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Business Development 101: Guide to Business Growth

Business development 101.

“Business Development Executive,” “Manager of Business Development,” and “VP, Business Development” are all impressive job titles often heard in business organizations. Sales, strategic initiatives, business partnerships, market development, business expansion, and marketing – all of these fields are involved in business development but are often mixed up and mistakenly viewed as the sole function of business development.

The following information explores the nitty-gritty of business development, what it encompasses, and the standard practices and principles to which business development adheres.

What is Business Development?

Business development  (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A  business development strategy  is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.

The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown below.

business development manager 101

The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.

But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development.

What are the Stages of Business Development?

1. Market Research Regardless of what industry you work in, sales professionals constantly strive to ensure that sales cycles do not take an excessively long time, because the opportunity cost can quickly become unjustifiable and unsustainable. After all, if a sales professional spends 10 hours in a week engaging and nurturing a prospect, that is 10 hours of active selling time that cannot be directed towards another — and potentially more viable — opportunity.

To be successful, sales professionals must resolve two competing forces: the need to shorten sales cycles, and the need to build a personal, quality relationship with prospects. That is where market research enters the picture and makes a pivotal difference.

Market research enables businesses to identify all relevant buyer personas, which are customer types that either make a purchase, or more typically in B2B engagements, are a key opinion leader who influences a purchase. Indeed, Gartner  has noted that in a company with 100-500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in a single purchase decision. Equipped with accurate buyer persona data, sales professionals can target the right messages, to the right people, at the right time.

2. Strategy Sales strategies are meant to provide clear objectives and guidance to your sales organization. They typically include key information like: growth goals, KPIs, buyer personas, sales processes, team structure, competitive analysis, product positioning, and specific selling methodologies.

Most of these guidelines are helpful for communicating goals and keeping your sales reps on the same page. Where most sales strategies fall short, however, is that they’re too focused on the internal workings of the organization. The actual skills needed to have winning conversations with customers—along with the messages reps need to be successful—are merely an afterthought.

When you boil it down, the goal of every sales strategy is to make sure your salespeople hit their quota, right? And it’s the messaging element—what salespeople say, do, and write in order to create perceived customer value—that wins or loses the deal.

3. Sales/On-boarding: Sales onboarding is an education program that provides newly hired sales reps with the necessary knowledge, instills the company values, and show them how to leverage the provided tools of a company in an easy-to-absorb and timely format. This process ensures all sales reps have what they need for success within the company, with the team, and in the field.

A well-defined onboarding program, in particular, allows sales reps to learn in consumable chunks, with defined learning objectives and onboarding materials that are readily available and updated with the latest competitive, corporate and product information. To be successful, sales reps need an intimate knowledge of the products they are selling, as well as the specific procedures and behaviors that will help them succeed.

To be clear, a strong onboarding program gives reps more credibility and confidence in their new role, boosting the success of the entire sales department.

4. Operations: With the rise of big data, cloud technology, and sophisticated sales tools, sales operations have become increasingly important to the success of an organization’s sales department.

Sales Operations supports a company’s sales team by creating, evaluating, and optimising data sets and sales applications.Employees working in Sales Operations most often manage sales administration, oversee business analytics and attainment planning, and direct sales force enablement.

More and more companies have begun to adopt Sales Operations strategies to remain competitive.

What Skills Are Required for Business Development

How Can Business Development Grow Your Business

Adding a business development representative to your team is an investment in growth. But before you jump into hiring one, you need to set appropriate expectations.

Get a deep understanding of the business development process and what the BDR needs to succeed. (It’s not enough to give them a phone and a quota.)

You need to invest in researching your audience. You need to give BDRs all the information they need to creatively expand your reach and generate leads.

And you need to be aware that business development is a long-term investment that requires a lot of energy.

Prepare your senior team to support your business development representatives. Put effort into keeping them motivated.

Business development is a tough game, but one that can drive huge growth when well-executed!

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The Ultimate Guide to Business Development and How It Can Help Your Company Grow

Discover the importance of business development and how the process can help your business grow better.



Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

business development

Updated: 08/19/22

Published: 08/17/21

Imagine working for a company without any employees dedicated to growing and developing the business.

Nobody to challenge you to improve or tell you about new business opportunities, changes in the market, what your competition is up to, or how you can attract your target audience more effectively.

This would make it pretty hard to succeed, don’t you think?

That’s why companies establish business development practices and hire employees to focus on these tasks (among others) to help them grow.

Business Develop-ment

Business Develop-ment Reps

BDR Responsibil-ities

Business Develop-ment Ideas

Business Develop-ment Process

Business Develop-ment Plan

Business Development

Business development is the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your organization to promote growth and boost revenue.

It involves pursuing opportunities to help your business grow, identifying new prospects, and converting more leads into customers. Business development is closely tied to sales — business development teams and representatives are almost always a part of the greater sales org.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

Although business development is closely related to sales, it’s important to note what makes them different.

Business Development vs. Sales

As mentioned, business development lives on the greater sales team yet it serves a different function than typical sales work and responsibilities.

Business development is a process that helps your company establish and maintain relationships with prospects, learn about your buyer’s personas, increase brand awareness, and seek new opportunities to promote growth.

In contrast, sales teams sell your product or service to customers and work to convert leads into customers. Business development-related work simplifies the work of a salesperson or sales manager.

Let’s take a closer look at what business development representatives — the people responsible for carrying out the various business development tasks — do next.

Business Development Representative

Business development representatives (BDRs) seek out and establish new strategies, tactics, targets, employees, and prospects for your business. The goal of all BDRs is to find ways to grow and provide long-term value for the business.

Possessing the necessary business development skills and experience will help your BDRs achieve all of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

Business Development Representative Responsibilities

Although some BDR responsibilities may change over time and as your business grows, the following list will provide you with a solid understanding of typical BDR tasks.

1. Qualify leads.

BDRs must qualify leads and pinpoint ideal prospects to determine who they'll sell to. Typically, leads are qualified through calls, emails, web forms, and social media.

The key to qualifying leads (leads who are assigned to the BDRs as well as leads BDRs identify themselves) is to consider their needs and then determine whether or not your product or software could be a solution for them.

2. Identify and communicate with prospects.

By qualifying leads and searching for people who fit your buyer personas, BDRs will identify ideal prospects. They can communicate with those prospects directly to learn more about their needs and pain points.

This way, BDRs can determine whether or not the prospect will really benefit from your product or service by becoming a customer. This is important because it increases the potential of improved customer loyalty and retention.

Once the BDRs have identified ideal prospects, those prospects can be passed along to a sales rep on the team (or sales manager, if necessary) who can nurture them into making a deal.

3. Proactively seek new business opportunities.

Proactively seeking new opportunities — whether that’s in terms of the product line, markets, prospects, or brand awareness — is an important part of your business’s success. BDRs work to find new business opportunities through networking, researching your competition, and talking to prospects and current customers.

If a new business opportunity is identified, BDRs should schedule marketing assessments and discovery meetings with the sales reps on the team so they can all assess whether or not there’s potential for a deal.

4. Stay up-to-date on competition and new market trends.

It’s important to stay up-to-date on your competition’s strategies, products, and target audience as well as any new market and industry trends.

This will allow you to more effectively identify ideal prospects. It also helps your business prepare for any shifts in the market that could lead to the need for a new approach to qualifying leads and attracting your target audience.

5. Report to salespeople and development managers.

As we reviewed, at most companies, BDRs report to sales reps and sales managers. BDRS must communicate with these higher-ups for multiple reasons such as discussing lead qualification strategies and how to get prospects in touch with sales reps to nurture them into customers.

BDRs also have to report their findings (such as business opportunities and market trends) to sales reps and managers. Relaying this information and collaborating with sales reps and managers to develop and/or update appropriate strategies for your business and audience is critical to your success as an organization.

6. Promote satisfaction and loyalty.

A BDR's interaction with a prospect might be the very first interaction that prospect ever has with your business. So, creating a great first impression right off the bat is crucial to promote interest early on.

Whether a BDR is working to qualify the lead, learn more about the prospect and their needs, or find the right sales rep to work on a deal with them, their interactions with all of your prospects matter.

Once a BDR researches the prospect or begins interacting with them, ensure they tailor all communication towards the prospect. Customizing all content sent their way shows them they’re being listened to and cared for. These actions are professional and leave a strong impression.

In addition to understanding how BDRs help you grow, business development ideas are another powerful way to engage prospects and identify new business opportunities. Let’s take a look.

Business Development Ideas

Business development ideas are tactics you can implement to positively impact your company in a multitude of different ways. They can help you identify ideal prospects, network more effectively, improve brand awareness, and uncover new opportunities.

The following tactics are here to get you started — every business and team is different, meaning these ideas may or may not be suited for your specific situation. (So, feel free to modify the list!)

1. Innovate the way you network.

It’s no secret cold calls are less effective than they once were. Instead, innovate the way you network by establishing strong relationships with your prospects. You can do this by meeting with them in person at conferences, trade shows, or events related to your industry.

Browse your online networks including LinkedIn and other social sites for potential customers, too. Reach out to the people who sign up for your email subscription or complete other forms on your site.

2. Offer consultations.

Offer consultations and assessments for prospects. Talking about the ways your product or service applies to their needs will help prospects decide whether or not they’ll convert.

In contrast, consultations and assessments may also bring to light the ways a prospect is not an ideal fit for your product (which is equally as valuable since it prevents you from wasting any time nurturing them or having to deal with an unsatisfied customer down the road).

3. Provide sales demos for prospects and leads.

Provide your prospects and leads with sales demos so they can see how your product or service works in action. Ensure these demos are customized to show a prospect or lead how your product solves their challenge. You can share these demos in person, over email, on your website, or via video chat.

4. Nurture prospects.

Remember to nurture your prospects, whether it’s by phone call, email, meeting, or another mode of communication. The point of lead nurturing is to provide any information needed about your product or service so your prospects can decide whether or not they want to make a purchase.

By nurturing your leads , you’ll be able to tailor the content regarding your brand and product so your leads can better understand how your product will solve their specific pain points. You’ll also be able to show your support for the prospect and ensure they feel heard and understood by your company.

5. Provide prospects with several types of content.

Provide your prospects with different content types such as blogs, videos, and social media posts so they can learn more about your brand and product or service.

It’s best to meet your prospects where they are and provide the content they prefer to read or watch. Ensure all of this content is downloadable and/or shareable so prospects can send it to their team members to show them why your solution is their best option.

6. Communicate with marketing.

Although business development lives in the sales department, that doesn’t mean internal business development work only involves other members of the sales team. Host regular meetings and maintain open lines of communication with the departments at your company that impact your ability to succeed such as marketing and product development.

Think about it this way: Marketing creates content and campaigns for your target audience about how your product or service resolves their challenges. So, why wouldn’t you want to talk to them about the blogs, campaigns, social media posts, and website content they’re creating for the people you’re selling to?

Your reps and BDRs can share any content the marketing team creates directly with prospects to help them convert, as well as inform the marketing team of any content they feel is missing for prospects. If there are projects or campaigns out of your scope, you can opt to hire a marketing agency to help fill the void. But, like your marketing team, they'll need to understand your product and how to connect with your target audience.

