25 minutes | Oct 22nd 2020

Episode 7 — Dave Fionda on Business Development Skills for Founders

In Episode 7 of Business Breakthrough Thursdays, our regular show host Dave Fionda shares his tips on how entrepreneurial CEOs and tech founders can grow and hone their business development skills—even if they're not good at the "hard sell." Business development isn’t about selling, he reminds us. It's about identifying, closing and nurturing the key relationships you need to acquire many customers.


  • Why founders and owners need to learn or improve business development skills
  • What the three most important sales and business development skills that owner and founders need to focus on are
  • Why sales and business development aren't the same thing, and what the differences are
  • How technical founders and owners can become great business developers, even if it's "not who they are"
  • What steps can owners and founders take to develop these skills

Are you a natural-born sales person? If not, don't despair: Dave tells us you can still become a kick-butt business development professional.

Business owners have to wear many hats—sales, customer service, marketer, human resource, finance and others.  Many times critical business development skills for founders is overlooked.  But business development isn’t about selling. Sales is about acquiring one customer.  Business development is about identifying, closing and nurturing the key relationships you need to acquire many customers. Selling (closing) is part of that equation, but it's not the only part.

So how do business leaders without a sales background learn to build and hone their ability to close the deal? First, don't forget that these are learnable skills, not inherent traits or personality characteristics. 

The three most important skills that owners and technical founders need to develop, according to Dave, are:

  1. Never give up. Persistence is the biggest skill. And this is a skill that technical founders have in spades. 
  2. Learn how to listen. Business development is 80% listening and 20% speaking. Active listening is a learnable skill
  3. Learn how to build trust. Your prospect doesn't necessarily need to know how you're going to solve their business challenge—they just need to be confident that you're the person who can best solve it.

Sales skills, Dave argues, will get you one sale. Business development skills will get you many sales. He gives a specific example from his own experience—how he was able to turn on his business development skills to get a deal made that launched a successful overseas business where 14 previous attempts had failed. 

Dave is a 35-year sales and business development veteran, a CPA, author, mentor and, most importantly, a technical founder himself. Dave’s entire career has been focused on helping companies grow and be more successful. He loves helping companies succeed. Dave founded and grew 5 ventures in his career and sold three of them successfully. He is a mentor for the Mass Challenge startup competition and has also  taught at three of the leading business universities in the US ( Babson, Northeastern and Bentley) and has presented keynotes and executive briefings all over the U.S. and Canada. Dave received his BS in Accounting from Bentley University and an MS in Technology Commercialization from Northeastern University.

Play Next
Mark Played