As you comb through job postings, you may notice the term “business development” is used often and sometimes ambiguously defined. It has come to describe a number of positions and is considered an entire industry in itself.
Professionals working in business development are often tasked with relationship building and are usually put in positions that have an effect on the customers who patronize a company and the partners who help bring it business.
They are experts in understanding global markets as well as customers, and they see how the interaction of an organization’s various relationships create opportunities for growth in an increasingly international marketplace. They understand international business frameworks and cultural differences, and are familiar with the issues that are important to decision makers regardless of nationality.
Careers in business development can lead to a plethora of opportunities in marketing, sales, public relations and management, but many of them start with an in-depth knowledge of value and how it relates to business goals. According to an article from Forbes, “Business development people understand how to create opportunities for value to persist over the long term, to keep the floodgates open so value can flow indefinitely.”
Qualities of a Business Development Professional
There are a number of characteristics that a good candidate for a business development position may exude. Among them, the ability to ask pertinent questions that prompt revealing answers will serve you well across a range of careers, whether you work internationally or domestically, in an operations setting or the negotiating table.
“The most successful new business people are those that can ask great questions,” Dave Currie, president of The List, said in an interview with Hubspot. “Through their professional curiosity they ask great questions and listen with intent toward identifying and truly understanding the issues, the impact of those issues to the prospect’s organization in measurable terms, and the importance of solving that issue for the prospect now versus later.”
The article went on to note that teams looking to hire business development professionals can score candidates based on two criteria: emotional intelligence and conversational capacity. A healthy curiosity is also necessary for these professionals, something that will be fueled by the aforementioned ability to ask great questions. According to the Harvard Business Review, curious people tend to excel when it comes to creating solutions to complicated issues. This is because curious people tend to be open minded and strong listeners, thus, they build stronger relationships.
Business development is often confused with sales, even though it is a mischaracterization of a business development professional’s work. The goals of this type of work are often shared by marketers, such as brand awareness, new user acquisition, market expansion and placement. In many ways, the role of a business development professional actually falls somewhere between sales and marketing.
As Bitly creator Andrew Dumont noted in a 2014 blog post: “The function of sales is to sell directly to the end customer. The function of business development is to work through partners to sell to the end customer in a scalable way.”
Why Business Development?
There are a number of reasons to work in business development, including working with international clients and partners, learning how to quickly become a subject matter expert through the proposal process and working closely with organizational leaders and senior experts. But two aspects of business development work that stand out to many working in the field are longevity and versatility.
Business development skills are highly valuable to a wide range of organizations and likely will be for a long time to come, giving the field a long-term shelf life. The work is constantly evolving, from writing budgets and proposals to collaborating with diverse teams in search of business solutions and developing new partnerships. Further, as markets grow increasingly global, the work will involve understanding international business etiquette as well as adjusting to shifting social, economic and cultural forces.
Business development, by nature, requires versatility, which opens doors to a wide variety of careers. Whether moving into project management, operations or human resource management, international development or various technical roles within a company, the skills attained through business development work will help you become a more effective player within a given organization.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is pay. Business development professionals possess the ability to show tangible results for their organizations, making it one of the most measurable roles within any business. As their value can be clearly defined, an effective business development professional commands a considerably higher wage than the average candidate with a business administration degree.
According to O*Net Online, the average business development professional, sometimes referred to as a Business Continuity Planner, made just over $68,000 in 2015. The field also possesses a positive long-term outlook, with jobs in the field projected to grow by 5% to 8% through 2024.