Ready for Next Level Biz Dev? Try Some Positive Psychology


By Caroline Ren
Partner Program Director, The Raffoni Group

When you hear the term business development, it’s easy to think of cold calls to lists of people who, for the most part, don’t want to talk to you or sales pitches that don’t always get the desired response from your audience. While these realities of biz dev can feel daunting, it’s what’s at the heart of the work that makes it exciting and rewarding. It’s all about building relationships and making positive psychology a differentiating factor.

It’s connecting with an individual who has a name, not just a title…to a personality, not just a business role…to someone who has an expertise and a need, not just a conduit for meeting your numbers. It boils down to one word: Trust. Trust allows you to build something greater together than you could have as individuals, turning a transaction into a long-term, high-value relationship.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jerry Daly, a Vice President at Optum Health, UnitedHealth Group’s business focused on helping organizations improve the health of their workforce. That evening, he shared his views of business development in three letters: KTL. He boiled it down very simply, “…you work with people you know, you work with people you trust, and you work with people you like.” We had just met and within the course of the evening we hit it off so well that we decided to explore ways to collaborate to broaden our collective reach in the Boston area.

Successful business development certainly begins this way, but has to be followed by the right actions that can be linked to positive psychology. In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, coined the acronym PERMA to describe the five elements of this positive psychology theory: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments.

Ask yourself how your business development efforts measure up to these critical success factors:

  1. Positive emotions - Do you make it your goal when building business relationships to generate positive emotions not only in yourself, but also for your clients and/or partners? Generating excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe in what your company does and what you have to offer is paramount to generating trust in your skillset and that of your colleagues. Equally important is your enthusiasm for the client/partner and the services they offer, which goes a long way toward building a positive relationship.

  2. Engagement - How are you engaging your prospective clients or partners? Are you making connections through activities that draw and build upon their interests? It could be as simple as inviting them to a sporting event of their favorite team, to a dinner with others in their industry, or just meeting them for coffee. On a deeper level, it is truly understanding their objectives and priorities, and creating mutual goals and a plan for how to measure the impact of what you are proposing, whether it be a partnership, service or a product. The level of engagement is often directly related to the depth and longevity of your connection.

  3. Relationships - How is your relationship with your prospective clients/partners? Going back to KTL, do they feel they know you, can trust you, and genuinely like you? Not quite there yet? Ask questions, listen to them, and really hear their needs and priorities. Show you can be trusted by doing what you say you’re going to do in a timely fashion and not promising more than you or your product or service can deliver. Make yourself indispensable by creating a relationship in which your clients or partners benefit from not only knowing you, but also by knowing your ecosystem.

  4. Meaning - Are you clear on what makes your work relationships meaningful beyond meeting your numbers or earning a commission? Identify a clear purpose for your efforts by asking the question, “Why?” until you have a clear perspective. Oftentimes, finding meaning translates to understanding the viewpoints and business needs of your clients/partners and finding ways to support those. Despite potential challenges, working with a clear purpose drives us to continue striving for a mutually desirable goal.

  5. Accomplishments - Are you experiencing mutual success with your clients/partners? In the case of biz dev, accomplishment is really what happens as the result of putting everything discussed above into practice. It is the success that you and your clients/partners can find together. By drawing on collective strengths, you can accomplish greater goals together than as individuals or individual organizations.

Overall, successful business development requires the ability to look beyond your own needs, and to make heartfelt efforts to understand the personalities, interests, goals and business objectives of those with whom you hope to do business. Why is biz dev a great place to be? Because you get to make meaningful connections with real people and work together to deliver mutual success—precisely what your business needs to thrive. When it all comes together, there’s nothing more satisfying.