7. Invest in your website.

You never get a second chance at a first impression, and in many cases, your website is exactly that — your prospects' first impression of your brand. So, it serves you to make it as accessible, navigable, visible, and helpful as possible.

Taking strides like making your site visually engaging, connecting your social media profiles, optimizing your site for search engines, linking to collateral like sales content , and maintaining an active blog can go a long way when conducting business development.

8. Push your employees to expand and refine their skills and knowledge.

Business development is never stagnant. Strategy, technology, and market conditions are all constantly evolving — so you're best off having your employees stay abreast of these trends.

Anyone involved in your business development should be liable to develop new skills as needed. If your organization adopts any sort of new technology, thoroughly train anyone the change touches on how to use it.

Encourage your employees to learn more about both the nuances of their field and the industries they serve. Is artificial intelligence starting to shift the dynamics of a specific industry? If so, make the BDRs who serve that market learn all they can about how it might change the nature of the companies they interact with.

Business Development Process

A business development process is the combination of steps your business takes to grow effectively, boost revenue, improve relationships with leads, and more. These steps are what your business development team will work on every day. It includes everything related to delighting customers along each part of the buyer's journey.

By working through your business development process, your team will have a strong understanding of your organization-wide goals, sales targets, current business situation, who your target audience members are, and more.

How to Do Business Development

1. Conduct extensive market research.

Successful business development rests, in large part, on you understanding your market and target personas. If you have no idea who you're trying to sell to and the state of the market they comprise, you can't successfully implement any other point on this list.

Study and survey your current customers to see who tends to buy from you. Look into your competition to get a feel for where you fit into your broader market. And take any other strides to get a better feel for the "who" behind your successful sales — without that intel, you'll never be able to shape the "how" side of your business development.

2. Raise visibility and awareness.

Business development, as a broader practice, extends beyond your sales org — your marketing department can also play a central role in the process. You can't source a base of potential customers if no one knows who you are.

Actions like constructing an effective website, investing in paid advertising, leveraging social profiles, participating in co-marketing partnerships with industry peers, and maintaining an active blog can all go a long way in supporting successful business development.

3. Promote thought leadership.

This point is sort of an extension of the one above. Establishing credibility is one of the more important steps you can take when doing business development. You can't just stop with prospects knowing who you are — they need to trust you if you're ever going to earn their business.

Publishing in-depth, industry-specific blog content is one way to get there — if you can show that you have a firm grasp on every aspect of your field, you can frame yourself as a reliable, knowledgeable resource for your customers. That kind of trust often translates to sales, down the line. Other media like webinars, white papers, and video content can also help your case.

4. Conduct outreach.

Actively reaching out to prospects is one of the most crucial, traditional elements of business development. You need to touch base with prospects if you're going to vet them and ultimately convert them to qualified leads.

This step is typically supported by extensive research on individual prospects, paired with contacting warm and cold leads proactively but not aggressively. BDRs typically shoulder this responsibility — and for many people, it's the aspect of the process most closely associated with the term "business development."

5. Qualify leads.

Once your BDRs have connected with leads, they need to qualify them to determine their viability and understand whether they're worth the sales org's time and effort. That generally entails having conversations with leads and asking the right qualifying questions to reveal their fit for your product or service.

This is one of the most pivotal moments in the business development process — in some respects, it could be considered its last step. Successfully executing this point typically means the process, as a whole, has worked.

6. Provide exemplary customer service.

Business development is an ongoing process that involves virtually every side of your business in some capacity — and customer service is no exception. Your service org needs to keep current customers happy to generate positive word of mouth and bolster your company's reputation. That kind of effort offers you credibility and can generate referrals, making business development more straightforward and effective.

7. Develop sales content from success stories.

Another part of business development is translating customer satisfaction into actionable, promotable sales content — pointed, product-specific content that's used to generate sales. While marketing content is used for thought leadership and garnering general interest, sales content is used to appeal to potential buyers, looking into your company specifically.

Sales content can come in a variety of forms, including case studies and testimonials — two mediums that lean heavily on your current customer base. When you use customers' experiences to generate interest in your business, your business development efforts essentially come full circle.

Visual of the 7 business development process/strategy stages

By compiling these elements of business development and sharing them among your team, you create an actionable business development strategy or plan that encourages and promotes success and growth. Let's review the different steps involved in creating your business development plan next.

Business Development Plan

A business development plan is a strategy your team can refer to while working to achieve growth-related goals. Sales managers typically create the business development plan for BDRs to work on.

The purpose of a business development plan (or strategy) is to set realistic goals and targets that allow your reps to grow the business, close more deals, identify prospects, align members of the sales team (and other teams, company-wide), and convert more leads.

1. Craft an elevator pitch.

You can simplify any initial communication with prospects by having an elevator pitch ready to go. This elevator pitch should explain your company’s mission and how your product or service can solve the needs of your target audience. Your elevator pitch should grab the attention of prospects and leads — and get them excited to learn more about what you offer.

Additionally, you can help your team determine which elevator pitches used by both BDRs and reps are most successful in converting leads and then document it in your greater strategy so everyone has access to it.

2. Set SMART goals.

Set SMART goals for your strategy — meaning, make sure your targets are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. By creating SMART goals for your business development plan, you’ll be able to ensure these goals are aligned with those of your entire company.

For example, if one of your goals is to increase your number of identified qualified leads this quarter by 5% , make the goal specific by determining the type of prospects you’ll focus on and how you’ll identify them.

Then, decide how you’ll measure your success — perhaps by measuring the number of these prospects who then go on to talk with a sales rep to learn more about the product or service.

You determine this goal is attainable due to the fact you increased your number of qualified leads last quarter by 3%. 5% isn’t too much of a leap.

Your goal is relevant because you know it’ll help your business grow — it pushes you to make a greater impact on your team by contributing to the sales team’s ability to close more deals and boost revenue. Lastly, it’s timely because you’ve set this goal for the quarter.

3. Conduct a SWOT analysis.

As mentioned above, part of any role in business development is to stay up-to-date on market and industry trends and understand your competition. This is where SWOT analysis comes in handy — SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats . The key to using SWOT analysis correctly is to have a clear goal in mind first.

For example, if your goal is to determine the best way to handle outreach with prospects , you can begin talking to your BDRs, sales reps, sales managers, and current customers about what works best for them.

Next, think about your strengths — what does your business do well? Maybe you have a large support team that provides helpful onboarding for new customers. Or you have several remote reps who can meet face-to-face with prospects in their desired location.

(You might have multiple strengths that make you stand out, so don’t be afraid to list them all and which ones have the greatest impact on your customers.)

Now, think about your weaknesses . Are your product’s limited offerings requiring some leads to consider your competition’s product in addition to yours? Is the need for your product growing faster than your production, or faster than you’re able to establish a large customer support team to assist your customers?

Onto your business opportunities . Think about where you’re going as a business and what you know you can accomplish. For example, maybe your business has recently partnered with another company that can help you boost brand awareness and attract a much broader base of leads and customers.

Lastly, who are your threats ? Think about your current competition — who’s producing a product or service like yours and is attracting a similar target audience? Who could become your competition in the future — is there a market gap that another company (new or established) could identify the need for and begin selling?

SWOT analysis allows you to identify the ways your company can create opportunities to grow and expand. It also helps how you establish new processes to address any weaknesses or threats such as identifying more qualified leads, efficiently converting prospects into customers, and shortening the sales cycle.

4. Determine how you’ll measure success.

Depending on the SMART goals you created and the SWOT analysis you performed, you’ll also need to decide how you’re going to measure your business development success.

Here are some examples of common business development KPIs that can help you analyze your efforts:

5. Set a budget.

Depending on the type of business development goals you set for the team, you may determine you need to set a budget. Consider your resources, the cost of any previous business development strategies you’ve developed, and other important operational line items (what you need, who’s involved, etc.).

Collaborate with the greater team to determine the amount you’re willing to, and need to, spend on business development to get the process started at your company.

6. Always keep your target audience in mind.

Whatever it is you’re working towards, keep your target audience and ideal prospects in mind. Assess their needs and understand exactly how your business and product or service will meet their pain points.

After all, this audience is the group who is most likely to buy your product. Make sure your plan addresses them and their needs so your team can convert more of them and grow your business.

7. Choose an outreach strategy.

As we’ve reviewed above, a major component of business development is finding new prospects and potential customers. To find new prospects, you’ll need to decide how you’ll perform outreach, or connect with these potential customers. Here are some ideas:

Also, review any expectations or guardrails related to outreach reps are held to so your business has only professional and on-brand interactions with prospects.

Congrats! You’ve just completed your business development plan — with your strategy and ideas, your business will be growing in no time.

Business Development Resources

1. hubspot sales hub.

Business Development Resources Hubspot

Best for Businesses Interested in a Wide-Reaching, One-Stop Solution

HubSpot Sales Hub includes a suite of resources that enable more focused, effective business development. Features like email templates and email tracking lend themselves to well-targeted, productive prospecting.

Its conversational intelligence capabilities can provide invaluable insight into the "why" behind your BDRs' overall performance — letting you pinpoint the strengths and flaws in key business development elements like your messaging and pain point assessments.

Sales Hub is a dynamic solution that covers a lot of bases for your sales org — including several beyond business development. But that wide range of applications doesn't undermine its utility for BDRs and their managers. If you're looking for a solution that addresses almost every component of successful business development, consider investing in HubSpot Sales Hub.

2. Bloobirds


Best for Businesses Interested in Keeping BDRs and Top-of-Funnel Activities on Track

Bloobirds is a sales engagement and playbook platform that guides SDRs and closing reps to convert more prospects into customers. It partners with your existing CRM — sitting on top of it to make it more functional for the sales team.

It eliminates admin tasks, makes selling more intuitive, and makes sure reps follow best plays with the in-app playbook's help. Bloobirds helps sales teams flow through their pipeline — it also collects crucial data and creates competitive insights.

3. Leadfeeder

Business Development Resources leadfeeder

Best for Businesses Struggling to Generate High-Potential Leads

Leadfeeder is a powerful resource for enhancing a central element of any business development efforts — lead generation The platform helps you identify high-potential leads by automatically analyzing your website traffic.

The software removes ISP traffic to pin down visitors' companies and gauge interest. It also lets you create behavioral and demographic filters for better-informed, more productive lead segmentation.

Successful business development often leans, in large part, on your ability to generate high-quality leads — so if you're interested in effectively sourcing those contacts, you'll need to invest in some sort of lead generation software. Leadfeeder is as good a place as any to start.

4. LinkedIn

Business Development Resources LinkedIn

Best for Businesses Looking for a Free Way to Source Leads

LinkedIn is one of the most prominent, practical, effective resources for certain key elements of the business development process — namely, prospecting. The value behind leveraging social media for top-of-funnel sales activities isn't exactly some well-kept secret.

Plenty of business development professionals already use channels like LinkedIn to source, screen, and connect with potential leads. Strides like scrolling through skill endorsements, using alumni searches, and engaging with users who have looked at your posts are all excellent ways to find interested prospects and enhance your business development efforts.

Business Development Helps You Grow Better

Business development is a crucial part of any successful company. It’s how you determine the best ways to boost revenue, identify your ideal prospects, generate more leads, and close more deals.

