engineer someones email address.

Here is how it works.

Lets say you want to get a hold of John Smith, the CEO for widgets Express. You know his companies website is You know more likely than not his email is some variation of his name

Example or

First make a list of all the possible variations of his name @widjetsexpress. Then you can enter these addresses into gmail and if it is correct Reportive will pull his social information. And you now have a working email address. Your welcome.

With a little thinking, and the process of elimination you can reverse engineer almost anyone’s email address.

Just remember the wise words of Uncle Ben. “With great power comes great responsibility.”


Here is a great tool for making this process faster.

-Getting organized with a list or crm.

“Should I use a simple Google doc or a fancy pants CRM?

You should start.

If using a crm means spending the next two weeks researching which is the very best and signing up for free trials and reading endless reviews then just open a Google doc spreadsheet and get to work.

However if you already use a crm feel free to incorporate it into your process. Personally I use both.

3. Crafting your first contact email.

Okay you have done your homework and now it’s time to make first contact. What do you say?

Well my friend that is the sixty four dollar question. Here are a few tips.

a) Write a killer subject line. If your email doesn’t get opened you’re done. Write out several subject lines before hand and choose the best one. Do not spend hours crafting the perfect email then quickly write out a crappy subject line.

b) Be brief. The shorter the email the better your chances of it getting read. With that in mind make your email as short as it can be and still get your message across.

c) Add a bit of humor

You don’t have to go Neville Medhora on them. Something subtle will do. Humor helps break tension and will lower their guard.

For example when I send out a email to hotel owners I mention how showing prospective customers they get a discount off local watersports just for booking with them I say

“I’m hoping this banner on your site will help you convert more visitors into guests… and of course help us book more boats :-)”

d) Make it a no brainer.

The less they have to think about your offer the better. There should be an immediate ah ha, or cha ching moment in their head as you pitch your offer.

4. Follow up

Even after you have crafted the perfect subject line, and written an email that should be framed and hung in the library of congress you will still be ignored by some prospective partners.

Don’t take it personally. People are busy, emails get stuck in spam and there are a 100 other reasons you don’t always get a response. Figure out a follow up plan that works for you and your audience.

Personally I have the conviction that my deal is so amazing they would never in their right minds turn it down, therefore they must not have seen my email and I need to relentlessly follow up until they see it and come running into my arms with gratitude and thankfulness.

You on the other hand may not be conformable sending out several follow up emails. I recommend sending at least one follow up.

I tend to look for a yes or a no, and have follow up until I get one of the two. Figure out what works for you.

5. Always be adapting and upgrading your efforts.

Sent out a batch of emails with poor response? Go back to the drawing board. Have you properly defined your target partners? Do you have a no brainer offer? Do you have engaging subject lines and well written to the point email messages?

Even if your response rate is okay, it can always be better. Learn from your interaction with your prospects and adapt. Listen for what they are telling you and adapt. Have you heard the same object a few times?… You guessed it, adapt.

Bones: Quantity vs quality

Now you are ready to go. But should you focus on sending a few emails that are incredibly focused, or just create a good enough mass email and hit as many people as possible.

The short answer. Quality is better.

I know spending upwards of an hour on one email isn’t always possible. It really comes down to what you are trying to do.

If you are trying to set up a deal with AppSumo then spending as much as 3 hours on a short effective email makes perfect sense and is a good investment of your time.

However if you are wanting to connect with dentists in Manhattan that is just not possible. You will have to figure out a way to make your email sound personal but be able to send out a much larger quantity in a short period of time.

I hope this guide has helped you understand the power of business development and has encouraged as well as helped you to get started for your own business.

Remember, at the end of the day it’s up to you to make stuff happen. Now go out there and develop some business.

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