The BD Curve

Rohan Siddhanti
6 min readMar 1, 2023

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How the role of business development evolves — and you with it.

I spent way too long making this in Keynote. Lord help me find a quicker way to illustrate.

Hey — my name’s Rohan, I recently started running Business Development (“BD”) for a Series A Co., and in past lives have done this at various others stages. This has all been in the Health-Tech industry so my experience is likely biased in some ways.

If you’re thinking about a role in BD or considering switching BD roles to a new company, this post is for you. I want to outline how I think the function evolves in different company types, and therefore what should matter to you as you’re making a choice for a next move.

First — let’s define BD

BD is creative go-to-market strategies and deals which enable your company to make money in a way that it usually doesn’t. So if you sell lemonade at home then that’s considered “Sales” and a partnership with the local soccer league to sell at the Saturday games is “BD”.

Let’s keep it simple and use the terms BD and Partnerships interchangeably.

Second, let’s define the axis (picture above)

Y-Axis: Creativity/Autonomy

How much creativity does your role have in deciding what deals are interesting, how to structure those deals and who (i.e., which parties) deserve your trust and attention?

How much autonomy do you have in deciding what to chase? How do you decide how to prune your pipeline, and which partnerships deserve more time and/or money from the team?

X-Axis: Probability per Call

The probability that each of your outreaches, calls and interactions actually translates to meaningful revenue for the company (or at least it could). This can vary dramatically.

To be in business development in the first place, it generally means you enjoy low-probability-high-impact deals; essentially your role functions like an option (i.e., no payout until the very end). But this probability changes due to the company type and stage, as we’ll discuss below.

Z-Axis: Core to the Business

Generally BD is a “nice to have” in any business, not a “need to have” until that business reaches a certain level of product-market-fit or maturity. Need-to-have is not just driven by how much revenue the function does or can drive, it’s also driven by the opportunities that the business knows its leaving on the table.

If a business has a bunch of partnership inbound, but has no one to manage/field those calls, then it usually becomes a need-to-have even for explorations sake.

What are the three main stages and how do those match to company types? (same pic pasted again)

Point A on the chart: Pre-Seed/Seed & (Surprise!) Post-IPO often too

At the earliest stages, you have massive Creativity/Autonomy, low Probability per Call and are not Core to the business. You’ll take every call, inbound and meeting at the desperate chance to possible win some revenue. Hell you’ll pivot the business overnight for a 5-figure deal.

Surprise — post IPO companies often two BD teams: (1) The large established one (Stage C), and (2) A small team who is supposed to think super creatively on how to grow the business. If you want to talk about #2 just DM me, I won’t go into it in this article.

Take this job if you are: A person that really wants to be your own boss. You don’t care about taking tons of phone calls that go nowhere or a ton of outbound that never garners a response. You like showing up to every happy hour and meeting strangers. You have the ability to enforce some structure in your life and your processes to create growth theses, act on them and move companies through a funnel.

Take this job if your company/mgmt. team: Has a high degree of trust in you and will not hold your feet to the fire for big $s or #s (This role works like an stock option and most options don’t hit). Wants you to contribute to other parts of the business (e.g., Sales, Content) when BD gets slow, which it inevitably will.

Point B on the chart: Series A & B

At Series A and B, you start to get a mix of all three axis. The company has a product/service that works because they’ve found PMF. And yet, for a while now there’s been BD/Partnerships opportunities and no one to not only run with the ball, but also really step back and provide some strategic thinking about where BD efforts should be applied in the business.

Take this job if you are: Someone who is comfortable processing a bunch of inbound or opportunity types, and thinking through quickly how to prioritize it. You can synthesize information well and communicate that upwards to your management team. You’re ok with KPIs/OKRs that put $s and #s to your function because, well, its a serious one. A weekly pipeline review does not make you nervous, and you have the network/ability to source your own deals.

Take this job if your company/mgmt. team: Enables you to be in a cross-funcitonal leadership role. Often times your the first person in the company whose official title this is so no one reports to you yet. Your company must also have a decent enough brand that stands on its own — you can’t rely solely on your personal brand to be effective in the market. Your marketing team must also be willing to work with you on content to send a signal to the market.

Point C on the chart: Series C & Beyond

[Granted I have not worked in an established, large BD function, so this is anecdotal from friends. My post-IPO experience was more like Stage A]

At this stage, the BD function is established. There’s yearly budgeting, revenue targets, fairly accurate revenue probabilities established per lead and the playbook is built. The company usually has a seasoned veteran at the helm and just a few types of partnerships that it goes after. There’s maybe one novel “whale” dea- type per year that is struck, at the most.

You have low Creativity/Autonomy, but the outreaches are to prospects that have a high chance of “BD Fit” and you’re a core function in the company.

Take this job if you are: Looking to learn “how things are done” and get revenue numbers under your belt and on your resume. You’re fine with working 5–15 accounts for an entire year and being in sales cycles that can take 6–18 months. You enjoy the slow grind, the long prep for the quick meeting. You’re a true BD Operator that lives for that signature deal(s) you can hang your hat on.

Take this job if your company/mgmt. team: Has someone in charge of BD that you actually like and trust, whom you feel will be a mentor to you. That person leading BD almost MUST have a strong relationship with the CEO and a track record of getting shit done. The company is willing to invest in its partnerships — not just money but time as well. The company has purchased the sales/partnerships/tracking tools internally for proper funnel management and communication.

Closing thoughts

I’ve always believed in the maxim that there are only two types of roles in business: Either you Create the Thing, or you Sell the thing. I bucket Operations under the broader umbrella of Sell the Thing, even though I know that’s a massive generalization.

I say this because if you’re someone who isn’t sure what your direction is in the business world, but you know its not Create the Thing, then I’d encourage you to give BD a try (i.e., Sell the Thing). It’s perfect for the multi-tool players who can grasp all the parts of the business, but want to contribute to strategic, go-to-market and top line revenue. Contrary to popular belief, BD is no longer for just loud extroverts — all types can succeed in the role. It’s also massively cross-functional so if you enjoy solving different types of problems quarter-to-quarter, then this is the role for you.

As always I welcome your feedback and comments. You can find me on twitter @RSiddhanti, DMs are open.

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