Think about how you can make a strong business development plan and ensure you have the right group of business development reps so you can begin growing your business today.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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What Are the Basics of Business Development?

In the simplest terms, business development can be summarized as the ideas, initiatives, and activities that help make a business better. This includes increasing revenues, growth in terms of business expansion, increasing profitability by building strategic partnerships, and making strategic business decisions.

“Business Development Executive,” “Manager of Business Development,” and “VP, Business Development” are all impressive job titles often heard in business organizations. Sales, strategic initiatives, business partnerships , market development, business expansion, and marketing —all of these fields are involved in business development but are often mixed up and mistakenly viewed as the sole function of business development. 

Key Takeaways

Understanding the Basics of Business Development

Business development activities extend across different departments, including sales , marketing, project management, product management, and vendor management . Networking, negotiations, partnerships, and cost-savings efforts are also involved. All of these different departments and activities are driven by and aligned with the business development goals. 

For instance, a business has a product or service which is successful in one region, such as the United States. The business development team assesses further expansion potential. After all due diligence , research, and studies, it finds that the product or service can be expanded to a new region, such as Brazil.

Sales personnel focus on a particular market or a particular (set of) client(s), often for a targeted revenue number. In this case, business development assesses the Brazilian markets and concludes that sales worth $1.5 billion can be achieved in three years. With such set goals, the sales department targets the customer base in the new market with their sales strategies.

Marketing involves promotion and advertising aimed towards the successful sale of products to end customers. Marketing plays a complementary role in achieving sales targets. Business development initiatives may allocate an estimated marketing budget. Higher budgets allow aggressive marketing strategies like cold calling , personal visits, roadshows, and free sample distribution. Lower budgets tend to result in passive marketing strategies, such as limited online ads, print ads, social media ads, and billboards.

Strategic Initiatives or Partnerships

To enter a new market, will it be worth going solo by clearing all required formalities, or will it be more sensible to form a strategic alliance or partnership with local firms already operating in the region? Assisted by legal and finance teams, the business development team weighs all of the pros and cons of the available options and selects the one that best serves the business.

Project Management/Business Planning

Does the business expansion require a new facility in the new market, or will all the products be manufactured in the base country and then imported into the targeted market? Will the latter option require an additional facility in the base country? Such decisions are finalized by the business development team based on their cost- and time-related assessments. Then, the project management /implementation team swings into action to work towards the desired goal.

Regulatory standards and market requirements vary across countries. A medicine of a certain composition may be allowed in India but not in the United Kingdom, for example. Does the new market require a customized—or altogether new—version of the product?

These requirements drive the work of product management and manufacturing departments, as decided by the business strategy. Cost consideration, legal approvals, and regulatory adherence are all assessed as a part of a business development plan.

Will the new business need external vendors ? For example, will the shipping of a product need a dedicated courier service? Will the firm partner with any established retail chain for retail sales? What are the costs associated with these engagements? The business development team works through these questions.

Negotiations, Networking, and Lobbying

A few business initiatives may need expertise in soft skills . For example, lobbying is legal in some locales and may become necessary for penetrating the market. Other soft skills like networking and negotiating may be needed with different third parties, such as vendors, agencies, government authorities, and regulators. All such initiatives are part of business development.

Business development is not just about increasing sales, products, and market reach. Strategic decisions are also needed to improve the bottom line , which includes cost-cutting measures. An internal assessment revealing high spending on travel, for instance, may lead to travel policy changes, such as hosting video conference calls instead of on-site meetings, or opting for less expensive transportation modes. 

Management can implement similar cost-saving initiatives by outsourcing non-core work, such as billing, accounting, financials, technology operations, and customer service. Strategic partnerships needed for these initiatives are a part of business development.

What Should a Business Developer Know?

Since business development involves high-level decision making, the business developer should remain informed about the following:

The business development scenario discussed above is specific to a business expansion plan , whose impact can be felt by almost every unit of the business. There can be similar business development objectives, such as the development of a new business line, new sales channel development, new product development, new partnerships in existing or new markets, and even merger and acquisition  (M&A) decisions.

For example, in the case of a merger, significant cost savings can be accomplished by integrating the common functions of the manufacturing, finance, and legal departments of the two firms. Similarly, a business operating from five different offices in a city can be moved to a large central facility, resulting in significant  operating cost  savings. However, would this lead to employee attrition, if the new location isn't convenient for everyone? It's up to the business development team to assess such concerns.

In essence, business development involves high-level decision-making based on a realistic assessment of all potential changes and their impact. Through new ideas and initiatives, it aims to improve the overall business prospects, which drive the functioning of the different business units. It is not sales; it is not marketing; it is not partnering. Instead, it is the eco-system encompassing the entire business and its various divisions, driving overall growth . 

While it's common for startup companies to seek outside assistance in developing the business, as the business matures, it should aim to build its business development expertise internally.

The Right Fit for Business Development

A business developer can be the business owner(s) or the designated employee(s) working in business development. Anyone who can make or suggest a strategic business change for a  value-add  to the business can contribute towards business development. Businesses often encourage employees to brainstorm innovative ideas, which can help in improving the potential of the overall business.

Businesses also seek help from external  incubator firms ,  business development companies (BDC) , and small business development centers (SBDC). However, these entities assist in business establishment and the necessary fine-tuning only during the early stages of business setup.

What Drives Business Development Activity?

Due to the wide-open scope of business development and activities, there are no standard practices and principles. From exploring new opportunities in external markets to introducing efficiencies in internal business operations, everything can fit under the business development umbrella.

Those involved in business development need to come up with creative ideas, but their proposals may prove to be unfeasible or unrealistic. It's important to be flexible. Employees charged with business development should try to seek out and take constructive criticism, and remember that it's a process.

Business ethics involves implementing appropriate and fair practices regarding issues such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility, and fiduciary responsibilities. Laws and regulations often set the standard for business ethics, which companies can then choose to follow and build on in order to earn trust and loyalty from consumers and market participants.

New business development is important for generating jobs, developing key industries, and keeping the economy moving forward.

Development executives need to have leadership skills, vision, drive, and a willingness to work with a variety of people to get to a common goal.

Having a vision and putting together a good team are among the factors that help predict success in business development. But a successful developer also writes a good business plan, which becomes the blueprint from which they build their success.

A business development plan, or business plan , describes what a business's objectives are and how it intends to achieve them, including goals, start-up costs, and targeted milestones.

Business development may be difficult to define concisely, but it can be easily understood using a working concept. An open mindset, willingness for an honest and realistic self-assessment, and the ability to accept failures are a few of the skills needed for successful business development. Beyond the ideation , implementation, and execution of a business development idea, the end results matter the most.

The brightest minds in business development should be ready to accommodate a change in order to achieve the best results. Every approval or disapproval is a learning experience, better preparing these professionals for the next challenge.

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What is business development.

by John Rampton | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 - First published on May 18, 2022

Image source: Getty Images

When asked what business development means, the answer often turns toward something related to the sales process.

While new business development does involve B2B selling , there’s so much more for a company to consider. Our guide will show you how business development works, what it looks like in each department, and how to create business development goals for your company.

At a glance: How business development works

What is business development?

Business development is so much more than just a collection of sales techniques and understanding how to be a good salesman .

Instead, it’s a general term for all the ideas, company strategies, and departmental activities that go into improving a business and navigating through the stages of the business life cycle .

That’s why growing sales and company expansion are only some of the many potential business development goals, and why the entire company should be involved in the process.

For example, one company might focus their business development efforts on adding revenue, which means that sales and marketing , as well as product development , may be involved. For another company, business development might involve adding strategic partnerships or expanding into a new geographic territory or service.

With such a diverse set of objectives, business development requires a wide array of skills. These skills include knowing how to develop a strategy, how to understand the market needs and trends, how to close a sale, and how to nurture customers or clients.

How business development looks in each department

From marketing, sales, and product/vendor management to business planning, project management, and finance, numerous departments are involved in business development.

The marketing department is responsible for attracting prospects to help achieve the company’s goal to raise awareness, expand its markets, and raise revenues.

Working in collaboration with sales, marketing produces promotions, campaigns, and content that illustrate why the company can solve a targeted audience’s issues.

The sales team targets certain opportunities to add revenue through leads, market expansion, and service/product development and diversity. They set certain goals to achieve as part of business development in line with the company’s overall strategic objectives.

As such, the sales department puts together a business proposal for each prospect, sends a follow-up email to these prospects, and manages all the information they have on the market and prospects often through tools like a CRM software .

Product and vendor management

A significant amount of work goes into managing business development activities, especially when they reach across geographic lines and involve markets and products. This work typically involves legal, product management, and manufacturing departments that work together to ensure business development in certain countries makes sense and goes as planned.

This business development activity may also include the assistance of outside vendors. These vendors will need to be managed and directed in order to efficiently handle supply chain and logistics issues that are critical to growing the business beyond its present size.

Business planning

The business planning department often includes executives who must make decisions related to new facilities, manufacturing locations, and additional resources like local talent to assist with the expansion efforts. They work in close partnership with the project management and implementation teams that then execute on what business planning decides.

Strategic partnerships

Working with legal, finance, marketing and sales, and business planning, the strategic partnership takes on the task of determining and identifying local strategic partnership candidates that may help achieve certain business development goals.

Finance plays an integral role in business development in terms of cost savings. In order to improve a business, it’s important to look beyond the sales pipeline and consider what cost-cutting measures can place the company in a better position to take advantage of available growth opportunities.

Finance undertakes internal assessments and audits that look at spending across the company to see where money can be saved on certain tasks and processes and then be better utilized elsewhere to achieve certain business development goals.

The main goals of business development

As you can see, no matter what department, function, or role in a company, everyone is part of business development. To direct the type of work that gets done, you will need to develop some specific goals that link to your focus on company improvement.

1. Increase profitability

Every company wants to turn a higher profit because it means more funds are available to reinvest in processes aimed at achieving other business development goals. The extra money can be used to expand into new territories, create new products and services, and hire more talent.

As we discussed earlier in this business development guide, one of the goals of profitability improvement involves finding ways to reduce operational costs while adding revenue.

Therefore, your goal about profitability might be to reduce rent costs by downsizing into a smaller office and allowing staff to work virtually while focusing on adding a certain number of new clients. In addressing both areas simultaneously, you have a better chance of achieving that increased profitability.

2. Improve customer response time

The faster a company can respond to customers’ needs or address a complaint or question , the more satisfied that customer will be. In turn, that could mean easily repeatable sales that drive revenues for business development objectives. Or, this improvement could lead to these customers telling others about their great experience, which leads to new customer growth.

To improve customer response time, a company will first need to look at why this goal is even part of the business development strategy. Is response time currently lagging because there are not enough customer service team members? Or does it involve a lack of training? Knowing the answers to why customer response time needs improving can then direct the tactics and quantifiable metrics put into place to achieve that business development goal.

3. Drive greater operational efficiencies

This business development goal focuses on improving some aspect of operations that can drive the ability to further develop the business. In doing so, more results can be achieved in less time and with fewer dollars. That frees up time and money that can be spent prospecting elsewhere or used to invest in more salespeople.

A good example is the sales department -- this can be an ideal place to look for how efficiency can be improved. Efficiency goals might involve improving the sales closing ratio by a certain percentage or speeding up salespeople’s lead/conversion time by a certain number of hours. As part of the business development goal for operational efficiency, a specific timeline for achievement should also be included.

