Hiring a Business Development Leader is one of the most crucial items to the success of a company. No brainer, right? In the science-driven world of drug development, this is often times a debatable topic. Some say science sells itself. But anyone in business development would certainly argue otherwise. And rightfully so.

A great BD Leader will build a scalable sales process and accelerate growth, having a long-term effect on revenue. On the flip side, a poor BD Leader, or lack thereof, can cause a company to fester and sooner or later fade away.

Identifying and hiring a top BD Leader is a challenge for lots of companies. Generally, the hiring authority is a company executive who doesn’t have the time nor expertise to recruit a qualified person for the job. And as a result, the recruitment process might be pushed off to HR. Depending on the level of HR’s experience, this is more often than not a turn off to candidates who would rather speak with an executive for a role that has the potential to shape the future of an organization.

In 2015, a Jobvite survey placed the average time-to-hire for a VP or Senior Director-level hire at 76 days. Since then, company chiefs and investors have realized they don’t have the luxury of waiting that amount of time to hire their next BD Leader.

So, what’s the solution? For starters, take the time to define a recruitment process and generate buy-in from all responsible parties. Everyone who will have a “say” in the new hire needs to be on the same page before launching a search. If you plan to begin your search for your BD Leader on your own, the best place to begin is within your own network. Contact anyone you’ve worked with in the past to see if they, or anyone they know, might be someone they’d recommend for the role. It’s also wise to reach out to people outside the BD function – scientists, operations, regulatory; this will potentially expose talent with a solid reputation and track record of success.

And of course, enlisting the help of a specialist search firm like Key Corporate Services which possesses a solid understanding of the market and the talent available is an alternative option. Specialist Search Firms may also already have great candidates ready to go, drastically reducing time-to-hire given their familiarity and relationships within the market.

The interview process should begin with a phone call to determine mutual interest. And bear in mind, the candidate is interviewing you as much as you are them. Following phone interviews, onsite meetings with key executives is imperative. For a BD Leader, candidates should be asked to prepare a 3/6/9 month plan for a second onsite meeting. Salespeople are great at interviewing, so this is an ideal way to test a candidate’s ability to do the job and get an idea of what you might expect in their first several months in the position.

After presentation of the 3/6/9 month plan, the candidate should meet with the hiring authority one final time to address any final questions and discuss compensation. Be specific when discussing compensation and include the exact salary, percentage and shares of equity, and the benefits they will receive. The goal is to avoid any potential roadblocks if you decide to extend an offer.

Lastly, depending on the level of the hire, meeting or having phone discussions with Board members or investors is a good idea. This allows both parties to ensure they’re on the same wavelength in terms of the company’s growth strategy. A Leadership position can require an additional layer of screening to ensure a strong fit.

Brandon Miller
Practice Leader at 3D CRO Group

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