Business Development Career Path - Highly Profitable?

Mark Talmage-Rostron
November 12, 2023 · 10 min read

If you want to build and grow a business, you have to start somewhere. If you’re considering a career path in business development, here’s why you should

What is business development?

Business development is the application of ideas and activities, as well as creating initiatives with the betterment of a business in mind. As part of a business developer career path, when engaged in business development, you will build partnerships, as well as make strategic decisions in order to increase business revenues, lower costs, become more profitable, and make the business grow.

What makes it important?

Businesses all have one goal – growth. To achieve this goal, you must weave together all aspects of a business. This is exactly what business development does: It acts as a common thread so that all functions such as sales, marketing, customer service, and even finance work together and complement each other to increase revenues and improve brand awareness.

Why business development as a career path?

Business covers a multitude of functions and areas. You can venture in promoting products and services to your target market through marketing – you can also be involved in the merchandise your organization is selling through product development. Business development covers all of these functions. In addition, there are specific reasons why professionals choose business development as their career choice.

1. You will be challenged to develop your skills

In business development, you will face different problems to solve each day, which means you get to challenge yourself. Some days you may face issues focusing on marketing; on other days, you may find yourself working on project management; and at other times, you will need to do data analysis.

The nature of work in business development will push you out of your comfort zone and will make you think outside of the box. Activities and challenges in business development will help you uncover skills you may not realize you had and develop them through consistent practice.

2. You will interact with different kinds of people

A career in business development means you will be interacting with other people constantly. This results in you establishing connections both for yourself and your organization, as you will serve as an ambassador for your organization. This brings a high level of responsibility.

Your interaction with other people will also bring useful insight in suggesting new ideas to your organization. In short, business development allows you to study the market firsthand by being the frontman of your organization.

3.   There’s never a dull day in business development

One thing that makes professionals lose their passion for their jobs is that their days become monotonous. In business development, that rarely happens. Every day brings a unique set of experiences and challenges. You’ll be interacting with different people and different departments and gaining new perspectives and skills.

A career in business development can also help you build relationships with people inside and outside your organization, which can be helpful in the future. Best of all, this means a career in business development will shape you into a more valuable individual in the general labor market.

Skills you’ll need in business development

Before you embark on a career in business development, you will need to possess the skills that almost all employers are looking for in their business development team. In this section, we’ll outline what those skills are, as well as why they are important in this field.

Communication skills

As business development activities include constant interaction with individuals within and outside the organization, you will need excellent communication skills. This allows you to listen attentively to your potential clients’ requests, concerns, and complaints, and respond appropriately. Strong communication skills also help in negotiations: You may find you need to negotiate on business proposals, sales deals, and partnerships.

Business development involves building and maintaining long-term relationships with important individuals as well as approaching potential clients, so good communication skills are a must.

Sales skills

There is a lot of crossover between business development and sales – in fact, people often confuse the two roles! As a business developer, you will look for opportunities that can bring your company growth. You must have the skill to recognize your target market, as well as prospective partners. You also have to find opportunities to engage with them and build relationships with them. Obtaining skills in sales will help you evaluate and create a target audience.

The nature of business development also allows you to work closely with your organization’s sales team, as you move your potential clients to the next level in the sales funnel. So, when you are knowledgeable in sales, this step of the sales process becomes faster and easier.

Marketing skills

Understanding the principles of marketing will allow you to easily conduct your activities as a business developer. After all, both marketing and business development have the same goal: only the methods are different.

Some tasks that business development and marketing share include brand promotion and awareness, expansion of the market, and acquiring new users or audiences. Because business development does not directly sell to the customer, you have to build effective skills in promoting your company’s brand.

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ROI and data analysis skills

Whether you are a business development representative (BDR) or an executive, you have to know how to track returns on investments (ROI), as well as provide the data supporting your findings.

This will help you monitor which activities or investments contribute to your organization’s growth, and which ones aren’t as useful and should be discontinued. Measuring ROI involves several metrics, which are all dependent on your organization’s sales cycle and needs. Strong data analysis skills will help you interpret this information, make the right decisions, and achieve business growth.

Project management skills

Developing a business is a complex and large-scale project. For you to succeed, you have to possess management skills that will lead your team to success. After all, effective management is essential for the overall success of any project. Some project management skills that you can use in business development are as follows:

  • Team management

  • Leadership

  • Risk management

  • Personal organization

Business development is not a one-man job: different people with different skill sets get to work together. You must be capable of working with others during your role, including resolving conflicts, upholding teamwork, and evaluating the team.

Business intelligence skills

Insight on the market is an essential skill to help a business grow, and this is what it means to be business intelligent. In business development, you must research the needs of your organization and your competitors to get a wider view of your place in the market.