4. Expand business operations

This business development goal focuses on the physical expansion of your business so you can serve more customers. In this way, it connects to other goals like adding revenues and increasing profitability. You may also be able to gain economies of scale through greater production and negotiate a better rate for materials due to the higher volume.

For example, your expansion goal might be to open a certain number of locations or enter a designated number of countries in the next three to five years.

Spearheading business development

Business development can mean many things to many people -- sales, partnerships, customers, new products or services, or additional markets. And all of those things are correct interpretations.

That’s because each of those meanings shares a common purpose: Business development is about creating long-term value for a company through continual improvement.

That improvement can come from the type and number of customers or relationships, markets or territories, products or services, or operational processes. Whatever you determine is the most important area for long-term value is where you should focus your own business development efforts.

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John Rampton

John Rampton is a successful entrepreneur and software expert, helping many small business owners during his career.

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The Complete Guide To Business Development

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing , and distribution . While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

Hw does a good business development process look like?

A good business development process should have as the primary aim to drive business growth with strategies, partnerships, and unconventional marketing to 10x the output of the organization.

The success of companies like Google also depended on their business development capabilities .

Although you might be looking for a straightforward definition of what business development is, you need to understand that this is a discipline in continuous evolution, which is the main driver of business growth for many companies, especially at B2B and enterprise levels.

In this context, a good place to start is to define what business development is not.

Why does business development matter?

Seth Godin does a great job of explaining why business development is so important:

Business Development is a mysterious title for a little discussed function or department in most larger companies. It’s also a great way for an entrepreneur or small business to have fun, create value and make money. Good business development allows businesses to profit by doing something that is tangential to their core mission. Sometimes the profit is so good, it becomes part of their core mission, other times it supports the brand and sometimes it just makes money. And often it’s a little guy who can be flexible enough to make things happen.

Seth Godin also highlighted:

The thing that makes business development fascinating is that the best deals have never been done before. There’s no template, no cookie cutter grind it out approach to making it work. This is why most organizations are so astonishingly bad at it. They don’t have the confidence to make decisions or believe they have the ability to make mistakes.

Those words resonated with me as I found myself in the position of leading the business development of a tech startup.

If a proper deal is found, business development can make your organization successful overnight.

But searching and finding deals and executing them successfully feels like a gold rush.

Therefore, to make business development work, it is necessary to make it a process.

The process needs to be focused on understanding how to drive value for your organization by leveraging partnerships that can bring your business to the next level.

Business development is also about leveraging and tweaking your existing business model to make it scalable.

When Google closed the deal with AOL  overnight Google, a rising star, could be featured on the largest online portal.

Before moving forward, it is essential to understand the difference between business development and sales.

Business Development vs. sales

Thinking about the business developer as the sales guy, it’s limiting. Not that a business developer doesn’t sell, but it does so by creating a distribution .

In other words, rather than looking at a single sale, the business developers try to find sales channels to tap into to speed up a company’s scaling.

If that means selling a product or a service directly, the business development person will temporarily become a sales guy.

Imagine the scenario of a company that has no clients. In that context, a business developer must find the first clients as quickly as possible.

Those clients will serve to launch the company’s growth, while the business developer will look strategically at ways to have those clients become partners.

Therefore, all of a sudden, a few clients become your distribution channel.

Even though the business developer acted as a sales guy from the outside, he never lost sight of the long-term strategy .


The successful business developer thinks like a marketer but acts like a salesman

Business development is a mixture of sales and marketing .

In many cases, a business developer will use marketing and PR activities to establish critical relationships for the business.

Those relationships will become partnerships to generate new distribution channels .


Business development is about nurturing the right relationships with partners that can become distribution channels

Where the sales process ends up with a closed deal.

The business development relationship starts with a closed deal.

The business developer knows that a deal closed is just the starting point of a long-term relationship that can impact the business in the long run.

Therefore, the business developer will translate that paying customer into a trusted partner and an advocate for your business.

Thus, a sales person thinks in terms of the client by client basis. The business developer must switch the thinking to what sales enable a snowball effect on the company’s bottom line. 

For instance, some clients will refer to other clients, enabling word-of-mouth. 

In another case yet, closing a deal with a known player also means having that publicity that is necessary to bring in other customers. 

Thus, the business developer understands that to succeed, it’s critical to have a long-term view of each deal. 

Where you don’t want to optimize for short-term gains on a single client but rather create a strong position in the market. 

That is why the business developer is a sales person at the core, yet she/he also needs to deeply understand the product and how to talk with technical teams while aligning marketing teams. 

All while making sure to keep these teams aligned with the customers’ business goals. 

That is what a top-performer business developer does.

She/he aligns the technical/product team, with the marketing team, while relentlessly working on making sure product and marketing are in line with the customer’s business goals. 

When you master the above as a business developer you become one of the most valuable people in the organization. 

Business development guides marketing automation

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for any business. However, marketing automation is also risky.

Indeed, automating processes requires a deep understanding of your customers.

Thus, before you can automate the marketing processes, you’ll need the business developers to help the marketing team structure those processes.

Indeed with unique insight into the company’s customers, the industry, and competitors, the business developer will advise the marketing department on how to structure and set up automation processes that fit long-term organizational growth .

In fact, one of the greatest pitfalls, especially for startups, which try to automate processes very early on is premature optimization .


The business developer is the person within the organization that understands how valuable is the interaction with the customer, especially in the early days. 

Therefore, the business developer will know that, over time, business processes must be – in part – automated. 

But she/he will be the guardian of the interactions with customers, making sure that the company doesn’t fall into the trap of premature optimization.

Indeed, initially, to be able to grow, the company must leverage, as much as possible, interactions with customers.

Therefore, part of the organization, like customer support, rather than being automated, or optimized, should be highly expensive (meaning the top people should be devoted to it), as, from these interactions, you will get a wide range of feedback that will be critical to speed up growth, through iterations. 

Business development scales up businesses

When Google closed its deal with AOL , it was a turning point for the tech company that would become a unicorn first and a tech giant then.

It started with a business development activity that allowed Google to build a partnership with AOL and kill its competitors!

A successful  business development person is a quick learner and a renaissance man.

He will be able to learn about as many disciplines as needed to have a deep understanding of the industry that will drive the company’s growth.

For instance, if you think of a business developer in the digital marketing world, he’ll probably be someone that understands SEM, SEO, funnel optimization, content marketing , sales, and all the other channels available to grow a business .

But at the core, the business developer will remain a salesperson, thus, she/he understands that those channels are instrumental to building up distribution power. 

Thus, creating options to scale . 


Business development is about a growth mindset

The business development process could vary greatly based on the industry, business model , and stage of maturity of a company.

If you are called a business developer for a startup, most of the activities will be connected to growing the startup and bringing it to the next growth stage.

Therefore, the successful business developer needs to have a fine-tuned mindset for growth.

In business, it’s often called 10X mindset or moonshot thinking .

Yet, it doesn’t matter what you want to call it, what matters is you know that you need to work hard, extremely hard today, and do that consistently to build an incredible business. 


In fact, one of the major misconceptions in the current business landscape is that of believing that you can build a successful business quickly. 

While that might happen to a few, very lucky ones. 

Developing an incredible business, takes time, hard work, consistency, and a five-ten years timeframe. 

That is why it’s critical (if you want to become a top performer) to like what you’re doing. 

From that standpoint, a tool like the Bud Caddel Diagram might work to assess whether you’ll make it on the other side, from amateur to top performer.  


Business development requires a high level of understanding of a potential partner

To be able to build a relationship quickly, a business developer has to understand the business dynamics of a potential partner.

Indeed, just by tapping into the economics of a partner, the business developer can craft the perfect deal/solution.

For instance, when Google proposed the deal to AOL , it was so good for AOL, and it had no risk for them that they couldn’t say no to it.

Yet AOL was an established network, which allowed Google to get into the next stage of growth and scale.

Understanding what deal can build up distribution is critical. As it enables the company to build momentum and follow a flywheel model of growth . 

And growth moves from linear to exponential, and that is how the business achieves scale. 

What activities does business development imply?

Anything that helps build up a solid distribution strategy falls into the business development processes.

Tasks of a business developer can range from basic sales calls and LinkedIn/email outreach to closing major deals. 

What tasks you will be performing daily will depend on whether you’re a top performer within the organization and at what stage of development the company is. 

For instance, for a new company/startup, building a sales pipeline in the first place is critical. 

And outreach becomes a key component of day-to-day activities. 

You’ll spend most of your time identifying potential prospects and reaching out to them to build momentum in the sales pipeline. 

For that matter, you can use methodologies like MEDDIC to identify the right prospects. 


Or the BANT method . 


Or yet the CHAMP method . 


Whatever methodology you pick, what really matters is consistency and the understanding (as you ramp up the outreach) of the market’s landscape. 

Once that is full, and you have enough deals coming through, you will focus on consolidating these deals and ensuring those reach the maximum potential. 

Especially at an enterprise level, before the full sales cycle matures, it might take 1-3 years. 

In that process, you’ll need to outreach, onboard, grow and consolidate the deal. 

And depending on the deal size, the revenue you’ll be able to bring in from a customer will highly depend on your ability to consistently work to understand the changing business goals of your customers as their organizations change and evolve. 

You will act almost as a valuable player within the customer’s team; only then you’ll be able to really grow the deal size and fully consolidate the potential contract value of the customer. 

For instance, if you take organizations like Palantir , which work, on huge government contracts, to develop those fully, the enterprise salesperson will follow a 2-3 years journey of the development of the contract.


The sales pipeline is a basic tool for a business developer


A sales pipeline is as a visual representation of your sales process where all your potential customers are displayed and neatly arranged according to their phase in your sales cycle. Source :

A business developer has to be able to build up predictable sales processes to generate continuous streams of leads for the organization.

The sales pipeline is a valuable tool for setting up those processes.

Also, being able to track your sales pipeline is a critical activity.

A sales pipeline is just a way to have a clear in which stage of the sales process you are with a potential client.

As shown by Sales POP , from the initial contact to closing a deal, it takes a few steps:

At each of those actions, we can assign a probability of closing a deal.

For instance, at the initial contact, you don’t have an idea whether the person you’re reaching out to would later become a customer.

Therefore, the more you move down the pipeline, the more the chances of closing the deal improve.

Sales POP research shows that each of those stages has a chance of success as follows:

Therefore, you have 1 in 10 chances of closing a lead after you have qualified.

Once you have met, defined the project, and sent a proposal, your chances will improve up to 60%.

The chances of closing a deal also depend on other factors. For instance, have you previously worked with this person?

In short, if you have already built trust, it will be easier to close the deal. If you are expanding a project you were working on, then it might be easier as well.

Therefore, it will depend upon several factors crucial to any deal.

Yet the business developer can have clarity about the stage of a business deal.

In that way, the business developer can plan the actions and activities that will get the sales process going.

What actions can the business developer perform to improve the sales pipeline?

There are several ways to improve sales processes. Some examples comprise:

Why undertake a career in  business development?

Being a business development person means having an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s almost like you are a business within your business.

Therefore, working as a business development person helps you:

What are some downsides?

