I gave Dina a call on Monday. Dina oversees business development for GAN Partners, the innovative corporates like Allstate, Prologis, and UPS that engage with startups in the GAN Community.
She’s had an amazing three months. She’s been working hard, traveling a ton, and doing the right things to find new partners. And, on the call, we had some really great back-and-forth about all of those new partners.
Then something popped out of my mouth, somewhat unexpectedly.
I said, “Business development roles—they’re the absolute best and worst jobs, all at the same time.”
To which she responded, “Yes, yes. I completely agree. When times are great, things are great. When times aren’t great, they’re so, so bad.”
Since we talked, I’ve been thinking a lot about business development people and the pivotal role they play on our teams. More importantly, I’ve been thinking about all the ways we can (and probably should) do a better job of appreciating them—not only for what they do to add to our companies, but for what they put up with, too.
Part of what I mean is that you probably already have a very particular impression of people who do “sales,” and that impression probably includes at least one of the following:
- They take a lot of lunch meetings.
- They’re hardly ever in the office.
- They’re always hanging out at fancy conferences or jet-setting all over the country/world.
- They have a very long “leash” to do—what seems like—anything they want.
- They only really care about making money and not truly about the people behind their clients.
- They’re overly-confident jerks.
- And, they often make more than even CEOs.
And while these perceptions might be warranted in a lot of cases, I want to advocate that there’s a much bigger reality going.
The Reality of “Salespeople”
Salespeople deal with a lot of stuff, not the least of which is that they:
Have very defined goals they have to meet: Salespeople tend to have more expectations around hitting clear numbers than anyone else, on any given team. While the rest of the team might have to meet goals for projects or deliverables, business development people (and their bonuses) are generally tied to concrete monetary milestones and the pressure around them is huge. Meaning, if they don’t meet them, there’s a good chance they’ll be let go.
They’re not given a lot of direction: They’re tasked with figuring out where to spend their time and energy without a lot of guidance or handholding—from the team or from leadership. They often have to come up with where they want to travel and who they should call with no one telling them it’s the right or wrong place to spend their time.
They experience a ton of rejection: They get turned down all the time. Salespeople know that only around 10% of their leads turn into sales and it means that they’re facing rejection from 90% of who they talk to. Rejection is brutal for anyone, but facing it that often means salespeople have to inherently understand that rejection truly isn’t personal. Or, even if it is, they have to spot it, learn from what happened, and move on. The self-confidence needed to do that is essential or they’ll simply suffer too much painful loss to be effective at their jobs. So their seeming over-confidence is what helps to protect themselves through all of the rejection, helps inspire them to hit their incredibly lofty goals, helps them survive through all of the pressure, and helps keep them optimistic in the midst of all of it.
Travel just plain sucks: Jet-setting may look incredible from the outside but it’s almost always a slog. Remember the last time you were on a plane and how it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience? Remember how you were stuck in a hotel room on a Sunday night, prepping for meeting the next day? You don’t exactly spend time actually touring around the cities you visit, and you often do it at the expense of spending time with your own family and friends at home. Think about having to do that every week. Seen in this context, traveling the country—or the world—gets old quickly.
And, most importantly, they’re the engine for the company: When I’m talking with my team about Dina and Nick (he oversees the Global Startup Studio Network and business development for new accelerators in the GAN Community), I share one, primary thing over and over again, and it’s this: If they don’t do their jobs, we can’t or won’t grow our company. We will just be steady-state. We might continue doing what we’re doing with our current clients, doing what we’ve always done, but we can’t or won’t grow.
So Today, Let’s Thank a Salesperson
Shouldering these kinds of pressures and responsibilities deserves genuine gratitude. We really should thank salespeople for all of the time they spend away from their families, friends, and coworkers. For having to constantly sleep in sterile hotel rooms. For handling rejection over and over and over again. For trusting their own gut around who and where they should invest their time. For having to meet goals that are really, really hard to meet. And, for bringing in the necessary cash flow that helps our businesses grow. Without them, none of us would have our current jobs for very long.
So I’ll start:
Dina and Nick—thank you both for all of the work you do for our team. You’re the bedrock of everything we want to continue to do and everything we aspire to achieve as we grow.