Can a Sales Rep Become a Business Development Director? One Man’s Story
An interview with Carter Owen, Director of Business Development at Petra Capital Partners
The journey from sales rep to business development director is not a typical one, but Carter Owen has made it look easy. Shortly after graduating with a B.A. in philosophy from Duke University, Owen started his career in sales at Oracle Corporation, a multinational information technology corporation. He worked out of Burlington, MA, selling software to large enterprises.
But after spending two years in sales, Owen received a surprising message from a recruiter on LinkedIn, asking if he’d be interested in a private equity role at Gemini Investors, a lower middle-market private equity firm based in Wellesley, MA.
“I think the subject line was a private equity company looking for Oracle Sales Reps,” he recalled in a recent interview. “I was like: this guy must be lost. There’s no way I can do this.”
But he soon learned that many of the skills he had acquired as a sales rep – relationship building, understanding customer needs, and negotiating – were transferable to private equity.
“I think my background is a little bit unique in the sense that I had no corporate finance background when I first started,” he said. “But the money is the money. Sellers are ultimately going to make their decision based on who the people are. To the extent that you can bring people skills to the table, that’s going to be beneficial in this business.”
He credits his success in private equity to several things, including his willingness to learn and adapt, and, perhaps most importantly, his ability to build relationships.
“A good salesperson is going to be the person who closes as many deals as possible. I think a good business development person is the one who can make as many friends as possible,” he added.
In 2020, Owen landed a more senior role at Petra Capital Partners, a Nashville-based private equity firm investing in healthcare and B2B services. He is the Director of Business Development, a role in which he is responsible for leading the firm’s marketing efforts and executing its business development strategy.
He offered the following advice to aspiring private equity professionals:
“Ask lots of questions,” he said, adding that he remembered he didn’t know what EBIDTA was when he first started in the industry. Being humble, coachable, and asking questions can take you far, he added.
He also added that newbies should try to find their own voice and not be afraid to share their own ideas.
“Don’t be afraid to stand by your opinions as it relates to certain investment opportunities, he said. “I think people are always looking for folks that are ultimately going to bring their own opinions, their deals, and their sort of their point of view to the table.”
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By Lou Sokolovskiy, Founder & CEO at Opus Connect