Of what I can think of, here are some I identified:

Overall the balance is positive. Now the most critical question. How do you make a business get traction?

The channels you can use to get traction

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO, and founder of DuckDuckGo , a search engine that doesn’t track your data , put together in his book, Traction, a list of channels that are critical to allow a business to grow .

He identified quite a few channels:

As a business developer, you must understand some channels to grow a business.

What’s a secret weapon for the business developer? LinkedIn

65% of salespeople who use social selling   fill their pipeline , compared to 47% of reps who do not. source:

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for generating conversations that can help speed up the prospecting phase.

What can you do with LinkedIn?

Those things are possible if you are consistent.

Three ways to build relationships with businesses are:

A crash course in sales canvassing

Sales canvassing is a process where you get in touch with potential customers who have never heard about your brand.


Examples of sales canvassing are door-to-door sales and cold calling.

Those are critical strategies as they might be inexpensive and sustainable ways to generate qualified leads without relying on sales consultants or expensive lists.

However, to be successful, the process of sales canvassing needs to be structured.

Why does sales canvassing matter?

As many new startups operate in the digital space, it is easy to assume that old sales techniques are outdated.

Thus, we all like to speak about marketing funnels, automation, and multiple touch points.

However, for any business to be sustainable needs a continuous stream of leads; in many cases, this implies cold calling or approaching people who have never heard of you.

Indeed, unless you have a massive marketing budget that you can use to grow your brand quickly.

In most other cases, you need a sales force that can venture into the world and create contacts with customers who don’t know about you.

However, to make the sales efforts effective, you’ll need to ensure your sales force has a plan, a strategy , and a process to follow.

That is what sales canvassing is about.

That is a process through which salespeople can have consistent results nonetheless of the single outcome.

When you make the sales canvassing process yours, that is when your company can become sustainable in the long run, as you won’t need to depend on other companies to provide you with a consistent stream of leads, you’ll be able to generate them on your own.

Also, you’ll be able to grow a sales department able to create new opportunities independently from the marketing department.

That doesn’t mean you’ll need only sales canvassing. In many cases, having multiple touch points with a potential customer via proper marketing strategies is a good strategy as it makes it way more comfortable for your salesforce to close a complex deal.

In other cases, though, it is also critical to have an independent sales force able to open up new opportunities, primarily when your brand isn’t yet established.

So what steps do you need for your salesforce to take advantage of sales canvassing? Some key ingredients are:

Understanding the strength and unicity of the product/service

When a salesperson ventures to bring in customers that have never heard of your brand before, it becomes critical that the sales force is very knowledgeable about the product and service and can explain it in the simplest terms.

Focus on the problem and payoff

When approaching someone that never heard about your brand, why even focus on explaining who you are?

Instead, focus on their issue and what solution you have for them.

They need a short-term payoff.

Find out the payoff and struggle your potential customer has and propose a solution. That is when you’ll listen.

Set a target customer

During sales canvassing, it is critical to have a laser focus. You need a list of contacts, but it makes sense to start from a profile that fits your company’s existing customers.

Indeed, when approaching a customer that never heard about your brand, you’ll need to understand what problem you can solve.

But she/he won’t trust you can answer it unless you showcase studies that resemble their situation.

When you tell a business owner you’ve already helped someone in a similar situation, it’s easier to trust you, even if they have never heard of your brand.

When you take the time to understand the problem, propose a solution, and show a similar case study, sales canvassing becomes way more effective.

Have a script but leave it flexible

Many salespeople like to use scripts. Scripts are prepackaged dialogues usually drawn from old conversations with existing customers.

While scripts are a good starting point, you need to be flexible.

Indeed, with sales canvassing, you’ll deal with people who have never heard about your brand and company.

Would it make sense to engage in a dialogue you had with a client that already knew you? Not really.

Rejection is part of the process

During sales canvassing, the risk of being rejected is exceptionally high.

It is critical to allow your sales force to understand that it is not something personal but rather that it is part of the process.

Rejection is what makes them more effective.

Focus on a single channel but leverage several media

During sales canvassing, it is important to focus on a single channel.

Therefore, if your preferred way is telemarketing, you’ll use the phone. However, not all customers like to be reached by phone.

In that scenario, you’ll need to learn how to use several channels, from social media to emails.

The important thing is to be able to generate a conversation for long enough that the person, on the other hand, trusts you can bring actual value.

When you get there, you win.

Examples of sales canvassing

Sales canvassing can be done in several ways, like:

Whatever medium you choose, it is critical to have a process with clear objectives, which is repeatable and where rejection is part of the learning process.

A crash course in sales and marketing alignment best practices


In Marketing vs. Sales, a cleared out the distinction between the two activities and when it makes more sense for an organization to leverage on marketing rather than sales and vice-versa.

While it is essential to understand the difference between marketing and sales, it is also critical to understand how they work together.

Marketing and Sales are working together.

As Peter Drucker pointed out in his book  Drucker Management, “ there will be always, one can assume, be a need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. ”

While marketing can get to the point of understanding the customer and make the sales team superfluous – to a certain extent.

The sales team, though, is a critical link between the marketing department and the customers.

Salespeople are involved in the whole customer journey at a personal level.

Indeed, not only the salesperson might speak to the potential customer in the most delicate moment when she/he is deciding whether it makes sense to purchase your product or service.

But it assists the customer throughout the entire process.

For instance, a critical moment of the customer journey is when she/he needs assistance or support.

While this phase might be in part automated, in most cases, you’ll need a support team, which is often sales-oriented, to assist the customers.

In those phases, you can unlock many insights about the customers that marketing will never manage to have with automation alone.

That is when sales and marketing come together to create a customer-centric journey.

In what other ways than sales and marketing work together?

Lead generation

The usual funnel sees the marketing department in charge of giving the sales team a list of leads (people that might be interested in your product or service) they can work on and bring in as customers.

While this is the traditional process, it is important to remark that often the opposite happens.

For instance, if you take the sales canvassing process  that allows the company to acquire customers that have never heard about your brand.

In that scenario, a sales team can give valuable insights to the marketing team on where to focus their attention and understand the areas where the company’s marketing activities might be improved.

In the era of AI and machine learning, it’s easy to assume that automation should come before anything else.

However, automation, if done without coordination between the marketing and sales teams, doesn’t add any value.

If at all, it can create irreversible damage to your brand.

Therefore, before you set up any automation, you need a deep understanding of your customers, your product, your value proposition, and the journey customers take to go from the first touch point with your brand to the referral stage and on.

Thus, before the marketing department creates any automation, you need them to coordinate as much as possible with the sales team to make sure the automation process leverages customer insights that only the sales force, which is in touch with the customer base daily – has at its disposal.

Related : Marketing vs. Sales

Viral marketing

Many believe that you need a viral marketing campaign to make the lead acquisition process smooth and inexpensive.

However, even though viral marketing  can do that, you might initially need intense coordination between sales and marketing (and engineering) to understand what part of your product might carry some virality.

For instance, if you run a SaaS business , in some cases, it might make sense to create a free version of the product (the so-called freemium model ) that becomes an essential part of the lead generation process.

However, what features, or how many volumes, can you offer for free to acquire enough customers? A/B testing and big data will help.

However, to set it up correctly, you need insights from the sales teams.

Those mentioned above are just some of the activities for which sales and marketing working together can really create an effective strategy for the growth of your brand and business.

Therefore, even though it makes sense to understand and keep a clear distinction between sales and marketing so that each of them can focus on specific aspects of the business with accountability and set results.

On the other hand, it is critical to understand the level of coordination that sales and marketing can achieve.

Related :  Dropbox Self-Serve Business Model

More sales best practices to apply to your business

Sales and distribution are two primary ingredients for any business’s success. Thus, starting from the best practices for your sales team is the first step toward building a profitable business .

Of course, once you have mastered those the time is right to start experimenting with new sales strategies that none out there is doing. Yet if you’re missing the best practices, this is an excellent place to start.

Action plan

Salespeople have to act and do it as quickly as possible.

Procrastination is the first enemy as the more time you spend thinking, the less you’ll have time to act and start sending emails that can lend you new clients or calling those contacts you have on your desk.

However, to make your action more effective, a plan is needed.

An action plan is merely a set of predetermined steps and a workflow you’ll need to organize your effort.

Customer targeting


One key ingredient to making sales processes successful is the ability of the sales team to target the right leads. Indeed, imagine the case of a salesperson contacting a hundred people and closing none.

In many cases that happens when the salesperson doesn’t know who’s the ideal target that can benefit from the company’s service or product.

Sales canvassing


When a company has mastered lead generation by automating part of the activities of its marketing department it is easy to have salespeople forget about the first and hardest stage, getting in touch with people that don’t know your brand.

Instead, have your salespeople spend a part of their time doing sales canvassing or contacting with cold calls or emails people that don’t know your brand. When they master this process, they can also uncover insights about why your business didn’t manage to be recognized among valuable segments of the market as well.

Sales scripts

When a company starts up, you’ll probably have one or two salespeople that have a weird profile. In short, they are not typically just people that mastered the sales process; they are more like renaissance men and quick learners.

They ventured into the business world when none or few people knew your brand and built the company from the ground up. Thus, those people know your company and product better than anyone else.

Therefore, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. Instead, have the new team members of the sales team take advantage of scripts that cover up the main concerns and questions potential customers might have and how to address them. Keep in mind that the script is just a tool to guide the sales force, but it is meant to be improved over time.

Email templates

Just like scripts, email templates can be a great help to salespeople to use what has already worked and rolled it out on a larger scale.

It is essential to keep improving those templates to allow sales emails to gain higher and higher conversion rates. Even though templates do work, it is vital to let at least a small part of it be personalized.

Thus, while you can have a template, you still need to do your research and make sure you offer some valuable information to get the lead interested in what you’re saying. Why would anyone listen to you if you’re sending out the same message to anyone?

Personalized message

Before contacting anyone make sure to do your research. People are interested in listening to you when you can deliver them solutions to their problems.

None cares about your product or service or who you are (unless you’re a rockstar). Thus, before sending that message, are you providing something valuable to the person on the other side?

Value proposition

One of the less understood aspects of selling is the fact that you only need to pick up the phone as many times as you can and sell your product.

However, while this is a prerequisite, it is not really what makes the difference. When you’re reaching out to someone, you need to understand what motivates them, and their value proposition.

Marketing usually can deliver a value proposition and make it seen by as many people as possible.

But that value proposition will be not tailored. In short, your product or service doesn’t have a single value proposition, but it will have as many as many potential clients exist out there.

The salesman has to be able to find the value proposition in the product or service that most suits the potential customer on the other side. That is how you get attention.

Related :  What Is a Value Proposition?

10x goal setting

Among the most misunderstood things about sales is the goal-setting process. Many believe that is fine to set reasonable goals.

Thus, they won’t shoot to the moon but rather be happy with a discrete objective.

For instance, they might say, “why don’t we increase sales by 50% this year?” And for many, this is a massive increase.

Yet if you are not ambitious enough not only you won’t reach the objective but you won’t even take the necessary actions to get there.

In short, to reach massive results, you need to have quite ambitious goals, and targets. Those will ask for the kind of actions that will get you motivated in the long run.

