101 definitions of business development

November 9, 2020
101 definitions of business development

Definitions of business development. It turns out, one is not enough, but 101 will do. Read how other business developers define our field.

What is business development? Let’s be honest, we all asked ourselves this question multiple times. Even after working in the field for many years.

As a matter of fact, business development is a very broad field and sometimes it’s difficult to put it into one shiny box.

I always like to consider the creative side of the business. Because you have almost unlimited opportunities when it comes to growing a business, and the only way to succeed is by getting creative.

Business development is almost an art if you like. And like any other form of art, it’s subject to some level of interpretation.

Therefore, not only the type of activities can vary a lot from one company to another, but also the definition itself can be quite different.

After months of research, we created this definition that summarizes the scope of business development.

This came after asking the community to give us their opinion and share their definition of business development.

The results were both interesting and inspiring and we thought you might like to know how our field is perceived.

So without further ado, check out the 101 definitions of business development.

The mini entrepreneur

One of the most common definitions of business development rotates around its entrepreneurial nature. Indeed, much of our work is finding new opportunities to generate long-term value.

If you agree with these definitions, chances are you consider yourself a mini entrepreneur.

That’s amazing because it allows you to see the business in a broad way and therefore spot opportunities where no one has seen them before!

1. Business Development consists of identifying and exploring new business opportunities by using sales, digital marketing, strategic partnerships, and expansion/internationalization strategies.

2. Finding new sales opportunities, new business areas, and new market trends, and helping the company to reach them.

3. Any activity that helps grow the business in a sustainable way. Making an organization grow through ideation, synthesis, analysis, networking, initiating partnerships, and creating/executing new business plans, closely resembling an entrepreneur.

4. A function that is vital because you are in touch with the world outside and you can grow the company according to how it changes.

5. The long-term addition of value to our company and our customers through strategic sales and marketing activities, partnership and key accounts management, product and service improvement, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

6. Focus on every aspect that concerns a firm: marketing, selling, and coordination.

7. To develop long term value for the business and our clients.

8. When I describe what I do I say that I help the company find ways to cut costs or create new income by recommending changes. However, business development is more than this simple explanation. It’s about helping the company in any way possible.

9. Develop the company in its various department and not only sales.

10. In my opinion, business development is culturing the potential of an enterprise. Enlarging a company’s business capability means growing its revenue and prestige.

11. A combination of sales, strategic analysis, and marketing. It’s developing a company by attracting new clients, establishing new partnerships, identifying new business opportunities, and growing sales from existing accounts.

12. Developing the foundation on which the business stands.

13. Search for business opportunities for your company, market analysis, establish relationships, and close great opportunities.

14. Long-term value creation for the company and the shareholders.

15. Scouting opportunities and maturing them both externally and as an intrapreneur.

16. Make things happen.

17. A function that is geared toward creating new growth opportunities for the company both indirect revenue and in strategic relationships.

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Our trainers can help you lay solid foundations and bring your idea to life.

The people lovers

Business development is highly dependent on human relations. These definitions focus on this aspect and in particular on leveraging connections to achieve business goals.

If you see yourself in these definitions of business development, you are probably a social animal. Someone who finds potential in any new connection and that is able to build meaningful relations pretty quickly.

18. It’s building new relationships for your company, and creating sales or partnerships. But also creating a relationship that might lead to a commitment further down the line.

19. The activity of pursuing strategic opportunities for a particular business or organization. For example by cultivating partnerships or other commercial relationships.

20. Making valuable relationships, either sales or partnerships.

21. Bringing in connections, partnerships, revenue, and new business ideas.

22. Looking for new software solutions, seeking long-term mutually beneficial partnerships, looking for new customers.

23. Create sustainable growth in developing human relationships and respectful processes.

24. Developing relationships with customers based on trust and expertise.

25. Increase revenue and develop partnerships.

26. A way to create win-win relationships with customers & markets with the main aim to generate value for the organization.

The Sherlock Holmes types

A big part of the job of a business developer is research. It’s our responsibility to stay updated with the latest trend, find information about customers, competitors, markets, etc.

I personally love this aspect of business development because I love the adrenaline of discovery. You know…that moment in which you find something very juicy and can’t wait to get to work.

If you see yourself in these definitions of business development, you probably have great investigative skills. A great asset in business development.

27. Business development for me is the creation of new opportunities and looking for clients to work with. In my role, it goes hand in hand with competitive intelligence as we look at which partners our competitors were working with.

28. Due to my profile, it has something to do with finding new needs and solutions to cover these needs.

The international types

An important business development strategy is market entry. Opening up new markets gives you instant access to a new set of opportunities. During my first startup experience, we expanded pretty quickly in many different countries.

I was responsible for 8 of them and it was such an enriching experience. Every market has different dynamics and cultures; it’s challenging at first, but very exciting once you understand your new ecosystem.

