What does a Business Development job entail?
Finding more customers is a constant challenge for most businesses. Whether it’s a shop trying to persuade more people to step through the door and buy, or a business-to-business company who is looking to work with new clients, attracting more business drives sustainability and growth.
That’s where the business development team comes in. Some companies have a dedicated person or department to fulfil this role, while others bring in consultants when they need a boost. But what exactly does a business development job entail?
The role of Business Developer
Business developers spend their time looking at ways to encourage existing customers to spend more, or finding ways to attract new customers to the business.
Business Developer is a cross-over role that needs different skills depending on the industry. There are elements of business planning, sales and marketing, and research and development in most business development positions. It’s a challenging and rewarding role which is ideal for creative thinkers who have the drive to see projects through and enjoy seeing tangible results.
Some common tasks carried out by business developers are:
- Researching and developing new ideas to increase custom.
- Researching industries that are likely to be interested in their service
- Creating business proposals, presentations and other materials.
- Scheduling appointments with clients.
- Following up on sales activity.
- Maintaining customer relationships.
- Working with designers to develop new product ideas.
Key skills for Business Development
The ideal degree for a candidate looking at a career in business development would be Business Administration. However, any business-related degree would be useful, as would qualifications in marketing.
In addition to formal study, these are some of the competencies you should be able to demonstrate:
- Presentation skills – business development means making your case for a project internally, as well as presenting to existing or potential clients.
- An understanding of sales techniques. The importance of this will vary depending on the company that you work for, for example, business development in a retail business may focus more on finding new product lines or developing a customer loyalty program.
- Strong research and analytical skills. This will enable you to make a case for any change that you propose and convince others to get on board with your ideas.
- Great communication skills, both written and verbal. Business development may involve writing up business proposals, and then speaking to stakeholders and potential customers about that proposal.
- The ability to close a deal. Once you’ve made your case, you want to be able to get the customer to commit to taking the deal further.
- Organisational skills, including time and task management.
- IT Literacy
Business Development for altruists
It’s worth noting that not all business development roles are with commercial companies. Many charitable organisations also hire business developers to help them identify sources of funding and use that money to expand their works.
Charitable BD roles tend to be based in the major cities of the world, where the funding can most easily be found, while the projects you develop may happen in more remote and deprived places.
The work might involve looking for additional funding sources or researching and developing programs to be delivered to help end-users.
Why work in Business Development?
If you have the skills, and you think that you might want to explore a career in business development, here are some of the reasons it makes a great career choice.
- You gain technical experience: Working in business development means that you have to gain an understanding of the technical side of what the organisation does. If you want to move into these more technical areas eventually but don’t have the experience needed to do that, then a BD role is a good way to get through the door.
- You work with a range of people: including senior management. Working in BD gives you plenty of opportunities to make your mark with your colleagues but having the opportunity to present to senior management is one of the best.
- It’s a marketable skill: Whether you want to stick in the same industry as your first role or move to something different, having a proven track record in business development is sought after.
- Diversity: Business development roles are more diverse than most. They involve talking to people at all levels in the business, work both in and out of the office and a balance of creative thinking and strategic planning.
See our resource on why sales is a great career for graduates
How to get started
Look for opportunities to work in the field, either with an internship or by volunteering with a local charity or community group. Having experience will be particularly useful if you don’t have a business-related degree but still want to pursue this as a career.
Finally, show interest in the field by reading business development blogs such as Fuel Lines or B2B Lead Generation. Find influencers on LinkedIn and read the content they share.
This will help you move beyond university and into the practical application of ideas – and give you something to talk about at your first interview, when you get it. Good luck!