After all, what is Business Development?

Even after almost 20 years dedicated to Business Development, I had not yet found a definition that would broadly represent what it actually means to me.

No discipline in my undergraduate and MBA courses approached the subject, so I never had formal education or training. Not even in the companies I worked for.

There are very few books on Business Development (see some of them below). I could not find definitions in them that describe the activities I have been involved in different companies and industries in recent years.

Somehow, they all illustrated some aspect of what Business Development is, but only recently did I find a definition that is simple and comprehensive:

Business Development is the function responsible for expanding a business beyond its existing capacities.

Nothing explains this concept better than a comparison of Marketing, Sales, and Business Development I heard a few years ago.

Marketing brings customers to your store. Sales ensures your customers consume what is available in your store. Business Development enables new stores or revenue sources.

Of course, this comparison is a simplification. The roles of Marketing, Sales, and Business Development are much more complex and equally important to the success of a business.

These 3 areas have in common the customer-facing aspect and the responsibility to ensure revenue growth and survival of the business in the short and long terms.

It is not unusual to see professionals working on more than one of those functions throughout their careers. They share some of the required skills to succeed.

Sales maximizes results within the existing service capacity and is typically assessed against shorter-term targets. Business Development pursues, pitches, and implements new growth opportunities that may not be as clear and take much longer to materialize.

Sometimes Business Development is used to describe what is called Lead Generation. The continuous attraction of new and existing customers to your business to help Sales conversions is a Marketing function, not Business Development.

Although the Sales, Marketing, and Corporate Strategy areas are the most common suppliers of Business Development professionals, there are distinct and peculiar skills necessary for their success. But this is a topic for another article.

Have you had Business Development responsibilities in your career? I would love to know your experiences and hear your comments and suggestions.



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