If these definitions sound familiar, you’re probably very curious and open-minded. Chances are, you moved abroad or find joy in meeting people from other countries. All very relevant aspects of a successful business development career.

29. The ability to consistently develop and support the business's different target markets along with front-running new initiatives to penetrate new ones. Includes but is not limited to new product development /new market strategy development and front-running proof of concept initiatives to drive sales.

30. Working on new strategic concepts a/o opening up new markets etc.

31. Help companies to improve turnover and scout the best opportunities worldwide

32. Developing sales into new markets or breaking them with new products.

33. Creating or developing new business for a company in new or existing markets.

34. Business expansion/new opportunities exploration.

35. Expand network and opportunities.

36. The skill to discover and nurture new markets and ecosystems.

The innovation types

These definitions of business development focus on innovation. As a matter of fact, as a business developer, you’re constantly innovating. Sometimes it’s just about the way you talk to your stakeholders, other times is about creating something completely new that generates value.

If you get a sparkle in your eyes when you think about innovative solutions, then these definitions are for you!

37. To create new revenue opportunities by converting innovation into value innovation and products and/or services that sell.

38. A clear strategy, clear value proposal, innovation, growth, and profitability.

The psychologist

We said many times, business development is pretty much a people’s lover job. From customers to internal stakeholders our main job is to understand what they’re going through and provide them with a solution.

Sometimes we act as psychologists because we don’t stick to the surface of things. To be effective, we can’t just throw obvious facts at our stakeholders, instead, we need to get to the bottom of things.

In order to achieve this, we need to ask questions, show empathy, and let our interlocutors understand we’re on their side. So for the psychologist business developers out there, you’re doing a great job!

39. Through transparency, knowledge, and trust – working closely with the client to understand their business objectives.

40. Understand, anticipate, create a client need; and bring or help create the solution.

41. Helping prospects define their true needs. Identifying opportunities and designing the correct introduction and approach. Closing.

42. Helping to find solutions and working with your customers to develop their business.

43. Finding solutions for customers and internal needs to ensure company growth.

44. Be a fair and efficient middleman and a sincere advisor.

The sales masters

Here is the elephant in the room: business development vs sales! Are these really the same thing?

If you’re a business developer you probably got frustrated more than once when being confused with sales. The truth is, sales is a key activity in growing a business, but business development is not only sales.

This being said, we can’t remove sales from our business development DNA and I’m sure many of you will identify with these definitions of business development.

45. New business for the company = Sales.

46. Commercially driven change in corporate capabilities.

47. Capability to convert leads into customers.

48. Prospection, calls, and meetings.

49. Selling starting with zero clients.

50. Acquiring new customers and deals for the company.

51. Developing a business through sales growth.

52. Sales with little more responsibility.

53. Sales with a certain strategic purpose for networking, product development, new services, and/or other.

54. Winning new business and growing retained client remits.

55. Develop the commercial aspects of the company, from lead generation to internal processes and target definition.

56. Fostering an environment to grow sales opportunity growth.

The marketing peeps

Another very common misconception about business development is that it’s the same as marketing. While we do use some marketing concepts and we definitely collaborate with our colleagues, we are not really marketing specialists.

These definitions of business development highlight the intersection between the two functions.

57. A dynamic merge between marketing and the more classic business roles.

58. Be the ears and eyes of the company I’m working for. Make the company grow by getting new customers and making them stay.

59. Responsible for the growth of the company via commercialization, prospection, and marketing.

60. A mix of marketing, sales, and network.

61. Analyze the Market and act in Sales and Marketing.

The product expert

When I first read these definitions I was a bit surprised to see many people working on products. In my previous experiences, I wasn’t necessarily in touch with the product team, so I decided to dig a bit deeper.

We interviewed the business developers working in product development and everything was suddenly more clear. Because we are in touch with multiple stakeholders and are looking for new trends, we are actually in a great position to give input to the product team.

These definitions of business development focus on the importance of product development as a growth strategy.

62. Developing the company in the sense of creating B2B and B2C connections and using your clients’ feedback to propose new ideas of how the product/service could improve.

63. Everything involved in creating a new business before it is a regular product.

64. Educating the market about a product, sparking their interest.

65. Four fields: growing business through existing clients (adding value, upselling, cross-selling), product/offer development, new clients, and new markets.

The strategic thinkers

Strategic thinking is a key skill for us business developers. We can only spot opportunities if we are aware of what makes the most sense for the business. Thus, having a broad and strategic view of our job really makes a difference.

Of the items below, I particularly like the first one, because it highlights another important aspect that our colleague defined as “savoir-faire”. I like to translate this word into deep knowledge about my ecosystem that enables me to say the right thing at the right time and reach my goals.

