Feb. 5, 2022

Warren Shiver on Why Business Development Doesn’t Happen Without Building Trust

Warren Shiver on Why Business Development Doesn’t Happen Without Building Trust

Warren Shiver shares his years of experience developing client relationships and landing new business and reveals why it all comes down to trust. Learn about the concrete, step-by-step process that establishes trust, how to use the Protemoi list to...

Warren Shiver shares his years of experience developing client relationships and landing new business and reveals why it all comes down to trust. Learn about the concrete, step-by-step process that establishes trust, how to use the Protemoi list to create a pipeline of opportunities for the future, and the most important business development lessons to learn when you’re just getting started.


Mo asks Warren Shiver: At what point in your career did you realize that business development was something you should focus on?

  • Warren started his career off in the typical management/consulting track almost exclusively focused on product delivery. Warren’s wife worked for PeopleSoft at the time, and he was able to go on a few president’s club trips with her. Seeing top performing business development professionals treated so well opened his eyes. No engineers get treated to trips to tropical destinations for delivering a project on time.
  • Warren was in business school at the time and interviewed for all the top technical positions, but they all wanted to see more sales experience. Warren started to focus more on sales and got the opportunity to build a small team working with companies to improve sales performance. That role forced Warren to focus on business development and kicked off his relationship with Mo.
  • As a deep technical expert, the first yes you need to hear is from your internal partners to get introduced to clients. You need to make yourself as relevant and as easily understood as possible to build trust internally before you can get in front of clients.
  • Trust is foundational. Your niche solution may not be overall material to the account manager so it represents a significant risk.
  • To build trust you need to prove your success. Do you have a track record of prior success in a similar situation?
  • The best client-facing team of executives brings a broad selection of skill sets to a project, even if it means going outside the firm, in order to build the trust and relationship with the client.
  • The most important element of success is having a process. It takes a steady and disciplined approach to be successful, whether you are selling internally, externally, or a combination of both.


Mo asks Warren Shiver: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Business development is simply about building trust between people. People buy from people, and that still holds true in the age of Zoom.
  • Mo’s wife recently started a non-profit focused on equine therapy. and within two months of the launch they were getting incredible amounts donated to the program. This was because Becky had been building relationships with people in the area for 30 years.
  • People are looking for indicators that you do what you’re going to say you’re going to do. Trust is built over the course of your career, and as you help other people be successful, you build your network and your brand, and that helps to sustain your success.
  • Your first interaction with someone matters. How can you come prepared for your first conversation with someone with questions and fluency? Whatever the next step is, follow up and follow through with a high rate of precision and speed.
  • You can differentiate yourself just by having professional, thorough, and timely follow up.
  • Most people aren’t reliable. Reliability starts with being organized.
  • Being able to connect the dots for someone across a number of different relationships is very valuable.
  • Warren uses his Outlook calendar to stay on top of what he needs to get done alongside Hubspot. He also has a Protemoi list of key relationships and opportunities that he keeps front and center along with his calendar, to keep things on track.


Mo asks Warren Shiver: What’s your favorite science, step, or story from the Snowball System or GrowBIG training?

  • Warren has been working with Mo during the early days of the GrowBIG training and has been a big fan of the Protemoi list and the step-by-step opportunity process.
  • The first part of the opportunity process is listening and learning. Being able to repeat it back to the prospect and proving that they’ve been heard is how you earn the right to go to the next step.
  • Weekly, monthly, or quarterly sales targets influence behaviors that always align with the listen-and-learn process. The opportunity process doesn’t require more time, but it does require an emphasis on patience, understanding, and a collaborative approach. Many companies are still struggling with the more rigid, linear mindset of selling.
  • Clients don’t want to hear your language or why your company is awesome. You should approach the sales cycle with a fresh-eyes mindset and assume the position of someone just getting started solution-wise.
  • Earned Dogmatism is a proven mental heuristic that states the more we believe we have an expertise in some area, the more close-minded we become.
  • The Protemoi list is a mental framework that can pay off at any time. Think about the relationships that might be important to you tomorrow, and the frequency of staying in touch that keeps those relationships alive.
  • The first step of the Protemoi list is to write it down. Warren uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his list, and one of his weekly MIT’s is to always check in with the people on his list.
  • It’s okay for people to drop off. Depending on the situation, Warren reaches out weekly or monthly to stay in touch in any way he can that adds value.
  • Warren looks for interesting articles that he can send people or whatever way he can connect with someone on the list that makes sense.
  • The Protemoi list also scales to a team or organizational level. You should be having all your people working to build trust and the relationship along the way.


Mo asks Warren Shiver: Tell me of a business development story that you are really proud of.

  • Warren left his day job and started his own consultancy in 2010. He created his Protemoi list and started working through it to get things started. Warren met Paul Duval, the senior vice-president of sales at Central Garden, a billion dollar provider of lawn and grass products.
  • That very first relationship developed into a three-month sales cycle and a seven-figure engagement that kicked off Warren’s consultancy.
  • The client gave Warren some feedback after the fact when Warren asked him why they went with his company, and he responded that Warren asked three questions and then shut up and listened as Paul talked for 45 minutes.
  • Warren was also able to bring in a couple other key people to show they could build trust as a team and collaboratively build the scope together.
  • Listening and learning early on and then building the solution together were the two key things that landed the business.
  • It’s way more powerful to learn their priorities using their own words.
  • When someone shares their personal perspective, it’s highly correlated to liking you more.
  • Early on in the conversation with Paul, it became apparent that he knew what he was doing. He had a vision for what he wanted done, and a pitch from Warren’s point of view wouldn’t have landed right. Listening first helped Warren stand out from the other consultants bidding for the business.
  • Even experienced professionals like Mo can fall into the trap of wanting to speak about themselves first.
  • Warren’s client was in the process of a complete business transformation, so it was important as a new firm to show that it wasn’t just Warren working on it. There is a lot of power in co-creation and the complementary skill sets of the additional people played a big role in the success of the project.
  • A key takeaway is to ask for feedback whether you win or lose the business. It helps keep you grounded and helps you understand what your approach might be missing.


Mo asks Warren Shiver: If you could record a video about business development and send it back to your younger self, what would it say?

  • Warren’s advice comes in three parts, the first one is: find opportunities around business development as early as possible, get experience, and fail.
  • You can be a Hall of Fame level baseball player by hitting 3 out of ten pitches. Sales teams typically win about half the time but even that can be improved on.
  • The second message would be to find a mentor to learn from early on. Warren found a couple of mentors at the beginning of his career, but that was around five years into his decision to focus on business development. Doing that earlier would have accelerated the process.
  • The third message is having patience. Expertise takes time.
  • Harvard Business Review did some research and found that the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 42.
  • Business development is a learnable skill and those three messages are the essence of deliberate practice.
  • To get involved with more opportunities you have to show interest.
  • To find mentors and engage them, you should reach out within your firm. The senior leaders in your organization are looking for people to differentiate themselves and who are wanting to grow.
  • If you are the senior leader, go out and find someone to mentor.
  • Find a way to expand or grow your skill set in the role that you’re currently in. Warren had the opportunity to be entrepreneurial within his role which gave him a great level of experience that he could apply when he ventured out on his own. Incremental gains in your business development skills, no matter where you practice, will pay off.



Mentioned in this Episode:




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Why Older Entrepreneurs Have the Edge - knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/age-of-successful-entrepreneurs