Related :  Moonshot Thinking

Understand the client’s business model

If you’re selling to another business, you need to understand its psychology. While indeed when you sell to a consumer, you want to understand their necessities.

When it comes to business, you want to study their business model indeed. How do they make money? Who are their customers? What do their customers want? What cost structure does the business have?

All those aspects will be critical to understanding what the person, on the other hand, is motivated by and get you closer to delivering the solution that works best for them.

Related :  Successful Types of Business Models You Need to Know

This is the most critical word in sales, yet many neglects it. When you’ve spent hours prospecting, researching, and meeting a client you’ve done only part of the work.

However, when you don’t follow up, you’ve wasted your time. You could have well not done the work at all.

The follow-up is probably the thing that requires the least effort (that is more a matter of organization), yet that is what gets you to close the deal.

Until the potential client gives you an answer which might be positive or negative, you need to follow up!

Related : How Does ConvertKit Make Money?

Fill your pipeline, always!

In some cases, you might think your pipeline is good enough. That is when you start losing ground. To avoid the risk of being left with an empty pipeline, you need to be prospecting at all times.

Some deals might take way longer than expected to be closed, in that scenario you need a backup plan, which is your pipeline and how full it is.


Keep in touch

When you’ve closed a deal or received a No as the answer, you can’t just leave it up there. You need to keep in touch with that person as what might have prevented closing the deal might have been timing.

On the other hand, if you already closed a deal with that person keeping in touch might allow you to understand when that person has additional needs and whether you can help your company to fulfill them.

Deliver value before closing

Many think of selling as closing a deal. While closing is part of the process, you’re selling (or serving) at all times.

The common mistake is to think you have to deliver value only when the customer has been acquired and has given you the credit card.

Instead, you need t deliver value as soon as you start interacting with a potential client. Why does she/he need to trust you?

That person doesn’t know you, how she can be sure you’re the person she wants to have business with.

There is only one way to prove it, to deliver value before the sales are closed.

Outstanding support

After you’ve closed the sales, it isn’t like your work is over. If you provide a service the most delicate part of it is the first stage of usage of that service by the new customer.

Indeed this is still a process in which the person needs to understand whether you can be trusted to deliver the value you promised.

Therefore, you need to be on top of it.

The way you support the client once she has acquired your product or service determines how much your business can be trusted.

Also, an essential part of any sales funnel is the referral side.

When you’re providing outstanding support not only you’re retaining valuable customers, but you also have those people refer your business to others.

In the end of it, it’s about listening

Based on the research by Hubspot those are the top four  ways to create a positive sales experience , according to buyers:

Therefore, it is critical to learn to listen, which does not mean thinking about what you have to say next when the other person is listening. But instead to focus solely on what the other person says emphatically.

One mantra I have (or at least I try) to follow is “how do I create value for this person?”

Once that becomes hardwired, it will be much easier to get things going!

Business development and business engineering

In my own experience, as a person that worked in the sales industry for years, going from business development to sales director.

I can say that one of the most valuable ways to become great at business development has been a deep understanding of the business world, through which I labeled business engineering . 


Business engineering is a combination of business modeling , design thinking, and a deep intuitive understanding of scale, which makes you act more like an intrapreneur than a salesperson. 

Other tools and resources for your business:

Handpicked popular case studies from the site: 

Related Business Concepts


Sales vs. Marketing


Sales Cycle


Revenue Modeling


Customer Experience Map


Social Selling


CHAMP Methodology


BANT Sales Process


MEDDIC Sales Process


STP Marketing


Sales Funnels vs. Flywheels


Pirate Metrics




Virtuous Cycles


Sales Storytelling


Enterprise Sales


Outside Sales




Sales Distribution Framework


Palantir Acquire, Expand, Scale Framework


Consultative Selling


Unique Selling Proposition


Read: product development frameworks here.

Read Next:  SWOT Analysis ,  Personal SWOT Analysis ,  TOWS Matrix ,  PESTEL Analysis ,  Porter’s Five Forces ,  TOWS Matrix ,  SOAR Analysis .

Main Free Guides:

What is involved in business development?

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution . While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

What are the skills required for business development?

Business development requires a set of skills that go from marketing, sales, account management, project management, and distribution. The business developer should look for ways to grow a business through partnerships, deals, and generating distribution. Thus the business developer should look at sales from a strategic standpoint.

What does a BDM do?

A business development manager looks at ways to develop the distribution network of an organization by looking at partnerships, deals, agreements, and also strategic clients and channels that can help an organization grow exponentially and improve the chances of success in the long term. Business development goes beyond sales.

Is marketing like business development?

While business developers might tap into marketing activities to grow a business, in general, business development looks primarily at distribution, partnerships, new channels (or how to improve existing channels), and how to improve sales processes. Therefore, there is a critical distinction between marketing and business development, which should be understood.

How is business development different from sales?

Sales and business development are two different activities. Where sales look at critical processes to build a customer base for a product. Business development looks at the distribution of a product in the marketplace. Therefore, it looks at channels that can lead to a better distribution of the product.

More Resources

New Product Development (NPD): New Product Development Process In A Nutshell

About The Author

business development manager 101

Gennaro Cuofano

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What is business development? Strategy, plan, and skills

Understand business development so you know what your bd department does and how to best use their skills..

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Last updated January 11, 2023

Business development

Anyone working in business development knows that it can be tough to explain. If someone asks you what you do for a living and you say, “Business development” or “biz dev,” you’ll probably get a quizzical look.

So if you don’t have a thorough grasp of what business development is, don’t worry—you’re not alone. The best way to understand biz dev is to break it into clear pieces.

Keep reading to explore business development in all its facets, including how to create a business development strategy.

Business development definition and variations

Business development (BD) is a strategy used to find new prospects and nurture them to help drive business growth.

According to Forbes , business development is “the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.” That’s a simplified definition, and it still faces the hurdle of trying to encompass the massive range of responsibilities that go into BD. Every effort involved in business development is an activity that helps make a business better. But one could argue that that definition describes every action of every employee.

So, what makes business development different?

The easiest way to understand BD is to look at it as the umbrella that works to improve all other departments. Though BD isn’t sales, it helps improve sales; it’s not marketing, but it improves marketing.

Sales vs. business development

Sales vs. business development

When it comes to sales development , there’s a more significant focus on researching and identifying leads and pushing them through the sales process to close a deal.

Business development involves finding new ways to grow and forming partnerships that can help open doors to fresh markets and opportunities.

What is new business development?

New business development means an existing company is developing a plan to introduce a new product or service under a new business model in a relatively unknown market. It’s aligned with business development because it seeks to expand and generate more revenue for the company. It has its own title because it can be a radical and risky approach.

Unlike normal business development, new business development takes the company outside its comfort zone and tries a tactic the company hasn’t previously attempted.

Example: A sit-down restaurant that exclusively serves dine-in guests employs new business development when it starts offering delivery or partners with a food delivery service like Grubhub.

Business development representatives and their roles

Employees who work for your biz dev department are called business development representatives , or BDRs.

BDRs work with nearly all your departments as they search for and implement new strategies, targets, prospects, and tactics for your company. Since BDRs work with many people and have varied skill sets, they need to come to the table with specific experiences and qualities.

Given the wide scope of responsibilities, it’s impossible to list all the activities that go into business development. That said, here are the key tasks your BD team will likely focus on:

business development manager 101

State of Sales 2022

Learn about the most pressing issues facing sales organizations today, what the dawn of conversational CRM means for your tech stack, and how you can come out stronger.

Business development strategy overview: How to create one in 10 steps

Creating a business development stratgey

BD activities revolve around implementing a business development strategy. But how do you create that strategy?

All BD strategies begin with a plan and goals—start developing your own business development strategy by following the steps below:

1. Craft an elevator pitch

You need a concise 30-second pitch for any plan, including a BD plan. Want to go the extra mile? Craft several sales pitches and see which ones are most effective. You’ll be able to pitch while simultaneously conducting market research.

An elevator pitch summarizes what your business does, who you serve, and how your business differs from competitors. The goal of your elevator pitch is to open up the conversation about how you can serve your customers. When crafting your pitch, here are some best practices to follow:

2. List your SMART goals

The SMART system is a great tool for business development goals. SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. For example, a good SMART goal for a business development strategy could be:

“I will aim to improve first-response time for customer issues by increasing the number of customer service staff from 10 to 15 people in the next three quarters.”

By following the SMART system, you’ll keep your goals aligned with those of other departments and ensure they’re achievable with your current resources.

3. Perform a SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s an effective tool for business development because it helps you pinpoint your growth areas. The best way to use SWOT is to pick a specific aspect of your business to analyze. When conducting a SWOT analysis, keep these questions in mind:

You can also pair this with a positioning statement to help guide your analysis.

Example: If you’re looking to launch a new product, you can look at what your company does well, what it does poorly, where it might be missing opportunities, and what other companies might be doing better.

4. Define your audience

Next, define your target audience—this can help you determine who you want to attract as potential new clients. While you want to get specific about who to target, avoid getting so specific that you run out of prospects. You can do this by:

5. Conduct market research

Perform research to determine who your competitors are and what your customers want and need. You should know your customers’ problems and how you can solve them.

You can gain valuable insights into your audience’s needs through customer surveys . Eighty percent of companies that see year-over-year growth use surveys to collect customer experience data. Here are tips for creating a survey:

6. State your KPIs

To evaluate your plan’s success, you need to identify measurable data points through which you can document positive (or negative) outcomes. You can do this through key performance indicators ( KPIs ).

Depending on what you’re assessing, these KPIs can range from revenue changes to leads and conversion rates. The important thing is that you choose specific KPIs to complement your plan. Some biz dev KPIs include:

7. Plan a budget

Possibly the most important aspect of your plan is your budget . Your company must be able to afford your plan before approving it and starting implementation.

Keep your proposed budget realistic, but don’t be afraid to push. After all, if your plan works, you should be able to make that money back. Be sure to include these elements in your business budget:

8. Focus on strong customer service

High-quality customer service should be top of mind—it could be the difference between a customer choosing you over a competitor.

Maintain good customer support with existing customers, too, to ensure you build a lasting relationship with them. Plus, if they continually have positive experiences with your team, they may refer other contacts to your business.

9. Incorporate a sales plan

A business development strategy isn’t whole without a sales plan . A sales plan helps outline your sales strategy and includes:

Although this is centered around the sales team, it can provide your biz dev team with helpful insights.

10. Implement a process

Once you have a solid plan, implementation ideally becomes a mere matter of assigning and supervising. The steps for implementation are going to vary based on your plan’s parameters, but here are a few things to keep in mind when you launch:

Use a CRM to align your business development plans

Putting puzzle pieces together

Business development is all about facilitating communication between departments to achieve new business goals. The best way to align your company with a unified vision is through a CRM.

With a simple CRM like Zendesk Sell , communication between your business development team and all other departments becomes effortless. Plans can move and adjust in real time in response to everything from marketing clicks to sales tracking . (If you’re new to the CRM world, we’re happy to walk you through it with our CRM software explainer .)

Your BD team already has a thousand things to juggle every day, so why make their lives harder? Request a demo of Zendesk Sell today to keep your biz dev team—and your business—ahead of the competition.

