The Business Developer’s Guide to a Career in AI: Set for Selling?
You have vivid dreams and iron ambitions to match. You will stop at nothing short of greatness to reach the faint but sharp light at the end of the tunnel: success.
Whether you want to travel the seven seas with the wind blowing through your hair or cruise down the mountainous highways of Switzerland in a vintage Pino Verde Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet, it all depends on whether you are set for selling or destined to deal.
How can you reach this success?
Is it through a deep need to connect with high-level decision makers to ingrain the importance of adopting next-level technology? Or through an understanding that human connection and trust is the only way to get to a higher plane of efficiency?
Individuals who are set for selling understand very well the dire need for someone like them in any organization. However, knowing something requires the revelation of details, so let me tell you about what it is like to work on corporate deals and transactions, especially while selling leading technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In this piece, I will share with you the reason why I think working on deals is one of the most exciting and rewarding adventures you can embark on and what skills are essential if you not only want to be a good, but great dealmaker in all avenues and walks of life.
Why do it?
There are multiple reasons as to why working in this field is exciting:
You are hired by your client’s CEO and executive committee to advise them on what to do in terms of strategy and what technology fits them best through your own experience. This is extremely important work because you are entrusted by your client to give them advice in a market that they have been in for decades.
Every single deal is a different beast than the one before or the plethora of other deals you’re currently working on. In fact, even within the same deals themselves, they tend to morph and grow in increasing complexity the more time passes. Deals never get old, and trust us, you will not get bored.
While this may seem like a con, I assure you, it is the complete opposite. You will be spending monumental amounts of time working on deals and meeting with your clients. You will be sequestered with your customers in conference rooms and Zoom calls, and you’re going to get to know them extremely well over time and in the long run, this becomes an enjoyable process.
How to do it?
Now that we’ve covered what makes this field exciting, let us discuss the 10 skills that you will need to launch your performance as you gain experience within the role. These skills are divided into 6 tangible skills and the 4 intangible skills that everyone must master.
This is not about having slimy schmoozing skills that allow you to socially climb your way to the top or some unusual and unethical sales skills that will allow you to give yourself a pat on the back. This is about conveying to the client that they should have the utmost confidence in you as their advisor.
If you’re going to work in such a high-pressure environment, you have to always know what your effect and impact will be. That will require you to have the ability to crunch numbers quickly and correctly.
Interest in business
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a degree in business or need to have worked in a business setting; all you need is an interest in business matters, even if you have to fake it at times. Manifest and develop that interest by reading a couple of times per week the front page of popular publications like The Wall Street Journal or Enterprise. You will start to know what is going on economically around you and in the top businesses around you.
As the client’s new advisor, you will be entrusted with confidential information that is extremely valuable. You do not want to be the person who is working on a deal on talking out at restaurants or elevators and divulging top secrets to the world.
Be comfortable with confrontation
If you are looking to avoid conflict, then this is not the place for you. You don’t get to avoid conflict if you will be working on deals of this size and caliber. You will meet people who don’t have your best interests and work with people that are showstoppers by nature, and you need to be firm with your stance.
Client first, always
You hear this a lot, but what does it mean? It means being there for the client whenever they need you to be – this entails calling them back immediately when they need you to, emailing them back immediately when they need you to; and yes, this means at 3 AM in the morning as well if necessary.
You must convey to the client that they are a priority.
Become an open book
When you first start out in this career, you need to be a student. You need to find somebody who does this job well and study that person as much as you can. For the first couple of years, you need to study. Usually, coming into this role, many people have preconceived notions of what makes a well-structured deal and a poorly-structured deal. However, you need to throw these preconceived notions out the window and be willing to learn from scratch.
Build a system
All the best dealmakers in the world have systems in place to manage their deal lifecycle. The systems cover the most mundane tasks all the way to the critical deal-closing tasks.
They don’t just wing it, they build a system over time, and they stick to it from the time the customer first appears, all the way to the pitching, closing, and client toast after closing the deal.
Believe it or not, clients want you to be in control of the process.
You are hired because you have expertise that the client doesn’t have and that they want you to use to advise them what to do. When dealing with a client, don’t hem and haw, tell them right away what needs to be done.
You should also be able to explain to the client that if they choose scenario A (which you recommended), the following impact will take place; and if they choose scenario B (which you advised them against), the following negative impact will take place. Don’t be scared to advise your client – you know what you’re doing!
You need to develop the fine art of putting yourself in the client’s shoes by taking the time to ponder what the CEOs and Executives are actually going through. You must understand what is really important to that person from an emotional and a professional sense and articulate those concerns back to them to make sure they understand that you get the entire picture.
Try saying reassuring sentences like “I understand that this is your company”, “I understand that you built this from scratch and it’s your name on the billboards, the financial statements, and on the sign”, and “I understand that you’re under mountains of pressure and we need to get this right.” Advise them accordingly and make sure they understand that you’re very lucky to be in the position that you’re in.
Thank you for reading this guide! I assure you, if you follow these tried-and-true pieces of advice, you will have a secret weapon up your sleeve in this extremely competitive market and will be able to cultivate a professional environment of competence, trust, and success.
This guide was brought to you by Marwan Eleskandarani, Commercial Manager at Synapse Analytics. Marwan is a mechanical engineering graduate with diverse experience in sales roles across multiple industries; he currently leads the sales & business development team, managing deals in more than 10+ industries.