Any business development executive on the out-licensing or sell side will be familiar with the phenomenon. You’ve carefully crafted your messaging, detailing what you can offer, your science is sound, the demand is there you hear time and again, but after sending out 20 meeting requests to potential partners, you remain with 19 out of 20 meeting requests being declined or unanswered.
Why is that?
Most business development representatives at pharmaceutical companies come to partnering conferences with a specific mission, for example to find a phase I/II small molecule for a specific cancer indication. If your offering’s description does not immediately fit into that specific bucket or a close adjacency that rings a bell, the likelihood of a meeting is diminished.
What can you do about it?
- Be really on point: the longer your meeting request, the more the message can get diluted. Especially companies with a platform and a few internal programs tend to have lengthy descriptions explaining all they can do. And thus, a platform to identify novel targets in bladder cancer can suddenly also identify targets in chronic kidney disease, auto-immune related complications, and identify a suitable therapeutic molecule, all while shortening timelines from target to clinic at lower cost and lower risk. In the eye of the beholder, you went from a drug developer with a great technology for a specific program, to a unfocused biotech that never actually advances its programs, or even a service provider.
- Understand the need: a bit of legwork gets you far. What is the company looking for? If you have a platform for molecules to difficult targets, but the pharma representatives are all from the infectious disease space – did you have a project within that space that you can reference to spur interest? A good case study that “clicks” with your audience can make all the difference.
- Know who to target: do you know who within the company would be responsible for evaluating what you have to offer? At most companies, the business development team has divided their responsibilities up according to area of expertise (sometimes also by geography). If you know the name of the person that has the mission to find the best product or technology in your area of expertise, he or she will be an avid listener to what you have to offer. It also helps to address that person by name in your invite, to say why you think that they would want to meet with you and what you have read about the person to make you believe he or she is the best contact.
- Help your pharma counterparts position you: Most business development representatives will have to work through innumerable offerings just like yours. Help them in the evaluation: how do you position yourself vis-à-vis your competitors? Getting the level of detail right is essential – your audience is sophisticated, but not an expert in every arena. Now this is not an exercise on boasting, but an opportunity to outline the key (!) features that make your technology or product unique, objectively!
Our team will be at Bio Europe so look us up and we look forward to seeing you.
Dr. Anne Assmus has worked in business development and consulting in the pharma and biotech industry for over a decade, sourcing and closing platform and therapeutics deals at companies such as MorphoSys AG, Immatics Biotechnologies GmbH, Affimed NV among others. She lives in New York City and likes creative cooking, traveling and long distance running.