Business Development

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Business Development
Career Overview:
Business development—or "biz dev," as insiders call it—is all about growing your company's bottom line. The job of the business development professional is typically to identify new business opportunities—whether that means new markets, new partnerships with other businesses, new ways to reach existing markets, or new product or service offerings to better meet the needs of existing markets—and then to go out and exploit those opportunities to bring in more revenue.

Business development is a cousin of marketing and sales, and even when an organization doesn't have a stand-alone business development department, or professionals with the phrase "business development" in their job titles, you can bet that folks in one or both of those departments are handling business development responsibilities. You can find business development jobs in all industries—at everything from tech start-ups to huge pharmaceutical companies. What the work entails, exactly, depends on how established a company is and what its business model is.

What You'll Do:
Your job in business development may involve any or all of the following:

The first aspect of the business development professional's job is typically to identify new business opportunities.

This means several things, in terms of what you'll do. First, you'll need to stay abreast of what's happening in your industry—what your competitors are up to in terms of products and service offerings, pricing, marketing strategies, and so on. Second, you'll need to make sure you understand what your company is up to on an ongoing basis—to understand your company's strategy, how your company compares to its competitors, and how your company is perceived in the marketplace. Third, you'll need to understand the marketplace for your company's offerings—who comprises the market, and how the market may be changing.

Next, as a business development professional, you'll need to think creatively on everything you know about your company, its market, and its competitive landscape. This is the part of the job where you identify possible ways to improve your company's sales, which can mean anything from identifying new market segments (or individual potential clients) for your company to sell to, to identifying new sales channels to sell through, to identifying other, related products or services in the marketplace with which your company's products or services can be combined into synergistic, new, "co-branded" offerings.

The next part of the job is prioritizing the new business opportunities you've identified. To do this, you'll need to compare the potential returns of each new business opportunity to the costs your company would incur to exploit that opportunity. Which means spreadsheets—lots of spreadsheets.

Finally, the business development professional is tasked with making the new business opportunities he or she has identified come to fruition. In other words, you'll be negotiating with those at other organizations who can help you take advantage of the opportunities you've identified. And, if you're good at what you do, you'll be closing deals with those other organizations to increase your company's bottom line.

In terms of real-world examples: One thing you'll probably be doing as part of a business development career at an enterprise software company, for instance, is identifying and signing partnership deals with IT consulting firms that implement enterprise software for their clients—deals that will give the IT consulting firms you partner with a cut of your company's revenue from any new sales of your software that the partners can bring in. Or, say you're in biz dev at a big publishing company that's looking to deliver a new, younger market to its advertisers; in this case, you might be involved in acquiring a smaller publishing company that already serves a younger market—that has expertise in terms of marketing to that younger...
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