You’ve probably seen it on a salesperson’s business card. Or used in the context of creating partnerships. Sometimes it even falls in the realm of PR.
But don’t let its ambiguity undermine its importance—”business development”, as the name suggests, is about creating and maintaining long-term relationships that help you grow your business.
It includes everything from sourcing a supplier to building strategic partnerships to finding influencers who are willing to endorse your product.
When it comes to business development, your phone, email, and eye for opportunity are the most important weapons in your arsenal.
But combine that with some clever tools and you’ll be able to unearth more strategic partnerships, conduct conversations with confidence, and manage your relationships better
From research to outreach to following up, here are 7 free tools that’ll help you take your biz dev skills to the next level.
Sidekick (HubSpot): Email tracking in real-time
Email is naturally one of the most important weapons in your biz dev arsenal.
The problem is, unless you’re using some sort of email marketing software, you usually have no idea whether your emails are getting opened or the links you’re sharing are getting clicked.
Sidekick is a plugin that gives you that advantage in any email correspondence.
Instead of crossing your fingers every time you hit send, unsure of your email’s fate in a contact’s inbox, you can get notifications in real-time when they open it and when they click on your links.
Should you send a friendly reminder? Or should you try a different pitch entirely? Use these insights from Sidekick to inform how you follow-up and send your response now or schedule it for later.
SimilarWeb: Evaluate websites as opportunities
You can’t judge a website by it’s design. If it’s not being marketed effectively, if it’s not bringing in traffic, then it might not be able to do much for your business.
SimilarWeb is a great tool for a lot of different reasons: SEO, competitor analysis and, in the context of this post, analyzing the potential of a partnership, affiliate or blogging opportunity.
Whether a potential opportunity comes to you or you reach out to them, being able to evaluate a website by the numbers, from traffic over the last month to social sources, will help you make more well-informed decisions before going forward and negotiating the nature of the relationship.
Crystal Knows: “Email empathy” made easier
Does the thought of cold emailing someone put you on edge?
Do you stress over whether to end a sentence in your email with a “:)” or whether you used one too many exclamation marks?
If there’s a particular opportunity that you absolutely have to win, it can help to understand your prospect’s preferred communication style—their quirks and habits, likes and dislikes.
Crystal Knows scrapes all public data about a contact and renders a detailed personality profile about them, including advice on how to email them or the best way for you to work together.
The more established your prospect’s online presence, the more accurate the information.
While the free version will notify your contact that you’re using the tool, the real value of Crystal, in my opinion, is that it teaches you how to adapt your communication style according to your prospect.
Discover.ly: See mutual connections at a glance
Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.
The easiest way to get your foot in the door of a valuable conversation is to get a mutual connection to make the introduction on your behalf.
Discover.ly is a tool that lets you see what connections you have in common at a glance—not just on LinkedIn, but Facebook and Twitter too. From there you can reach out to your mutual contact and ask if they can give you an “in” with your lead.
Streak: Turn your inbox into a CRM
The number of contacts you’ll be managing for a given opportunity can get overwhelming at times.
In these scenarios, it’s best to systematize your outreach to streamline the entire process.
Streak turns your Gmail inbox into a CRM that lets you build simple pipelines for different purposes and track opportunities as they flow through it. You can also save canned responses that you can reuse later.
You can start by sending one mass email, populating fields based on certain contact information, like First Name and Company (almost like a barebones email marketing software), before drilling down and taking a more personalized approach with each one.
Datanyze Insider: See what’s under the hood of a website
You can tell a lot about a website by the technology that’s powering it: How sophisticated the business is, company size, what marketing channels they’re using, how much they’ve invested in it, and more.
Datanyze Insider is a Chrome extension that lets you pull the curtain back and see what a website is built with. From there you can reverse engineer their technology stack to get insight into how they’re running their website.
While this tool is typically used for prospecting in software sales, it can lead to some interesting insights if you’re familiar with today’s tech and understand how specific solutions fit into the big picture of running the website.
The more you know, the better off you are.
Templates: save time on your outreach
While this may be the most low-tech “tool” on this list, it’s by no means the least useful.
Templates save you a ton of effort in the long-run. You don’t need to write a completely unique email every single time, especially if you’re just trying to establish a first point of contact and have a lot of leads to go through.
Business development can easily become a numbers game when you’re working with a large list—but that doesn’t mean you can’t play it smarter.
Create your own opportunities
Business development is about creating strategic relationships that let you leverage what someone else has already established—whether it’s a brand, a large audience or exclusive resources.
It can get hectic managing so many different relationships and conversations, as well as identifying fruitful opportunities in the first place. But these connections are necessary to grow any business.
After all, no enterprise is an island, complete on its own.
And you can wait for Opportunity to knock, or you can go to her door.