What is business development?

At its origins, business development aims to create and implement growth opportunities for an organization. The term and its actor, the business developer have evolved, combining the interaction of those three factors to create growth opportunities. The main task of a business development professional is to figure out the interaction between these forces. His tasks vary across countries and industries, covering everything from sales, relations development, IT, engineering, marketing and key accountant management activities. There skills are a mixture of strategy, sales, marketing, finance, proposal management and legal.


If you ask ten VPs what is business development, they will probably give you ten different answers. Some might say business development is sales, others hustling or partnerships. If you unify these conflicting theories into one, you will come up with a more plausible definition: business development involves the long-term creation of value for an organization from relationships, customers and markets. Although this definition is simple and elegant, it leaves you wanting more information about the process.

Long-Term Value

The value of a company is its cash or money, the lifeblood that fuels any business. However, the value can also be prestige, or anything else the company needs in order to evolve. Even if there are many ways to make quick cash, business development is not about getting rich overnight, or about I win you lose strategies that only create short-term value, it is about creating an environment where that value can persist and flow indefinitely. The only way for a company to succeed is to think about business development as a process that creates opportunities for long-term value.


The customers part of the definition is not as hard to explain. The customers pay the bills, so they are the people who buy your services or products. Without them, the company is not able to grow. However, not everybody is a natural customer. It is possible that your product doesn’t have the features customers are looking for, or they are perfect but nobody knows that your company sells it because nobody is knocking on their doors. A reason for that is that customers are residents of specific markets.


Customers live in markets that are defined by their lifestyle, buying mentality and demographics. For example, if you focus on selling in Europe, the customers that do not reach the European market are unavailable to you. Another example is the Pet Owners Market. The residents of that market are people who own cats, dogs, fish, birds and other pets, and a specialized company sells to pet owners only. But what happens when that company sells to people who are not residents of the Pet Owners market? If you want to reach those customers, you need to offer a different product, such as hats or sunscreen.


A successful business development is based on a foundation of strong relationships. Creating, leveraging and managing relationships based on mutual appreciation, respect and trust is essential to enable the flow of long-term value. An organization’s growth depends on its relationships with customers, partners, employees and even the press.

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