10 Common business development activities

October 6, 2021
Career growth
10 Common business development activities

Common business development activities you should be doing. Check this shortlist to organize your work and get results.

If you work in business development and you often wonder what activities you should be focusing on, you came to the right place. And you will be happy to know that you’re not the only one to struggle to create a successful plan of action.

In fact, we found out that the majority of business development pros have a hard time even explaining what they do. Why is that?

The main reason is that business development tends to be quite complex as a field. As a quick recap, we define business development:

A set of tasks and processes meant to develop and implement growth opportunities within and between organizations in a sustainable way.

I know…it’s not very straightforward, right?

And that’s the issue with business development. In a field in which you have so many choices, it becomes easy to freeze and not be able to focus on the right activities.

Nevertheless, good business developers exist and the only reason why they are successful is that they identified the right business development activities they should be doing.

We got curious and wanted to understand their recipe for success, so we interviewed thousands of them and they helped us map out for you the 10 most common business development activities you should be working on.

Here is the shortlist:

  1. Research, research, research
  2. Ecosystem mapping
  3. Spot growth opportunities
  4. Idea generation
  5. Experimentation ideas
  6. Lead generation
  7. Prospecting
  8. Project management
  9. Strategic partnership management
  10. Analyze data

Let’s dive deeper into these common business development activities that will help you become a better business development pro.

The business development school - 10 Common Business Development Activities

     The BD School – 10 Common Business Development Activities

1 – Research, research, research

The first step to creating a successful plan of action is to spend time understanding your environment. It’s important you allocate part of your time to researching your market, industry, competitors, and of course…customers!

After all, you can’t be successful at something you don’t fully understand.

Run complete market research or whenever available, read the one your company already did in the past. Ask dumb questions to Google to understand the size of your market, the relevant trends, and anything in between that can help you move forward.

Of course, you’re not alone in trying to conquer the market, so make sure you dedicate time to analyzing your competitors. Your competitors are a great source of inspiration and can help you identify new growth opportunities.

A cool trick you can use when researching your competitors is to look at the negative reviews of their customers. You’ll find golden opportunities to differentiate yourself and provide something your customers want.

Last, of course, you need to research your customers and really understand what they need and find out how your product or service actually helps them.

2 – Ecosystem mapping

Second, in the list of most common business development activities is ecosystem mapping. Once you have a clear idea of how you position yourself in the market, you need to identify relevant stakeholders that can help you achieve your goals.

Think about all the potential individuals and organizations that can bring you closer to your end customers and work on building strong relationships with them. Generally speaking, you should look at institutions, media, companies offering complementary services to yours, or influencers.

But of course, each company is a story on its own, so you need to dig deeper and find specific stakeholders relevant to your case. And of course, it’s not just about you finding quick ways to get results.

Building an ecosystem means understanding what your stakeholders need and making sure you can bring value to their organizations.

A well-developed ecosystem amplifies your impact on the market and will help you get results quicker.

3 – Spot growth opportunities

One of the most common business development activities is, of course, spotting growth opportunities. That’s pretty much the reason you’ve been hired for.

Although, also one of the most difficult to wrap your head around. How does that work? How do you find opportunities? What’s an opportunity anyway?

Opportunities are literally everywhere, but you need a process to be able to actually see them. One best practice is to look at new trends emerging in the market and think of ways your business can benefit from them.

For example, earlier this year, the whole world went crazy on Clubhouse, the app where you could listen to real-time conversations and interact with your favorite people.

It grew extremely fast going from 2 million users in January 2021, to 10 million just 5 months later. Of course, many companies jumped on it, increasing their reach basically overnight. Good business developers like our student Erica Pew saw the opportunity too.

She used Clubhouse to establish herself as the go-to person in the events space in the UK. Erica went on to be nominated for the BD100 Awards, a prestigious accolade in the UK creative industry, and landing a position as Client Service Director for an award-winning Creative Event Agency.

Don’t stop at trends. Talk to your customers, analyze content on social media, go to events, analyze old unsuccessful deals, ask your partners, and so on. The main point is that you need to think out of the box and not restrict yourself to safe activities you’ve been doing forever.

Get creative and let opportunities come to you!

4 – Idea generation

Now that you have identified some good opportunities, you need to think of ideas to realize them in real life. Keep in mind that an opportunity by itself doesn’t mean you’ll grow your business. You need to leverage the opportunity and adapt it to your specific case.

You might be thinking: I’m not very creative, I don’t get the famous great ideas under the shower…what do I do?

The good news is that idea generation is a process and there are plenty of tools you can use to come up with great ideas. For example, you can use mindmaps to lay down your thoughts and connect different concepts into innovative ideas.

Another tool you can use is collaborative innovation which consists of discussing topics with others who might have different views than you. The combination of the different insights will help you reach new, unexplored conclusions.

Or, if you like freedom, you can try the Blue-Sky Thinking approach which literally means brainstorming without any sort of limit. The idea behind this approach is to help you remove boundaries and look at your challenges in a different way.

