Success in Business Development looks different than in other professions. If you want to be a great architect, there is a specific set of skills you would need to pursue to set you up for success.

In business development, those skills are not as clearly defined.

Brendan Weitz, the Head of Product Partnerships at Quora, describes partnerships as a versatile set of skills, similar to being a CEO. He said if you want to be successful, you must be well-rounded in various ways.

“A CEO is a mile wide and an inch deep. You have to have a skill set that’s versatile and spans across a lot of different functions,” Weitz said of the BD role. “Are you good at building strategy? Do you understand marketing? Finance, legal, relationship management, sales? All of these are necessary to have some skills to be the best you can be (in partnerships).”

Though partner success requires such a wide range of skills, it’s often intangibles that set the best apart. In this post, we’ll break down three specific intangibles that are necessary for success in partnerships.

1. Relationship-Building

At its core, partnerships is about relationships. Yes, you can be great at sales (more on that in a minute) and find a way to get deals done. But the best way to create partnerships is with people who have mutual trust and respect.

That’s because partnerships are not transactional but multi-faceted. Your deals should leave both parties thrilled and maintain dialogue for future collaborations.

Firneo member, Brendan Weitz, Head of Product Partnerships at Quora

Brendan Weitz believes building relationships is the core of all successful partnerships. He even breaks out his time into two buckets: 1. For building new relationships, and 2 for engaging in existing relationships.

Quality relationships with deep trust take time to develop, so it’s important always to be engaging in new relationships.

Your existing relationships are the ones where you can look to build out partnerships because trust and understanding are already present.

“For myself, right now, I would say my day is probably spent with twenty-five percent allocated to new partners and developing new relationships.” Weitz explained.” Then 75 percent would be more focused on growing existing things.”

It’s a skill to be able to initiate and engage in a new relationship and also to nurture and grow existing relationships. To succeed, you have to be likable, trustworthy, and a good communicator.

Action Step: Take Weitz's advice. Spend most of your time investing in your network, but carve out at least 25% of your time to initiate new dialogue with potential partners.

2. Communication Skills

While building relationships is key to partnership success, you won’t be able to make much of a connection without strong communication skills.

Strong communication to grow your career includes:

  • Listening well to understand
  • Great writing to summarize terms
  • Persuasive writing to create intrigue
  • Speaking skills to compel action
  • Presenting ability
  • Editing skills to narrow down to key points

The better you are at expressing a compelling narrative, either in writing or verbally, the better success you’ll have in creating allies in what you’re pursuing.

Firneo member, Aaron Davis, Former Head of Community at Alpha

Aaron Davis has spent his career in community building and strategic partnerships. He said a major component of his approach to building community is understanding storytelling.

Davis found what he called a “passion for storytelling” as he studied how Pixar uses a typical formula to captivate an audience and generate interest in a compelling character.

Davis said building community and partnerships requires communicating: “The key is storytelling: The ability to craft a narrative and evangelize it.”

In business development, your ability to create long-term relationships requires a series of communication. As you look at engaging with potential partners, it helps to think in terms of a narrative.

The better you are at expressing a compelling narrative, either in writing or verbally, the better success you’ll have in creating allies in what you’re pursuing.

Action Step: In all your communication, think about who you are talking to more than yourself. If it’s written, think about why they would care about what you’re saying. If it’s a conversation, try to listen more than you speak.

3. CEO Mindset

Because of the dynamic nature of business development success, it’s not for everyone. To succeed, you have to mentally manage multiple trains of thought simultaneously.

Once again, Brendan Weitz described partnerships as a “versatile skillset” that requires you to “Think like a CEO.”

It’s not a role with a clearly defined set of inputs to outputs that leave each day looking similar. Partnership success requires you to be a bit of a Swiss Army Knife, with the ability to connect with many personalities and generate your own momentum.

Weitz said success requires understanding goals and creating priorities for yourself.

“I think it all comes down to setting really good goals for whatever you’re trying to accomplish and working backward from there,” Weitz said. At least, that’s what I do. And for any partnership person, prioritization will be key to truly excelling in the role and driving your company forward.”

Thinking like a CEO requires the partnership professional to think bigger. You’re not just thinking linearly, like a sales rep. You must understand where the company is going and create a strategy for progress. You also, going back to relationship building, have to balance long-term goals and short-term goals.

While you need to be closing new partnership deals, you also need to be planting long-term seeds that may not pay off for over a year. This type of thinking doesn’t always come naturally but pays off when you learn how to prioritize your time.

Action Step: Don’t take indiscriminate action. Think about your company and its broader goals. Use those goals to build a set of actions for yourself and prioritize the most important activity.

Improve your intangibles–learn from experts. 

Getting executive buy-in and setting the foundation for success means building out an effective partnership strategy. That’s where Firneo comes in. 

Our latest cohort, Mastering Partnership Strategy, takes a deep dive into the basics of building a partnership strategy that will get your whole company on board. Through expert-led live sessions, network building, and interactive simulations, you’ll learn how to sell your CEO and beyond.

Join Partnerships experts & mentors from companies like these...

Join our community of Partnerships experts.

Get curated insights, invites to events, and useful resources - all for free

Welcome to the Firneo community!
Check your inbox for what comes next
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.