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What is a business development manager and the skills needed to excel at this job

February 26, 2018

In order for a business to achieve its financial goals, it needs to have a clear plan for how to increase market share and sales by developing strategic business relationships. Often, increasing market share and sales on a massive scale is accomplished by forming strategic marketing partnerships with other businesses, such as when two companies work together to market each other's products or services to their existing base of customers.

Within a business, the person who is often responsible for seeking out and creating these strategic business relationships is the business development manager.

As an example of a business deal that a business development manager might work on, let's say your company sells an online software tool that makes it easy for businesses to increase their number of Instagram followers. One way to generate sales for your software is you could launch an online advertising campaign to market your software to individual businesses to try to get them to buy your software. However, marketing that way to bring in new clients can be very expensive as you have to pay for advertising campaigns, which may or may not be profitable. Another option for generating sales is to create strategic partnerships with other companies who already have thousands of businesses as clients, where they market your software to their existing customers in exchange for a commission on each sale. Think of this as affiliate marketing on a massive scale. 

As a simple example, let's say as a potential strategic partnership you, the business development manager for your company, approach a company that sells online accounting software to small businesses, and they have 20,000 customers. You tell them that your Instagram audience building software would be of great value to their existing customers, and if they recommend your software to their customers in their email newsletter, you will pay them a 30% commission on every sale they generate. They agree and send an email announcement to their email list of 20,000 customers. Out of those 20,000 customers, 2% buy your software, and in one fairly simple strategic business deal, you just brought in 400 new customers and all it cost you was paying a commission on each sale. Setting up these kinds of strategic business partnerships is normally the job of a business development manager.

Along with seeking out and forming strategic business relationships with partner companies, a business development manager is also expected to help develop an organization's long-term strategic goals, have a good grasp of current market conditions, and negotiate and help win large business deals.

As far as the skills needed to be successful at this job, a successful business development manager will be very organized, self-driven, love selling, by highly self-motivated, and possess excellent communication skills. A business development manager should also have the following personal qualities:

1. Willingness to learn

The mindset of a business development manager is defined by a desire to spur business growth on a daily basis. That means that she must grab every opportunity to learn new business development techniques, whether on the job or outside. Learning must, therefore, become a daily habit.

2. Great self-awareness

Being self-aware is one of the most important keys to having a high degree of emotional intelligence. When you are self-aware, you don't let your feelings or emotions dictate how you should go about your business. Self-awareness also helps foster your relationships with other people.

3. Care about growing your strategic partners' businesses

Being a business development manager is not just about selling more products and expanding the business portfolio for the company you work for. You also need to form the habit of seeing things from the perspective of the companies you want to form partnerships with. This will give you the mindset to always try to improve their businesses, which is what they care about most. Their number one concern is growing their business--not yours. So, you must always see things through their eyes, and that their number one concern is how to make their business prosper. When you focus on how to help your partner companies prosper, they will trust you more and want to form partnerships with you that will benefit both companies.

4. Have a sales person's mindset at all times

A business development manager absolutely must have a sales person's mindset at all times. Your job is to sell companies on why it is in their best interest to partner with your company. If you can't sell and close deals, you will not be successful as a business development manager. Selling must be in your blood.

5. Face your fear of rejection and keep moving forward

For any business development manager, one of the greatest fears that you must face is the fear of rejection. When you approach potential companies to build strategic relationships, they are often going to say NO because they don't know you and they don't trust you. You have to get past being rejected and told no and keep moving forward to build that relationship over time so that NO becomes a YES in the future. 

6. Enthusiasm

As a business development manager, you will be dealing with intense competition on a daily basis. Enthusiasm is one of the things that will definitely help you win that battle. Face each day with high energy and a positive "can do" attitude and it will help you succeed.

In summary

A business development manager plays a very important role in making a business financially successful. This is because he or she is ultimately tasked with generating new revenue on a large scale by developing strategic partnerships with other companies. As long as you have the will and determination to succeed, there is nothing to stop you from becoming a highly successful business development manager.

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