Being a business development manager can be challenging. Until you actually understand what it means and you will never want to wish for a different career.
Hi, I’m Lucia, and I’m a business development manager. I hated it until I actually realized how satisfying this job can be.
Fifteen years ago I started working in business development and now I couldn't imagine a different path. But it wasn’t always the case.
I’ll share with you how I ended up working in business development, why I hated and how I learned to love this amazing field.
Let’s start from the basic. I was born and raised in a very small village in Italy. Back there we don’t really have a perspective to find a cool job.
So I packed my stuff and decided to move far away to study. That was the best choice I could take.
However, I soon realized that not living with your parents also means you actually have to pay for all your stuff.
I didn’t have much financial help so I started looking for a job. When I was 19 I had my first encounter with the business development world.
I started working for a big Italian insurance group that promised quite a good deal. All I had to do was to call some people and propose to them to buy one of our insurances.
Among my duties, I also had to schedule appointments for my senior colleagues and do something called “reaching the quota”.
I felt really thrown in a shark tank. Everyone seemed so comfortable in that environment.
Those people there expected me to call some strangers - which I already found weird - but on top of that, I was also supposed to ask them for money.
In all honesty, I started hating that job fairly quickly. It seemed so rude to call people and try to sell them something they couldn’t really afford or didn’t really have a need for.
I needed a change and I wanted to run away from that position as fast as I could. Luckily for me, I met a young entrepreneur who proposed I work for him.
I quit my job as an improvised business development manager and started working at trade shows with my new boss. You probably guessed it already, I was a business development manager once again.
We didn't really call it that way, but my tasks were exactly the ones of a business development manager.
But, this time things were a bit different. First, I was selling something people needed. Second, I could actually meet them personally.
Being able to meet my audience allowed me to understand how to talk to them, what mattered to them, and which products they were more interested in.
At that point, I realized that being a business development manager didn't only mean cold calling and scrolling down the yellow pages to find contacts.
After this first eye-opener, I kept following my instinct at work. But I knew there was more to it and I realized I had to find out more about business development.
I was really driven by improving myself, so I started looking around and I found another job. I became a brand ambassador for HousingAnywhere.com, a Dutch startup with operations in Bologna.
Even tho my title wasn’t officially business development manager, my tasks perfectly matched this description.
I still had some sales tasks as I was generating supplies for our marketplace. But I expanded my skills by working also on the demand side.
My job now entailed sales, marketing, and a big part of strategic partnerships. For the first time, I was fully in charge of my market.
During my term as business development manager, Bologna became the top performer among all our cities. All thanks to the synergy I managed to create between partners, customers, and end users.
This success made me extremely proud and I experienced for the first time the magic of business development.
I wasn't just a salesperson anymore. I became the reason why a city like Bologna became the best one among huge cities like Amsterdam, London, and Paris.
That was a turning point and I realized that my big aspiration in life was not just selling something, but creating an ecosystem which everyone would benefit from.
Working as a business development manager was like having a white canvas and having the complete freedom to draw whatever I wanted on it.
This job I deeply hated, slowly became my main passion. And I was ready to explore how far I could go and discover my limits.
HousingAnywhere became the playground where I could experiment and learn more about business development. But the truth is, I was really learning about myself.
During my time in management, I came across the more strategic side of business development. Being a startup we were still trying to figure out how to shape the company.
We organized strategic sessions where we brainstormed all the possible ways to make it happen. We were so passionate that we didn't care how much time we would spend on it.
Our efforts led me to build our first sales and support teams along with our founder. It also allowed me to talk to some very big companies, attend conferences overseas, and be a speaker at industry events.
There I had a grasp of what developing a business really meant. You can't just do sales or marketing or networking.
Up until this point, I was still very raw in my actions. I was just doing things based on common sense and it worked.
But I wanted to become more "sophisticated. I wanted to learn how other people were working as business development managers. Learning by doing was not an option anymore.
If I wanted to become a top business development manager I had to step up my game. I had to start reading and learning from more successful people in the field.
Since reading is a big passion of mine, I decided a book would be a good start. I read my first business-related book and it opened a whole new world just in front of my eyes.
This was just in 2017 and ever since my career skyrocketed. I was able to quit my job, be fully independent and best thing of all, work on cool projects to help companies uncover their potential.
When I look back at that 19-year-old girl, completely unaware of the basic concepts she was using I feel very proud. I managed to build a career abroad starting from zero and everyone should be proud of such an achievement.
But this doesn't prevent me to have a very self-critical eye and a huge regret which is not having started this path of self-improvement earlier.
I can't stop thinking that if I would have been more humble and realized the importance of learning from others, I could have enjoyed this status for much longer.
But as they say, better late than never, so here I am trying to inspire the newer generation to take advantage of the amount of knowledge out there.
Push through the daily challenges, enjoy the small victories, and most importantly, stay humble and be open to learning from other experienced business development managers.
To make it easier for you, we created The BD School: the first platform entirely dedicated to business development.
Our mission is to help ambitious BD pros feel less lonely and learn the skills they need to be successful in their job.
If you're looking for a complete course to help you advance your career, check out our Business Development Course.
And if you manage a business development team and need help making them more effective, visit our corporate training for teams.