Business Development: What the Flying Trapeze Can Teach UsBy Jess Ostroff

I’ve always wanted to fly.

It was something that being a ballerina as a girl brought me closer to – leaping across the floor and being lifted into the air.

But ballet never made me experience that feeling of weightlessness I craved.

The flying trapeze seemed like something only circus freaks could do, so I never took the idea very seriously…until a good friend of mine started posting status updates and pictures of herself flying through the air, seemingly without any assistance of the safety lines.

I knew I had to find a way to do it.

Business Development and Circus Freaks

Fast forward to today – I’ve taken six classes since the end of July and am finally getting to the point where I don’t shake uncontrollably while waiting to take off.

It’s both exhilarating and terrifying, but ultimately the reason I keep going back is my flying trapeze class is the only thing that keeps my mind calm.


I’m forced to set my whirring thoughts aside and listen, to the caller and the catcher. If I don’t, I could seriously injure myself and those around me.

You might be wondering what in the heck this all has to do with marketing and PR…?

The Key to Trapeze: Wait for the Hep

When you’re working on being caught at the end of your trick, your fate is completely dependent on timing – when you let go of the bar. And the time to let go of the bar depends on when the catcher gives you the call – “Hep!”

See, it’s not about you catching them; it’s about them catching you. And this distinction is extremely important.

The fragility and excitement of this timing made me think about how important timing is when it comes to business development – both for new business and public relations purposes.

Pitch When They’re Ready

Generating new business is a lot like dancing. You build your reputation, court your prospect, and find the balance between coming on too strong, yet staying on their mind.

If you start the business development process before they are ready, there’s a good chance they’ll be turned off by your persistence (which has the potential to come off as nagging rather than interest).

Instead, keep your eye on where they are with their business and what they’re working on.

Setting Talkwalker alerts for the mention of their CEO and business name can help with this. If you see them writing about new clients, a new product launch, or something else related to growth, that might be a good time to reach out.

Starting out your pitch with something such as, “I saw you’ve just released a new version of your product, congratulations!” is a great way to show you’re not just looking for their business, but you actually care about where they are with their business.

A genuine sense of compassion can put you at the front of the line when they’re ready to hire a service provider.

This also relates to media pitching. It may seem obvious, but I’ve seen it happen so I have to bring it up – don’t pitch a story idea that the media you’re pitching recently covered (unless you have a new angle, of course).

Become an avid reader/viewer of the media you plan to pitch to, so you can give them a personalized pitch – “I loved that segment you did on Gini Dietrich’s hairstyle!” or, “I noticed you haven’t published anything about Lindsay Bell’s glasses in a while.”

Wait until you know you have a compelling angle for the person you’re pitching, and don’t pitch until the timing is just right.

Let Your Prospect “Catch” You (Not the Other Way Around)

While your business or media relationship can be mutually beneficial, it’s important to remember you’re the one asking for something. Your prospect has the upper hand in these situations, and you need to treat them with the respect they deserve.

If they tell you they’re not interested at the moment, ask if you can follow up in a few months. Don’t press it if they seem busy and distracted. Circle back and ask what you can do for them instead of letting them slip through your fingers. When the timing is right, whether it’s because the money is there or trust has been built, your prospect will be ready to connect with your business development efforts.

Figuring out the right time to ‘catch’ people is one of the hardest things in any relationship, not just business. If you combine your gut feeling with research, and personalized listening to your prospect’s activities, you’ll find the right time to secure their business.

Just like I’ll be ready to let go of the bar and wrap my fingers around my catcher’s wrists when I hear “Hep!”

Jess Ostroff

Jess Ostroff is the founder and director of calm of Don't Panic Management, a virtual assistant agency. She loves finding efficient ways to get work done, bringing good people together, and enjoying live music.

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