What Does A Biz Dev Person Actually Do?
According to the Grand Unified Theory of Business Development, Biz Dev is simply about pursuing opportunities for long-term growth from customers, markets, and relationships. Sounds simple enough, but has anyone ever set out to describe what a “Biz Dev Person” actually does? How do they spend their day? What should you look for when hiring someone for a Biz Dev role?
While Business Development may still mean many different things to many different people, at it’s core I believe a Biz Dev job is focused on 3 activities:
Customers : Find new ones and extract more value from current ones. Markets : Figure out where new customers “live” (both geographically and in terms of “buying mindset”) and find a way to reach them. Relationships : Build and leverage relationships founded on trust and integrity to facilitate opportunities.
“Well,” you might say. ”That sounds pretty straightforward.”
Yes, it does sound that way. In the simplest of terms, business development may be about figuring out how to sell more to customers, or finding new customers to whom to sell. But to suggest that “that’s all there is to it” is to suggest that running a marathon just requires putting one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles. Of course, training for and running a marathon requires a unique approach to making sure you don’t peter out before the finish line. Similarly, business development requires a unique combination of skills to ensure that the value you derive from an opportunity persists for the long haul:
The Biz Dev Skillsets: Strategy, Sales, and Relationship Management.
“Wait a second,” you’re asking. ”You forgot about partnerships? Isn’t business development all about partnerships?” In short, no, it’s not.
Partnerships are a common course to pursue a given business development opportunity, but they are but one option amongst many when evaluating the path to creating long-term value. And though scouting, signing, and developing partnerships is an everyday task in many business development roles, the skills required for partnerships are really an amalgam of all other Biz Dev skills – a mix of sales, relationship management, and strategy. As frequently as they arise in the day job of business development, partnerships are only one potential outcome of Biz Dev done right.
How Biz Dev Roles Change by Company Size.
Does the role of business development change as a company matures from a startup to enterprise? Yes and no. In the early stages of any company, the role of business development is often left to the founder, CEO, or an early hire. The role of forging partnership deals does take on an increased priority, as the decision of which potential path to pursue an opportunity often favors the sharing of resources that’s incumbent in partnerships. But the day-to-day activities of business development remains the same: at a startup or a large company alike, whomever plays the role of “biz dev guy/gal” must be constantly evaluating the best path to create long-term value, whether it an option built in-house or pursued in partnership with others.
At larger companies, the role of business development may be divided across a broader array of individuals. Sure, teams of people with “Business Development” on their business cards may focus on the full spectrum of activities, from sourcing business development opportunities to evaluating the opportunity’s potential to create long-term value and following through on the execution. But just as often, the individual functions of the business development role may be split across an organization: a member of the sales team may source feedback from customers, who passes along an opportunity to create a new product to the Product Management team, who works with Finance to size and evaluate an opportunity and Operations to assess the resources needed to pursue it. Perhaps none of those individuals consider themselves to be serving a “Business Development” function, but in total they are a collective BD team that seeks to create long-term value for their organization in very much the same way as an individual who plays every part.
“Pure Biz Dev”
In my view, a “pure” Biz Dev job will have some combination of all of the above skillsets – identifying and strategically assessing an opportunity to create long-term value and then executing on a path to pursue that value. But whether you’re playing Biz Dev as a team-sport or an individual contributor, the interplay between Strategy, Sales, and Relationship Management informs the potential for a company’s growth path. Business Development is a function that is varied, complex, and exciting – although the nature of Biz Dev may be ambiguous to some, the importance of the role should be clear to all.