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Life Lessons from Business Development

What my first internship taught me

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

1. Cold emails can work like a charm

When I first began generating leads through cold mails, I was skeptical about the prospects and thought it to mostly be a game of luck. I sent 90 of these in my first week with no responses. I tried harder the next week — different subject lines, a finely tuned body and a larger outreach. To my surprise, I started to hear back from people.

Since then I’ve used cold mails to land a couple of job interviews and some volunteering work. The response rate of cold emails is less than 2% but once you build templates based on what has worked for you, you should be able to reach larger audiences in lesser time and hence, get more responses.

Lesson learnt — Do not shy away from reaching out. Sometimes you only need that one response to get closer to your goals.

2. Blowing your own trumpet gets you nowhere

Every time someone reads your mail, give them a good reason to take the discussion further. In business terms, this would mean highlighting some of the amazing features of your product. However, this can go wrong.

Method 1 (borderline bragging)

“Hi, our product has recently been launched to solve for A, B and C requirements of B2B companies. Within a short period, it has ranked no. X in the market and is currently deployed by the likes of D, E and F firms. We would love to get in touch with you!”

While the above paragraph clearly explains why your product is splendid, there’s nothing in it for the readers. They get it, your product is great. Is that enough reason for them to take time off their schedule and talk to you? Besides, it sounds like you don’t care about their company anyway.

Method 2 (addressing the reader’s needs)

“I was wondering how a fast-growing company like yours manages its A, B and C requirements? Given that you are in the B2B business, you may have come across difficulties like G, H and I. Our product has been built to solve for these issues and is already helping the likes of D, E and F companies. We would love to get in touch with you!”

The only addition here is that of probable issues faced by the company and solution proposals through the product. This gives you more credibility and can help increase your response rate tremendously.

Lesson learnt — No matter how desperate you are to prove your worth, do not give a self-centered and boastful pitch. Tone down the “I”s. This applies to all resumes, cover letters, job interviews and successful personal relationships.

3. Persistence is the answer to most questions

Almost always, my first email did not get me a meeting with the client. The first mail was backed by persistent follow-ups. The tricky part here is to be persistent yet not pushy. Sure, I may have irked some people but I also got all my big clients through at least 3 rounds of follow up emails.

Lesson learnt — Don’t take your failures to heart. Nearly no one achieved their dreams in the first go.

4. Timing matters

There have been occasions where I’ve got immediate responses from potential clients because they just happened to discuss the need for this product in a previous all-hands meeting. Sheer timing and luck. What would’ve happened if I reached out to them a month ago? They would’ve probably said no.

Lesson learnt — Try and strike when the iron is hot. Also, if the timing is not right, then it is not right. There’s isn’t much for you to dwell upon.

5. Hard work is necessary but may not always be rewarded

As an intern, I was required to generate quality leads and pass it to the sales team. My performance assessment and incentives were based on the revenue this lead gets for the company.

There have been instances where I would spend weeks on calls with potentially big clients but they would end up buying the product on pilot bases for very few users — hence, very little revenue generation. The big client that was supposed to give me recognition and a possible bonus ended up doing nothing. I just had to move on to the next big thing.

Lesson learnt — You will not get applauded for every initiative you take and not all your efforts are going to be recognized. Nonetheless, this “failed” hard work will help shape you into a sturdy human and professional. You shall know better the next time.


Life Lessons from Business Development was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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