If you have great communications skills, are business minded and have the drive to succeed, then a role in business development may be perfect for you
As a business development manager you'll be concerned with improving and growing a business, by fostering and developing relationships with customers, suppliers and other partners. You may work to improve profitability through careful strategic planning and positioning in the appropriate markets, or to enhance the operation of the business, position or reputation in some way.
You may have a single role in the organisation or lead a team of staff. Your work will often reach across all areas of the business.
Types of business management
Business development can be applied to almost all types of business, but you may choose to specialise in a certain sector, such as:
Alternatively, you may work across many different businesses, but with a specific focus on either:
- B2B (business to business)
- B2C (business to consumer).
As a business development manager, you'll need to:
- identify new business opportunities - including new markets, growth areas, trends, customers, products and services
- seek out the appropriate contact in an organisation
- generate leads and cold call prospective customers
- meet with customers/clients face to face or over the phone
- understand the needs of your customers and be able to respond effectively with a plan of how to meet these
- think strategically - seeing the bigger picture and setting aims and objectives in order to develop and improve the business
- work strategically - carrying out necessary planning in order to implement operational changes
- draw up client contracts - depending on the size of company, this task may be completed by someone else or agreements may not be as formal
- have a good understanding of the businesses' products or services and be able to advise others about them
- ensure staff are on board throughout the organisation, and understand the need for change and what is required of them
- train members of your team, arranging external training where appropriate
- discuss promotional strategy and activities with the marketing department
- liaise with the finance team, warehousing and logistics departments as appropriate
- seek ways of improving the way the business operates
- attend seminars, conferences and events where appropriate
- keep abreast of trends and changes in the business world.
If your business development role is more sales orientated, you may also do some or all of the following:
- help to plan sales campaigns
- create a sales pipeline
- negotiate pricing with customers, and suppliers in some cases
- carry out sales forecasts and analysis and present your findings to senior management.
- Your starting salary as a graduate business development manager will be in the region of £22,000 to £25,000.
- At mid-management level with several years' experience, you can expect to earn £30,000 to £60,000, averaging at £37,500 depending on the region and sector you work in.
- As a senior business development manager or business director, it's possible to earn around £80,000.
Salaries are affected by regional variances, and pay is generally higher in London and the South East. The sector you work in is also a determining factor - for example, an IT business development manager may earn £70,000, whereas a B2B manager may be on significantly less at around £40,000.
It's common for bonuses to be paid and these can be very large, sometimes matching your annual salary. Jobs are often advertised with a basic salary and a higher on-target earnings (OTE) figure. Other benefits may include a pension, healthcare scheme membership and company car.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll usually work a regular 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday week, though you may on occasion have to work longer to meet a project deadline or when attending an event or conference.
Flexible working may be possible.
What to expect
- It can be stressful trying to create new business opportunities, in addition to the constant pressure of meeting or exceeding targets.
- Business development is quite a creative role and can be very satisfying but this is accompanied with challenging aspects.
- You may have the responsibility of managing a team and their output.
- You'll frequently travel within the day for face-to-face meetings with customers and other business partners. Depending on the type of business, overnight or overseas travel may also be required.
- You'll be expected to dress smartly, especially for meetings, though slightly more relaxed business casual attire may be acceptable at other times.
A degree is not essential for this role and some business development managers work their way up in an organisation in a sales or marketing role. Another increasingly common route into business development management is through an apprenticeship.
However, since it's a competitive role with good prospects, many entrants do have a degree, and a degree is essential if you wish to apply for a place on a graduate training scheme.
Degrees in business development or business management are the most relevant for this career, but studying a related course can also be helpful, such as:
- international relations
A postgraduate degree is not a requirement for this career.
You'll need to have:
- tenacity and drive to seek new business and meet or exceed targets
- an excellent telephone manner for making initial contact and for ongoing communication with customers and business associates
- excellent written and verbal communication skills - needed for communicating with a wide range of people, both internally and externally
- good IT skills, including the use of spreadsheets
- a professional manner and presentable appearance for meeting customers/clients
- initiative and good decision-making skills
- project management skills
- the ability to motivate yourself and set your own goals
- great organisational skills
- good networking skills
- the ability to think strategically
- the ability to analyse sales figures and write reports
- initiative and the confidence to start things from scratch
- the ability to speak a foreign language may be an asset if you're dealing with overseas clients.
A full driving license is a requirement for many roles.
Work experience is really important and can in some cases lead to permanent employment.
If your course does not include a placement, try contacting local businesses to ask for work experience opportunities.
Doing some part-time or vacation work in a business that has a focus on business development will come in helpful, but any experience gained within sales or business administration will be good for your CV and skill set. It will also show future employers that you're serious about your career choice.
Business development managers are employed across the public, private and charity sectors, in all types of businesses and organisations.
Employers tend to be larger companies that can dedicate time and resources towards developing their business. In smaller companies, business development is usually carried out as a smaller function within a broader mix of responsibilities.
Common types of employers include:
- banks and other financial institutions
- education institutions
- IT companies
- manufacturing firms, and any business involved in the sales of products or services
- telecommunications and technology firms
- the NHS and other healthcare providers.
Look for job vacancies at:
Check the jobs pages of the websites of any companies and organisations you're interested in, as current vacancies will usually be advertised there.
Business development is a broad field, so there are many ways in which you can shape and develop your career according to your interests and ambition.
Much of your training will be on the job but there are also a huge number of relevant courses available, such as Level 2 and Level 3 courses in business principles, sales and marketing and sales management.
The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) has details of a wide range of relevant business and leadership qualifications and apprenticeships.
Other qualifications, networking opportunities, information, support and career guidance are available through membership of professional bodies, such as:
It's possible to switch between employers and sectors, perhaps specialising further, or moving to a larger organisation with a broader remit or international connections.
Ultimately, progression will be determined by your personal drive and aims. There's no specific structure, but you'll find fairly limitless opportunities for gaining increased responsibility and, with it, an increase in salary.
Business management is carried out across many sectors, in most towns and cities and within many different types of organisation. As a result, there are huge possibilities for career development, limited perhaps only by geographical constraints and your willingness to change sectors.
You may progress to the role of senior business development manager, perhaps being responsible for a bigger team or department, with higher targets. With enough experience, you could reach executive or director level.
Working overseas is possible and may be quite easy to achieve if you work for an international company. You may have the option of travelling and working for short periods in the overseas divisions of your company, or you could apply for a permanent overseas transfer or to a new company.
You may also consider setting up your own business development consultancy.