Business intelligence skills include the ability to collect and analyze data from different sources. You need to ascertain which data is relevant and necessary, and when is the right time to use that data.

You start to obtain business intelligence skills in school, but you can still improve them through hands-on experience and continuing education. With these skills, you can start on your successful career path in business development.

How do you start working in a business development job role?

A typical business development career path begins with an entry-level position as a Business Development Representative (BDR).  As a BDR, you would be responsible for researching and identifying potential customers, building relationships with them, and helping them understand how your company’s products can meet their needs.

Through career progression this would lead to a Business Development Executive role. Which would be responsible for developing sales strategies and managing accounts.

Further career progression would lead to becoming a Business Development Manager. This role involves overseeing all business development activities, such as creating sales plans and monitoring customer feedback. This kind of role can then transition to leadership and high-up management roles.

Help a business grow: pursuing a career path in business development

If you are planning to pursue a career path in business development, experience in the business world is invaluable. Many of the most successful business development professionals started their careers in specific areas of business such as sales, marketing, or project management, before making the move into business development.

Here are some roles that fall into the business development career path.

Business Development Representative

Also known as BDR, a business development representative handles the first stop in an organization’s sales funnel. They are responsible for finding and qualifying early-stage leads as they enter the funnel. Usually, BDRs engage in cold calling and emailing potential buyers, persuading them to book sales appointments.

In short, a business development representative oversees the expansion of the organization’s customer base. If you are interested in searching for potential customers as well as assessing them, then a BDR is a perfect role for you.

In the U.S., the average annual salary for an entry-level BDR is $42,000, but this can go up to $91,000 for senior or experienced BDRs. As businesses continue to grow, the demand for BDRs is likely to remain high over the coming years. It is expected that in a ten-year period from 2018 to 2028, BDRs will have a job growth rate of 2%.

Business Developer

A business developer role builds on the tasks of a BDR, but takes on a broader scope, including building and maintaining relationships with other organizations and clients. A business developer also has specific responsibilities, including:

  • Communicating with the sales team to generate proposals that mutually benefit the client and the company

  • Negotiating contract terms with the appropriate parties (clients, stakeholders)

  • Ensuring that contracts are executed according to what is agreed

If you have the skills in in-depth business analysis as well as formulating strategies, a career as a business developer may suit you perfectly.

A business developer earns a higher salary than a BDR. This is partly because of the heavier workload they have, but educational level also plays a factor: over 70% of business developers have bachelor’s degrees, and 12% have master’s degrees. In the U.S., a business developer can earn an average of $90,300 a year.

Business developers have been experiencing steady demand for years now. This is likely because businesses are eager for growth and increase their focus on brand awareness. Research projects that in a ten-year period from 2018 to 2028, the number of roles available for business developers will grow by 8%.

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Business Development Manager

When you have already gained experience as a business development representative or business developer, you can climb up the ladder and become a business development manager. BD managers have specific managerial responsibilities, including:

  • Setting goals for business and revenue growth

  • Developing action plans for the fulfillment of the goals

  • Looking for prospective leads in the target market

  • Tracking leads, making sure they move through the sales cycle

  • Researching, planning, implementing, and evaluating new initiatives in the target market

BD managers also train new staff in the business development department. This means that leadership qualities and teaching skills are essential to a BD manager.

With more responsibilities, the salary for a BD manager rises accordingly. A business development manager usually earns an average of $92,600 a year in the United States, and the field is growing at a rate of 8% per ten years.

Business Development Director

From the role of BD manager, it is possible to move into more specialized senior positions related to specific aspects of business development, such as a business development account manager, or business development sales manager. However, one of the top roles within the business development field is that of a business development director.

Business development directors need to be good at strategy and data. They use market research to identify business opportunities and exploit gaps in the market. They work closely with the C-suite to keep the business ahead of the competition.

The median salary for a business development director is $112,000 per year in the United States, with some roles going up to $180,000. It is generally expected for business development director candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 17% have a master’s degree. From this position, the most common promotions are to Vice President or President of the company.

Final thoughts

Realizing the goals of the business requires that all functions of the organization are working together, and business development is the thread that ties them together. If you are engaged in business development, you need to possess skills that cover several functions while keeping in mind the organization’s bigger picture.

One of the best ways to develop your skills is through an online distance-learning course from a recognized academic institution, like Nexford University.

Discover how you can acquire the most in-demand skills to pursue a career in business development with our free report, and open the doors to a successful career.

Download the free report today! Looking to potentially take your career even further? Nexford offers a wide range of BBA and MBA programs that teach you the necessary skill set for your business development career path.

About the author
Mark Talmage-Rostron
Mark Talmage-Rostron

Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.

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