66. Strategic thinking combined with savoir-faire.

67. Daily work. Push, push, push. 70% transpiration 30% savoir-faire.

68. The activity of pursuing strategic opportunities for a particular business or organization with measurable results.

69. Challenging and unpredictable field, therefore you need to be highly strategic to be efficient.

70. A strategic structured system of tools to frame and influence growth.

71. Aim to never close a door, the most important feature is to be open and helpful – even when under a lot of pressure.

72. I think business development is about developing strategies and commercial ideas/opportunities in order to pursue your business goals.

The Optimizers

One thing I love about business development is opening new opportunities and testing ideas. Sometimes though it doesn’t work and when this happens I get frustrated at first.

But after a few minutes of initial “shock”, I like to think of ways to optimize that idea and test it again. Many of the successful tactics I used came precisely from this optimization.

Sometimes we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just have to tweak it!

73. Identify opportunities for improvement and growth, and work on realizing them.

74. Find new areas for business, create value for customers, trend scouting, anticipate technology and market developments, and competitive intelligence.

75. Optimization, smarter thinking, and differentiation.

76. Expanding and exploring business opportunities.

77. Identifying improvement areas in processes and systems to allow for more efficient and accurate business analysis to assist in more informed decision-making at the highest levels of management.

78. To build or optimize (if already existing) a company.

79. For us, it’s to develop the old business into a new one, to include more software and services, and to help the customer to emancipate more time for tasks that are more critical to them.

80. Create a system and process for support business.

81. Making processes easier, evolving the company, and relationships but always for business advantage.

82. A tool or framework to build statistics and support for guiding your business’s decisions.

83. The activities you do to develop and improve your company’s offering to the market.

84. Going beyond an economical result-driven point of sight and adding perspectives to optimize and customize a business field. Ressources. People. In a dynamic change and chance-oriented surrounding.

The Artists

Business development is definitely not an exact science. Surely we can use tools, automation, and data to be effective, but only to a certain extent. In everything we do, we rely on unpredictable human beings and that does have an impact.

We can however consider business development more like an art. You have a very wide range of colors to mix up, but only certain combinations will look great.

If you want, we could say that our job consists of choosing the right colors to create a beautiful painting that will last for a very long time!

85. Business Development is an art that requires different skills.

86. Establishing out-of-the-box commercial opportunities.

87. Find a creative way to do more business.

88. It’s the art of combining market research+new customer development+sales planning and operations support.

89. The art of realizing something impossible at first.

If you don't feel very creative and you're stuck with tactics that don't work, you should consider joining our 5-week course.

We will help you exercise your creativity and become a more effective business development pro.

The problem solver

The best companies out there are the ones solving a real, incumbent problem for people. As business developers, we are there to make sure these companies keep growing.

Problem-solving is a great skill to have because it helps uncover the real needs of our stakeholders and provide them with the right solution!

90. Solving problems to improve or expand businesses.

91. Trying to find new answers to customer problems and new income streams for my company.

The sexy types

When I read this definition I smiled, but I couldn’t agree more. Effective business development professionals are actually “charming“:

They make you fall in love with their solutions!

92. Seduction, conviction, and quality of argumentation.

The burglars

As business development, we are not burglars but there is some truth in this definition. I experience business development in different roles, as an individual contributor, manager, and consultant.

Especially in this last shape, I definitely see where the definition below comes from.

When you’re external to the company, your job is indeed to look with different eyes and help your clients unleash their potential.

93. Enter the house of “the others” and do things in “the correct way”.

The nurse

My nickname for a while was Florence Nightingale, so this definition totally resonated with me. The biggest accomplishment for me is seeing that my work has a positive impact on people.

Maybe I love so much business development exactly because of that!

94. Business developers are forward fighters from our companies. We want to bring solutions to customers, and make them happy, many times, despite themselves. We are a kind of nurse!

95. Really caring about my partners and customers. That’s the only way to sustainable growth.

The negotiator

Being a business developer is challenging and sometimes part of our job is explaining to others what we’re actually doing.

Over time I embraced this aspect and now I try to be as proactive as possible in explaining this field. Part of the challenge was learning to negotiate better so I could put into practice my ideas.

But for a long time, it was very frustrated having to justify my work to everyone. I know many of you feel the same and these definitions of business development definitely speak the truth.

96. Looking forward and try to convince your boss and colleagues.

97. Using the right arguments to convince partners, customers, and internal stakeholders in order to develop growth opportunities and reach my business goals.

The hustler

Last, I decided to leave the hustlers as last. To celebrate even more this very important trait of business development. We can have the fanciest titles in the world, but to be good in our field we need to do the dirty work.

Every new opportunity requires focus and hard work, at any level. Embrace the hustle and be ready to enjoy the rewards!

98. Working hard, every single day

99. For me, business development is not accepting failure and keep trying until I find a way to achieve my goals

100. Being the eyes, arms, legs, and mouth of a company.

101. I see it as the spine of a Business, if it breaks, the business stops functioning.

Want to learn more?

Business development used to be a mystery for many of us. That’s why we created The BD School, where you learn business development.

If you’re ready to take your business development skills, explore our course and start growing your career.

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