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Resume Example

Business Development Manager Resume | Examples & Tips

Average rating for this template.

business development manager resume

In today’s competitive job market, having a standout resume is critical. Studies show that hiring managers spend just 6 seconds reviewing each resume, making it crucial to create a visually appealing and content-rich resume that showcases your abilities clearly and concisely.

Business Development Managers drive growth and revenue for your organization with a unique blend of strategy and execution.

Your resume is the first thing that the hiring manager sees and it must reflect your skills, experience, and achievements accurately.

This article consists of Business Development Manager Resume example and expert tips to create a job-winning resume that will impress hiring managers and help you secure your dream job.

Instead of creating a resume from scratch, use our ATS-friendly resume examples to secure an interview.

Business Development Resume Example

This Business Development Resume sample has been crafted by professional resume writers that passes through applicant tracking systems.

+1-452-785-8965 [email protected]

Professional Summary Highly motivated Business Development professional with a proven track record of 7 years in driving annual revenue growth from $1 million to $5 million and executing the company’s strategic plans. Demonstrated success in leading cross-functional teams and exceeding revenue targets through effective business planning. Strong communication and negotiation skills. Seeking an opportunity to utilize my strategic thinking and hands-on execution skills in a dynamic, growth-focused organization where I can contribute to revenue growth.

Sunshine Global LLP Dayton, OH, US Business Development Manager June 2020 – January 2023

Job Responsibilities


Trinity Solutions Brookland, DC, USA Business Development Associate April 2015 – April 2020

Education Bachelor in Business Administration George Washington University June 2014 GPA: 3.2/4.0

Certifications Master Project Manager (MPM) Professional Certified Marketer (PCM)

Languages English – Native French – Fluent German – Intermediate

How to make a Business Development Manager Resume?

While crafting your Business Development Manager resume, the aim is to make it ATS-friendly by highlight your skills, experience, and achievements.

Craft your resume following these guidelines:

Tips for making a professional Business development resume:

Best Layout, Format, and Structure For BDM Resume

The ideal layout of the resume for Business Development Managers (BDM) resume should be well-organized, professional, and easy to read.

Follow these tips to enhance the layout of your resume:

As a business development manager, you resume structure must prioritize skills and accomplishments over work history, allowing the reader to quickly see the most essential business development skills.

Therefore, the best resume format for a Business development resume is a mixed format. It allows you to show your achievements and skills first and gives an overview of your previous work.

Chronological format lists work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job. This format is suitable for those with strong and consistent professional work experience.

On the other hand, the functional format focuses more on skills and achievements. This format is perfect for those with gaps in their prior work experience or those looking to switch careers.

Whereas, the mixed format combines both chronological and functional formats by showcasing both work experience and skills. It is ideal for those with a combination of thorough work experience and transferable skills.

How To Display Title and Contact Information On a Resume?

The header of a Business Development Manager’s resume should display your name, job title, phone number, and email address. It’s essential to choose a font that is easy to read and looks professional, using the same font throughout the entire resume.

This well-written header for a Business Development Manager’s resume includes name, title, phone number, and email address in a professional and easy-to-read format.

A poorly written header may include an informal email address or omit the full name, which can detract from the overall professionalism of the resume.

Including a photo on the Business development resume is not a recommended practice as it does not bring any added value to the resume and may even lead to discrimination.

How To Write A Professional Resume Summary for Business Development Resume?

A Business Development Manager’s professional summary is a short, impactful statement that showcases their relevant experience, abilities, and accomplishments. It is the opening section of a professional resume and plays a vital role in attracting the attention of potential employers and setting you apart from others applicants.

Follow these guidelines to write an effective resume summary:

Emphasize Relevant Experience and Achievements Highlight your experience in business development, sales, and strategic planning. Mention your success in identifying sales leads, closing deals, and achieving sales goals.

Keep it Concise and Direct Limit the summary to 2-3 sentences or bullet points, using language that is active and persuasive.

Showcase Skills and Expertise Include your expertise in market analysis, relationship building, and strategic planning.

By following these tips, you can create a professional summary that effectively communicates your value as a Business Development Manager.

Skills Section of Business Development Manager Resume

The Skills section plays an important role in showing the human resources and hiring managers how you can fulfill the duties of a Business Development Manager.

The following business development skills are commonly sought by hiring manager in a Business Development Manager:

List of Hard Skills

List of Soft Skills

How To Describe Your Professional Experience as a Business Development Manager?

The Professional Experience section is of vital importance as it displays your work history and accomplishments in previous job roles. This section must emphasize the impact you had and the results you achieved.

To list your professional experience, follow these guidelines:

What if there’s not much experience to describe as a business development manager?

If you are a Business Development Manager with less or no work experience, there are still ways to make a positive impression on the reader.

You must display skills and traits that can be applied to a Business Development Manager role, even if you have acquired them in a different industry.

It’s advisable to showcase quantifiable achievements. Use numbers and statistics to exhibit the impact you made in prior positions.

Highlight your coursework and academic accomplishments that demonstrate your qualifications for the role.

How To Highlight the Education/Training Section on a Resume?

The Education/Training part of a resume highlights your educational background and any significant courses or training you have taken.

Bachelor in Business Administration George Washington University June 2014 GPA: 3.2/4.0

High School Diploma in Business Management Blake High School, DC, USA July 2011

The examples provided above emphasize academic history and relevant training. It shows your dedication to advancing your knowledge and skills in business development. It’s essential to keep this section concise and include only relevant information.

Additional Sections to Boost Your Resume

Having additional headings in a resume, in addition to the standard sections such as Professional Summary, Skills, Education/Training, and Work Experience, can enhance your resume.

Examples of extra headings that you can include as a Business Development Manager:

Accomplishments You can use this section to showcase specific achievements in business development, like successfully launching a new product line or surpassing sales goals.

Professional Affiliations List any professional organizations or associations you belong to. It displays your commitment to continued professional growth.

Certificates List any relevant certifications or licenses you have in the field of project management, process handling, time management, etc.

By incorporating these additional headings, you can offer a more extensive and well-rounded outline of your abilities, skills, and experience.

It’s crucial to include only relevant information, and prioritize information that most strongly demonstrates your suitability for the desired role.

How To Showcase Languages on Resume?

To effectively showcase language proficiency on a resume, follow these steps:

By including language proficiency on your resume, you can demonstrate your ability to communicate with a diverse group of people.


Let’s summarize key points to remember while writing a perfect Business Development Manager Resume:

You can create a compelling Business Development Manager resume that showcases your qualifications and experience effectively using these guidelines.

Complement Your Resume with a Cover Letter

The cover letter is a vital part of the job application process. This letter serves as an introduction to the hiring manager even before they see your resume. With this, you can showcase details in addition to the ones that are mentioned in your resume.

In a competitive job market, a well-written cover letter can make a huge difference. It also increases your chances of being selected for an interview.

You can make a strong impression by using one of our premium resume templates to create a custom-made resume and cover letter.

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Privacy overview.

Joe Pope

Your business development strategy can be key to the success or failure of your firm. In this post, we’ll explore how to create a strategy and associated plan that can propel an individual, a practice or an entire firm to new levels of growth and profitability.

Business Development Defined

Business development (BD) is the process that is used to identify, nurture and acquire new clients and business opportunities to drive growth and profitability. A business development strategy is a document that describes the strategy you will use to accomplish that goal.

The scope of business development can be wide ranging and vary a lot from organization to organization. Consider the model of how professional services organizations get new business shown in Figure 1.

business development funnel

Figure 1: The three stages of the business development funnel

The first two stages of the model, Attracting Prospects and Build Engagement, are traditional marketing functions. The final stage, Turning Opportunities into Clients, is a traditional sales function. In the traditional role, business development would be looking for new channels of distribution or marketing partners.

But roles are changing and naming conventions evolve. In today’s world many firms refer to the entire marketing and sales process as business development. I know, it can be confusing. So let’s sort it out a bit.

Business Development vs. Marketing

Marketing is the process of determining which products and services you will offer to which target audiences, at what price. It also addresses how you will position and promote your firm and it’s offerings in the competitive marketplace. The result of all this activity should be an increasing awareness of your firm among your target audience — and a stronger flow of qualified leads and opportunities.

Free Download: Getting Back in the Game: A Playbook to Help Professional Services Firms Win Under “The New Normal”

Historically, business development has been a subset of the marketing function that was focused on acquiring new marketing or distribution relationships and channels. While this role still exists in many companies, the business development title has become interchangeable with many marketing and sales functions.  

Business Development vs. Sales

Sales is the task of converting leads or opportunities into new clients. Business development is a broader term that encompasses many activities beyond the sales function. And while there is some overlap, most traditional BD roles are only lightly involved in closing new clients.  

Business development is often confused with sales. This is not too surprising because many people who are clearly in sales have taken to using the title of Business Developer . Presumably this is done because the organization believes that the BD designation avoids some possible stigma associated with sales.

Nowhere is this practice more prevalent than in professional services. Accountants, lawyers and strategy consultants do not want to be seen as “pushy sales people.” This titular bias is firmly rooted despite the fact that developing new business is an important role of most senior members of professional services firms.

Since so many clients want to meet and get to know the professionals they will be working with, the Seller-doer role is well established in many firms. The preference for Seller-doers also tends to discourage firms from fielding a full-time sales force.

As an alternative approach to leveraging fee-earners’ time, some firms have one or more Business Developers on staff. In the professional services context, these folks are often involved in lead generation and qualification, as well as supporting the Seller-doers in their efforts to close new clients. In other organizational contexts, this role might be thought of as a sales support role.

The result of this confusing picture is that many professional services firms call sales “business development” and make it part of every senior professional’s role. They may also include some marketing functions, such as lead generation and lead nurturing, into the professional’s BD responsibilities.

It is this expanded role, where business development encompasses the full range of lead generation, nurturing and sales tasks, which we will concentrate on in this post.

See also: Heller Consulting Case Story

Business Development Examples

To be clear on what this role entails, let’s consider this business development example:

Bethany is the Director of Business Development at a fictional mid-sized architecture firm. She is not an architect herself. Nor is she involved with any aspect of delivering the projects that the firm has signed. Instead, her role is exclusively focused on signing new business for her firm—with either new clients or existing ones. 

For new clients, Bethany spends much of her time responding to RFPs, communicating directly with inbound leads generated by the marketing/sales enablement team, and nurturing potential clients that she met at a recent industry conference. Bethany also collaborates with the marketing team in the development of new materials she needs to sell to new accounts.

When it comes to existing accounts, Bethany also has a role. She meets monthly with delivery teams to understand whether current client projects are on scope or if change orders are needed. Moreover, she maintains a relationship with key stakeholders of her firm’s clients. If another opportunity for more work opens, she knows that her relationship with the client is an important component to that potential deal.

In this example, Bethany is the primary driver of business development but that does not mean she is doing this alone. Imagine she has a colleague Greg who is a lead architect at the firm. While Greg’s first focus is delivering for his clients, business development—and even marketing—should still be a part of his professional life. Perhaps Greg attends an industry conference with Bethany, he as a speaker and expert and her as the primary networker. The business development dynamic should not end with Bethany and should permeate the whole organization.

In this business development example, you can see that the range of roles and responsibilities is wide. This is why it is essential for business development to not be ad hoc, but done strategically. Let’s talk about that now.