The only thing that really matters when it comes to idea generation is to keep an open mind and use creative thinking.

Listen to this podcast for inspiration: Creativity in Business development

5 – Experimentation

Idea generation is the first step of another common business development activity which is experimentation. Because although your ideas might look great, you can only know they work if you test them.

Experimenting means dissecting your idea, understanding what you want to achieve with it, and preparing a plan of action to execute it. And of course, you need to make sure you monitor your experiment to see if you’re getting closer to your goals.

There are many types of business development experiments you can run. For example, you can open up a new channel that you never tried before to reach out to your audience. Or you can improve your emails and run some A/B tests to see what works best with your stakeholders.

Once you have some results from your experiments, make sure to scale the activities that brought you the best results and ditch the ones that were not successful.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a process in place to validate your assumptions!

6 – Prospecting

Next in the list of common business development activities is prospecting which is the process of looking for contact information of relevant stakeholders and getting in touch with them.

Prospecting is also one of the activities that gives the most headaches to many business developers. It’s very common to contact hundreds of people and not really get results. This usually happens when you don’t have a clear target in mind.

The key to successful prospecting is having a clear customer profile in mind and knowing exactly what are their pains and needs. You also need to create great value propositions which help your prospects understand how your product or service can help them achieve their goals.

There are many strategies you can use when prospecting and the most used are cold calls, cold emails, and cold outreach on social media. And of course, there are plenty of tools you can use to automate some parts of the process, for example finding email addresses of phone numbers.

One of our favourite tools is Hunter but you can find an extensive list of business development tools at this link. But we recommend you to do the process manually first and only when you get good results, automate it.

Tools are great to enhance what works, but if your process sucks, they will only harm you: use them with care!

7 – Lead generation

Lead generation is one of the most common business development activities and it means generate interests from relevant stakeholders in what you do. In short, it’s not enough to have a long list of emails that you contact every day.

To be a lead, your contacts need to express a genuine interest in your product or service.

Lead generation can either be outbound or inbound. Outbound leads are generated when you contact relevant stakeholders, while inbound leads are the ones that contact you first.

There are benefits in both processes. Having an outbound lead generation process will give you control and will help you better forecast your results. You can always contact more people or imrpove your approach and it’s entirely up to you.

One big downside of outbound lead generation is exactly timing. Because not all companies you contact may need your service right now and this comes with rejection, which can be tough on many of us. But it’s important not to take rejection to heart. If you struggle with that, probably this article will help you put things in perspective.

On the other hand, inbound lead generation will give you more relevant leads who are currently looking for your solution. This makes the process easier as it removes the timing barrier. They’re there for you and your job is to educate them and help them find the right solution.

An effective business development strategy includes both processes. Make sure you have a good balance!

8 – Project management

Business developers need to be excellent project managers. This is because you will work on many different tasks involving many different people. As a business developer, you need to have great time management and organizational skills.

Besides, you need to be great at communicating with other departments or external stakeholders in order to achieve your targets. Of course, you should also be great at documenting processes so that you can easily scale the activities that bring the best results.

As usual, there are many collaborative tools you can use to help yourself. Our favourite is Trello which is very intuitive and easy to use to manage complex projects. Our tool stack includes also Miro, Hubspot, and Canva helping our business development team have a clear overview of their tasks and better collaborate with the marketing and design team.

9 – Partnership management

As a business developer, the essence of your role is in building and maintaining partnerships. It’s important to build a solid process for partnership management so you can achieve your target.

Finding the right partners always start by setting clear goals for yourself in order to find the best stakeholders that will help you reach them. Once you set your goals, you can get in touch with potential partners and identify the best ones.

Strategic partnerships involve a good deal of negotiation and building trust, so you need to be good at asking questions, active listening and of course, negotiation! Partnerships can really help you skyrocket your results, but only if they are win-win.

You need to find out what’s important for your partners and create a proposal that makes both of you satisfied.

10 – Analyze data

Last in the list of common business development activities is analyzing data. Very often business developers feel like they have to justify their roles because they don’t seem to have results. You know, when your boss is constantly asking you what you’re actually doing and you have no clue of how to handle it!

That’s never a good position to be in, but there is a solution which is looking at the data and let them speak for you. Of course, when you work on many different tasks, many of which long-term, it can be a daunting task.

However, there is a way to measure any business development activity and the secret is to identify tangible KPIs for each of them. Basically, you need to attach a number!

For example, if your job is to find partners, then you can measure how many potential partners you contact in a month and how many of them actually decide to work with you.

After keeping track of your activities, consolidate the findings into reports so you can get a better overview of your activities. From here, you can optimise your efforts to be more effective, accurate, and efficient.

If you would like to learn an easy step-by-step process to measure your activities and show your value to your boss, all you have to do is to watch our webinar on this topic.

But that’s not all!

By joining our course, you’ll get access to 1000+ hours of practical and actionable content delivered by experts in the field. You will improve your skills and you will learn how to generate more leads and increase revenue for your business.

So your boss will never question your presence again!

Enrol to the certification program today.

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