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What Should a Business Developer Know?

Business development is not just about increasing sales, products, and market reach. Strategic decisions are also needed to improve the bottom line, which includes cost-cutting measures. An internal assessment revealing high spending on travel, for instance, may lead to travel policy changes, such as hosting video conference calls instead of on-site meetings, or opting for less expensive transportation modes.

Management can implement similar cost-saving initiatives by outsourcing non-core work, such as billing, accounting, financials, technology operations, and customer service. Strategic partnerships needed for these initiatives are a part of business development.

Since business development involves high-level decision making, the business developer should remain informed about the following:

  • The current state of the business in terms of SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
  • The current state of the overall industry and growth projections
  • Competitor developments
  • Primary sources of sales/revenues of current business and dependencies
  • The customer profile
  • New and unexplored market opportunities
  • New domains/products/sectors eligible for business expansion, which may complement the existing business
  • The long-term view, especially with regards to the initiatives being proposed
  • The cost areas and the possible options for cost-savings

The business development scenario discussed above is specific to a business expansion plan, whose impact can be felt by almost every unit of the business. There can be similar business development objectives, such as the development of a new business line, new sales channel development, new product development, new partnerships in existing/new markets, and even merger and acquisition (M&A) decisions.

For example, in the case of a merger, significant cost savings can be accomplished by integrating the common functions of the manufacturing, finance, and legal departments of the two firms. Similarly, a business operating from five different offices in a city can be moved to a large central facility, resulting in significant operating cost savings. However, would this lead to employee attrition, if the new location isn’t convenient for everyone? It’s up to the business development team to assess such concerns.

In essence, business development involves high-level decision-making based on a realistic assessment of all potential changes and their impact. Through new ideas and initiatives, it aims to improve the overall business prospects, which drive the functioning of the different business units. It is not sales; it is not marketing; it is not partnering. Instead, it is the eco-system encompassing the entire business and its various divisions, driving overall growth.

While it’s common for startup companies to seek outside assistance in developing the business, as the business matures, it should aim to build its business development expertise internally.

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