How to navigate business development via relationship building.

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash
by Carson Hood / Originally published on Linkedin


“How can I help?”

A simple question that punches way above its weight class- it’s where good conversations and projects begin. In business development it’s easy to fall in to the practice of asking for something from your prospect. Move past that awkwardness with a smile and genuine offer to help.

When I present my clients with this simple ask, the response is almost always a sigh of relief wrapped in a chuckle – “where to begin, can you pick up my kid from school and have this cut to my boss all by 7pm?!” A warm opener and a good way to move the conversation forward without putting the onus on your client to give a TED talk on their latest challenge.

Inboxes are a wasteland and dusty post-its cover the flashing light of voicemail notifications in cubicles everywhere. People don’t need more notifications, more things to look at, or more questions. They need some assistance, someone to take a couple of things off their plate and know they’re going to get done and be boss-review-ready.

Luckily I’ve always come from a place of, “how can I help?” I say lucky because it really was a natural reaction I had when beginning my career and not knowing anything about business development, project or account management. Managing a project, new business deal or priority account is a complicated web with lots of lines to read between. What I found I did know, was how to help and mobilize my network to solve any challenges I couldn’t on my own.


Let’s break it down


Be a resource.

Need a photoreal dragon sigil that impresses fans of the biggest show of the last decade? Got it. Heading to New Orleans for a wedding next month? Awesome! My buddy lives there; here’s a great list of things to do from a local’s standpoint. Whatever the ask, be a known go-to resource. It’s not always about being transactional. It’s about helping.

Have confidence in your team.

I thought I was creative until I met and worked with truly creative people. There’s no need to be the smartest person in the room or try and solve someone’s problem if I have someone else that can do it better. When we first began talking with the production team on Free Solo, the focus wasn’t budget and scope. It was – can you help me bring El Capitan to life and help our director realize her vision for this mountain and incredible story of this climbing feat? No, I personally cannot but Josh and our team at BigStar can and they’ll kill it. Let me introduce you, come have a conversation with us, let us put some frames together. I didn’t need to close, I knew I needed them to meet my team and hear our vision.

Offer a solution.

For any number of reasons, not all projects are a fit. However, the word “no” is never in my vocabulary. Being a resource comes from a place of service rather than sales. “Sorry, this project is going to be a tough fit for my team but, have you tried….?” Recently, I received a call from a new client that was in a tough spot. You know the classic triangle – good, fast, cheap? She was staring at it dead center. In short, I recommended a live action approach to a problem she was looking to solve in 3D. She hadn’t thought about it and never dreamed she’d be able to afford it but in reality, she could and although she may not have hit the triangle trifecta, the story she’s telling will be realized in a much less complicated and more highly effective way.

This resource-focused approach has been a fundamental, and enjoyable, element of relationship building for me and the foundation of my career in business development. Challenges come in various forms, states, and valuations but being a trusted resource will always be most relevant. Taking that a step further and being someone you can hit up for a good drinks spot in Manhattan or outdoor activities for your kids while you’re vacationing in Austin adds color to my daily conversations and is something I genuinely enjoy doing.


With that being said, Hi. I’m Carson. How can I help?


Carson Hood is the executive producer at BigStar, the award winning motion graphics and design company as well as the co-founder of One Two Collective, a consumer experience marketing consultancy.