Strategic Business Development

Not all business development is of equal impact. In fact a lot of the activities of many professionals are very opportunistic and tactical in nature.This is especially true with many seller-doers. 

Caught between the pressures of client work and an urgent need for new business they cast about for something quick and easy that will produce short term results. Of course this is no real strategy at all.

Strategic business development is the alignment of business development processes and procedures with your firm’s strategic business goals. The role of strategic business development is to acquire ideal clients for your highest priority services using brand promises that you can deliver upon.

 Deciding which targets to pursue and strategies to employ to develop new business is actually a high stakes decision. A good strategy, well implemented, can drive high levels of growth and profitability. A faulty strategy can stymie growth and frustrate valuable talent.

Yet many firms falter at this critical step. They rely on habit, anecdotes and fads — or worse still, “this is how we have always done it.” In a later section we’ll cover how to develop your strategic business development plan. But first we’ll cover some of the strategies that may go into that plan.

Top Business Development Strategies

Let’s look at some of the most common business development strategies and how they stack up with today’s buyers .

Networking is probably the most universally used business development strategy. It’s built on the theory that professional services buying decisions are rooted in relationships, and the best way to develop new relationships is through face-to-face networking.

It certainly is true that many relationships do develop in that way. And if you are networking with your target audience, you can develop new business. But there are limitations. Today’s buyers are very time pressured, and networking is time consuming. It can be very expensive, if you consider travel and time away from the office.

Newer digital networking techniques can help on the cost and time front. But even social media requires an investment of time and attention.

The close relative of networking, referrals are often seen as the mechanism that turns networking and client satisfaction into new business. You establish a relationship, and that person refers new business to you. Satisfied clients do the same.

Clearly, referrals do happen, and many firms get most or all of their business from them. But referrals are passive. They rely on your clients and contacts to identify good prospects for your services and make a referral at the right time.

The problem is referral sources often do not know the full range of how you can help a client. So many referrals are poorly matched to your capabilities. Other well-matched referrals go unmade because your referral source fails to recognize a great prospect when they see one. Finally, many prospects that might be good clients rule out your firm before even talking with you. One recent study puts the number at over 50%.

Importantly, there are new digital strategies that can accelerate referrals. Making your specific expertise more visible is the key. This allows people to make better referrals and increases your referral base beyond clients and a few business contacts.

Learn More: Referral Marketing Course

Sponsorships and Advertising

Can you develop new business directly by sponsoring events and advertising? It would solve a lot of problems if it works. No more trying to get time from fully utilized billable professionals.

Unfortunately, the results on this front are not very encouraging. Studies have shown that traditional advertising is actually associated with slower growth. Only when advertising is combined with other techniques, such as speaking at an event, do these techniques bear fruit.

The most promising advertising strategy seems to be well-targeted digital advertising. This allows firms to get their messages and offers in front of the right people at a lower cost.

Outbound Telephone and Mail

Professional services firms have been using phone calls and mail to directly target potential clients for decades. Target the right firms and roles with a relevant message and you would expect to find new opportunities that can be developed into clients.

There are a couple of key challenges with these strategies. First they are relatively expensive, so they need to be just right to be effective. Second, if you don’t catch the prospect at the right time, your offer may have no appeal relevance — and consequently, no impact on business development.

The key is to have a very appealing offer delivered to a very qualified and responsive list. It’s not easy to get this combination right.

Thought Leadership and Content Marketing

Here, the strategy is to make your expertise visible to potential buyers and referral sources. This is accomplished through writing, speaking or publishing content that demonstrates your expertise and how it can be applied to solve client problems.

Books, articles and speaking engagements have long been staples of professional services business development strategy. Many high visibility experts have built their practices and firms upon this strategy. It often takes a good part of a career to execute this approach.

But changing times and technology have reshaped this strategy. With the onset of digital communication it is now easier and much faster to establish your expertise with a target market. Search engines have leveled the playing field so that relatively unknown individuals and firms can become known even outside their physical region. Webinars have democratized public speaking, and blogs and websites give every firm a 24/7 presence. Add in video and social media and the budding expert can access a vastly expanded marketplace.

But these developments also open firms to much greater competition as well. You may find yourself competing with specialists whom you were never aware of. The impact is to raise the stakes on your business development strategy.

Combined Strategies

It is common to combine different business development strategies. For example, networking and referrals are frequently used together. And on one level, a combined strategy makes perfect sense. The strength of one strategy can shore up the weakness of another.

But there is a hidden danger. For a strategy to perform at its peak, it must be fully implemented. There is a danger that by attempting to execute too many different strategies you will never completely implement any of them.

Good intentions, no matter how ambitious, are of little real business development value. Under-investment, lack of follow through and inconsistent effort are the bane of effective business development.

It is far more effective to fully implement a simple strategy than to dabble in a complex one. Fewer elements, competently implemented, produce better results.

Next, we turn our attention to the tactics used to implement a high-level strategy. But first there is a bit of confusion to clear up.

Business Development Strategy Vs. Tactics

The line between strategy and tactics is not always clear. For example, you can think of networking as an overall business development strategy or as a tactic to enhance the impact of a thought leadership strategy. Confusing to be sure.

From our perspective, the distinction is around focus and intent. If networking is your business development strategy all your focus should be on making the networking more effective and efficient. You will select tactics that are aimed at making networking more powerful or easier. You may try out another marketing technique and drop it if it does not help you implement your networking strategy.

On the other hand, if networking is simply one of many tactics, your decision to use it will depend on whether it supports your larger strategy. Tactics and techniques can be tested and easily changed. Strategy, on the other hand, is a considered choice and does not change from day to day or week to week.

10 Most Effective Business Development Tactics

Which business development tactics are most effective? To find out, we recently conducted a study that looked at over 1000 professional services firms. The research identified those firms that were growing at greater than a 20% compound annual growth rate over a three-year period.

These High Growth firms were compared to firms in the same industry that did not grow over the same time period. We then examined which business development tactics were employed by each group and which provided the most impact.

The result is a list of the ten most impactful tactics employed by the High Growth firms:

There are a couple of key observations about these growth tactics. First, these techniques can be employed in service of different business development strategies. For example number seven on the list, speaking at targeted conferences or events, can easily support a networking or a thought leadership strategy.

The other observation is that the top tactics include a mix of both digital and traditional techniques. As we will see when we develop your plan, having a healthy mix of digital and traditional techniques tends to increase the impact of your strategy.

Business Development Skills

Now that we have identified the key business development strategies and tactics, it is time to consider the business development skills your team will need. Business development skills require a broad range of technical skills but there are some that make a difference.

When the Hinge Research Institute studied marketing and business development skills in our annual High Growth Study , we found that the firms who grow faster have a skill advantage within their marketing and business development teams.

business development manager 101

Let’s dive into the top three skills from this list. 

The number one business development skill high growth firms enjoy are strong project management skills. And for experienced business development specialists, this makes good sense. Staying organized, accurately tracking business development activity, and managing accounts are essential for building and maintaining strong business relationships. Activities like the proposal development see business development team resources manage and produce a strong proposal quickly, including the right stakeholders, and without sacrificing quality.

The next most important skill is simplifying complex concepts. In business development conversations, it is vital that team members are strong communicators of your firm’s service offerings and capabilities. Those who are able to take a comlex scope of work and communicate it in a way that a potential buyer can understand. Speaking in industry jargon or overly complicated charts is a fast way to see a business lead become unresponsive. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that the fastest growing professional services firms have an advantage in communicating complex information in a way that buyers understand.

The third most important business development skill is face-to-face networking. Despite the hiatus of many in-person events, high growth firms still reported that strong networking skills are a top skill enjoyed by their firms. Strong face-to-face networking skills are as much of an art as it is a science. While some can be more charismatic than others, everyone can prepare their teams with the resources and plan they need to succeed in a networking environment.

Review the other business development and marketing skills in the figure above and determine which skills your team should aim to develop. Strategy development for planning your business development plan, research for understanding the competitive landscape and industry trends, and social media prowess all play an important role in business development, too. Developing these skills should be a key priority of your business development team.

How to Create Your Strategic Business Development Plan

A Business Development Plan is a document that outlines how you implement your business development strategy. It can be a plan for an individual, a practice or the firm as a whole. Its scope covers both the marketing and sales functions, as they are so intertwined in most professional services firms.

Here are the key steps to develop and document your plan.

Define your target audience

Who are you trying to attract as new clients? Focus on your “best-fit” clients, not all possible prospects. It is most effective to focus on a narrow target audience. But don’t go so narrow that you can’t achieve your business goals.

Research their issues, buying behavior and your competitors

The more you know about your target audience the better equipped you will be to attract their attention and communicate how you can help them. What are their key business issues? Is your expertise relevant to those issues? Where do they look for advice and inspiration? What is the competitive environment like? How do you stack up?

Identify your competitive advantage

What makes you different? Why is that better for your target client? Are you the most cost-effective alternative, or the industry’s leading expert? This “positioning” as it is often called, needs to be true, provable and relevant to the prospect at the time they are choosing which firm to work with. Be sure to document this positioning, as you will use it over and over again as you develop your messages and marketing tools.

Choose your overall business development strategy

Pick the broad strategy or strategies to reach, engage and convert your prospects. You can start with the list of top strategies provided above. Which strategy fits with the needs and preferences of your target audiences? Which ones best convey your competitive advantage? For example, if you are competing because you have superior industry expertise, a thought leadership/content marketing strategy will likely serve you well.

Click to play video

Choose your business development tactics

A great place to start is the list of the most effective tactics we provided above. Make sure that each technique you select fits your target audience and strategy. Remember, it’s not about your personal preferences or familiarity with a tactic. It’s about what works with the audience.

Also, you will need to balance your choices in two important ways: First, you will need tactics that address each stage of the business development pipeline shown in Figure 1. Some techniques work great for gaining visibility but do not address longer-term nurturing. You need to cover the full funnel.

Second, you need a good balance between digital and traditional techniques (Figure 2). Your research should inform this choice. Be careful about assumptions. Just because you don’t use social media doesn’t mean that a portion of your prospects don’t use it to check you out.

Online and Traditional Marketing

Figure 2. Online and offline marketing techniques

When, how often, which conferences, what topics? Now is the time to settle on the details that turn a broad strategy into a specific plan. Many plans include a content or marketing calendar that lays out the specifics, week by week. If that is too much detail for you, at least document what you will be doing and how often. You will need these details to monitor the implementation of your plan.

Specify how you will monitor implementation and impact

Often overlooked, these important considerations often spell the difference between success and failure. Unimplemented strategies don’t work. Keep track of what you do, and when. This will both motivate action and provide a great starting place as you troubleshoot your strategy. Also monitor and record the impacts you see. The most obvious affect will be how much new business you closed. But you should also monitor new leads or new contacts, at the bare minimum. Finally, don’t neglect important process outcomes such as referrals, new names added to your list and downloads of content that expose prospects and referral sources to your expertise.

If you follow these steps you will end up with a documented business development strategy and a concrete plan to implement and optimize it.


How Hinge Can Help

Hinge, a global leader in professional services branding and marketing, helps firms grow faster and become more profitable. Our research-based strategies are designed to be  implemented.  In fact, our groundbreaking  Visible Firm ®  program  combines strategy, implementation, training and more.

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