Identifying Business Development Leaders

I had a job earlier this month where I was tasked with identifying business development people out of specific financial institutions. The customer wanted people involved in the protection and retirement businesses of their respective insurance organizations.

The search parameters were as follows for target titles:

  • Key Account Manager
  • National Accounts Manager
  • Business Development Leader
  • Bank Business Development Manager

The customer was on top of her game. She had earlier identified some of the top leaders in the business development teams of the different organizations and she wanted me to find their subordinates.

These companies sell retirement products, specifically annuities. The customer’s organization did not have a strong presence within banks on the West Coast and therefore, wanted to find new business development leaders who could come in and specifically target West Coast banks to get their own selling agreements in place.

They specifically wanted someone from the competition who could get them in the door of multiple banks. That’s why she called me. From experience, I know that I am best served by going directly at those names in their corresponding organizations.

Calling Great Big Insurance Company

“Good Morning, Great Big Insurance Company in California. This is Melinda, may I help you?”

“Yes, Melinda, this is Maureen Sharib, can you please give me the direct dial of Michael Palmer?”

(Michael Palmer is one of the leaders on the customer’s list and is listed as VP/Business Development/Retirement Products.)

I am placed on hold for 30 seconds, and when she comes back on the line, she says, hesitatingly, “I don’t have a Michael Palmer. I have a Michelle Palmer. Do you know Michael’s title?”

“I do, Melinda, he is the VP of Business Development/Retirement Products.”

“Michelle is the SVP of Business Development, Institutional Investments, and it might be who you’re looking for. Are you sure you have the first name right?”

“I may have the name wrong. Let’s try Michelle. Can you give me her direct dial?”

After she offers the number, but before she has a chance to transfer me, I ask whether Michelle has an administrative assistant.

Turns out she does, and I immediately am told her name and phone number.

Knowing that Melinda is looking at a screen that is giving her some sort of organizational information, I daringly press on.

“Melinda, in case I can’t reach Michelle or Polly, is there anyone else listed under Michelle I might try?”

“Yes, there are 17. I don’t have time to list all of them. I’m on a switchboard and I have calls queuing, and Polly could help you with that!”

“Okay, Melinda, maybe just one or two so I don’t have to come back and bother you again?” I almost plead.

“Brendan Jones is at 2377 and Peter Moran is at 2391. Will that help?” she relents, beginning to sound hurried.

“Absolutely!” I exclaim. “Does it say what Brendan’s title is?” I inquire with more nerve than a burglar, ignoring her mounting distress.

“Director of Business Development and I guess you need Peter’s title? He is Manager/SubAdvisory Funds of Business Development.”

Transferring and Taking Notes

After thanking her for the valuable information she just relayed to me, she proceeds to transfer me to Polly, the administrative assistant.

“Hi Polly, this is Maureen Sharib. Melinda transferred me to you and she suggested you might be able to help me. I am working on a mailing list and I have Michelle Palmer on it. Can you tell me, do you support the Business Development group?”

“I do,” she says.

“Have you been with Michelle awhile? Did she used to be the VP of Business Development for Retirement Products?” I innocently ask.

“That’s how I have her title,” I confess, fully aware that the customer may have the name wrong in her records. This happens for a variety of reasons: it may have been entered into the database incorrectly, a maverick spell-check program may have played fast and loose with the person’s first name, or it may have been picked up incorrectly by whatever gathering storm procured it.

“Oh, that was a while ago! Two, maybe three years even. We had a major re-org back then and they changed the name of our group to Business Development, Institutional Investments. Retirement products falls under our group now, but it’s no longer separate. Gary Simmons heads RP up,” she continues.

Like I could care less and am not furiously typing the new info about Gary in to my silent keyboard, I ask, “What is Michelle’s current title?” like that’s all that really concerns me.

“SVP of Business Development, Institutional Investments,” she answers. I echo it in my head and note its placement in my emerging org chart.

“Did you say a Gary heads up Retirement Products?” I circle back.

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“Yes. He has Michelle’s old position. He’s the VP of Business Development for Retirement Products.”

“Okay, I’ll include him. What did you say his last name was?” I ask again, like I don’t know.

“Simmons,” Polly answers. I can hear her defenses beginning to rise. I make note of Gary’s position in a growing org chart like this:

  • Michelle Palmer, SVP of Business Development, Institutional Investments, 2375, 17 reports
  • Polly Majors, AA, 2383
  • Brendan Jones, Director of Business Development, 2377
  • Peter Moran, Manager/SubAdvisory Funds BD, 2391
  • Gary Simmons, VP of Business Development for Retirement Products

“Okay, Polly, I also have Peter Moran and Gary Simmons listed. Are they also in your group?”

She hesitates. I can hear her thinking. I know at this point I’m either in or out. I wait. It appears I’m in on this one.

“Yes, but Peter reports to Gary and they have another admin supporting them. Linda Owens, you want her number? She can help you with that group…”

“Yes, Polly, that would be great. I’ll call Linda for Gary’s group. Do I have everyone listed in Michelle’s group?”

“Michelle has three groups reporting: Gary’s, Richard Evans’ group, and Jean Peters’ group. Each is a VP over different areas in Institutional Investment, and they’re all sales,” she explains.

She explains that they each have different admins and proceeds to give me their extensions.

The haze is beginning to clear, and the emerging org chart is coming together!

“All told, would you say there’s about 20 in all three groups, in case I can’t reach anyone else?”

“About,” she affirms. Suddenly I realize I’m speaking to an executive assistant, a more sophisticated and secure animal than the administrative assistant. (For clarification on what I mean here, email me and I will send you the free Sourcing Glossary, which details the differences in the two caste systems.)

I can also hear in her voice that she’s turned her attention to some other subject that’s just crossed her desk and is about to dismiss me.

Genuflecting, I continue, “Polly, I appreciate your help. I will contact the three assistants for clarification on their groups. Thank you again. Goodbye!”

I hang up the phone and immediately dial the first admin assistant (telling her that Polly gave me her name) who gives me all six members of her group along with their rank (their numbers I call back to the main operator for after I have assembled the list).

Next, I call the second admin assistant who trills off five. The third admin assistant, Shiela, does not answer her phone.

Not one to be deterred, I call the second assistant back, whining that I couldn’t reach Sheila, and does she know the members of Sheila’s group? She does, because she had to support all five for four months in addition to her six while they were looking to hire another admin.

And so it goes. It ain’t brain surgery, but like brain surgery, it can be tedious. But working through it usually ends up in good results.

I ended up with 19 names that were originally referenced as being 17 by the Gatekeeper. Not all org charts at the front desk are ever really current. It took about an hour, all told, working quickly and decisively.

Not working decisively is what wrecks havoc in many sourcers’ schedules. At some point in the process they hesitate, or freeze, or for some reason decide not to press on while the iron is hot.

Going from pillar to post is my stock-in-trade in this business. I weave my way from one person to the next, extracting information along the path of…I was going to call it destruction but I think a more exacting term for it would be…instruction.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!