How to learn business development - The full beginners guide

July 9, 2021
Career growth
How to learn business development - The full beginners guide

Learn how to become a successful business development specialist. Land your dream job with our practical step-by-step guide. With the best skills and tools.

So you are starting your first job as a business development manager. Or maybe you're an entrepreneur building your own startup.

You are probably very excited about this new adventure, and most likely, confused.

Business development seems complicated and you didn't really get training. Where should you even start?

The first good news is that:

You're not alone!

In fact, most of us working in business development had this exact same issue at some point. No training, no easy way to know what you should actually learn. You can easily get frustrated.

That's exactly the reason why at The BD School we created a comprehensive business development course to help you get started with business development.

But, before that, read this guide and we promise, after reading it entirely, you'll have crystal clear ideas on what is business development and how to learn it.

In this practical guide you will learn:

  1. Where to start learning Business Development?
  2. How to learn Business Development?
  3. Tools to learn Business Development
  4. Where can I find Business Development resources?
  5. How to retain Business Development knowledge?

What is business development?

Before diving into how to learn business development let’s make sure we’re aligned on what business development is. Business development is all about finding the best way to find opportunities and grow the company.

This is the most accurate definition of business development:

Business development is a set of tasks and processes meant to develop and implement growth opportunities in a sustainable and profitable way

1 - Where to start learning business development?

First, you need to gain foundational knowledge. This is the base of your learning pyramid and it will help you make informed decisions. Foundational knowledge includes theories, strategies, and basic processes, among other things.

To speed up your process you might consider taking a business development certification. It will help you get this foundational knowledge in a short amount of time.

In the case of business development, it's important that you have a general understanding of 3 elements:

  • How does the business development process look?
  • What are the business development strategies?
  • Which business development skills are most important?

1 - The business development process

The business development process is the activity of mapping out your ecosystem in order to drive growth opportunities.

The BD process consists of 5 main steps:

  1. Run market research
  2. Analyze your competitors
  3. Research your stakeholders
  4. Build value propositions
  5. Identify relevant channels

After you gather all the relevant information, your job is to use it in a smart way so you can be effective in your job.

The business development process is formalized in a tool called "Business Development Plan", which gives you clear instructions on how to gather information in the fastest way possible.

You can download a free copy of our template at this link and you will find a step-by-step process at this link.


2 - The Business Development Strategies

In order to grow your business you can use 6 main business development strategies:

  1. Strategic business development
  2. Product development
  3. Marketing
  4. Sales development
  5. Strategic partnerships
  6. Market entry

3 - The Business Development Skills

The top 10 business development skills you should know are:

  1. Research
  2. Communication
  3. Negotiation
  4. Organization
  5. Learning agility
  6. Creativity
  7. Problem-solving
  8. Business acumen
  9. Project management
  10. Strategic thinking

2 - How to learn Business Development?

Now that you know the basic topics you should learn, you can follow these 9 easy steps to learn business development in an effective way:

1. Talk to someone who has done it before.

We all have learned something on our own at least once. And we made a lot of mistakes along the way. So after we've learned from our mistakes, we're ready to share our timesaving method.

That's why talking to someone who already has the knowledge is a great way to learn BD. Find the right people and ask them for advice. Although business development is a complex subject, someone who has learned it before will have plenty of tips and shortcuts that will help you.

2. Completely get into the learning process

One of the best ways to learn business development is to look at it as a lifestyle. Once you put in place business development as a lifestyle it will become much easier to learn it. Because your mindset will change and you'll become fully immersed in the learning process.

Yet, multitasking is not a good idea when learning BD. When your brain tries to do many things at once, it usually fails at all. Thus, always try to isolate yourself and focus only on one task at a time. That way you will learn much faster and easier.

3. Put in place "short burst" learning

When you're learning about business development, try to do it in short segments. Make sure to take regular breaks from studying. That will help to keep information longer. So not only that you'll learn more but you will also save time.

By learning in short bursts you will learn and maintain your attention much easier. The ideal time is 20 or 30-minute chunks.  Try to keep your learning time in these short blocks. Because if you're learning longer your attention will start to decrease.

4. Write everything down

Once you have written things down, it is much easier to remember them. When you are taking notes you're basically repeating what you've just heard. That repetition will help you to remember the information you've written better.

Also, your mind will mark the information you've written down as worth remembering. So every time when you're learning about BD make sure to take notes and write down as much as you can.

5. Focus on the basics

When learning business development you should build foundational knowledge first. Focus on the most important elements of business development. To, learn about the strategies in business development and the business development process before going any further.

Without basic business development comprehension, you won't be able to upgrade your knowledge later on.

We invite you to check our certification program which will empower you with this exact knowledge to become a successful business development pro.

6. Correct yourself

When we receive feedback that's when we learn the best. If something is right, we continue the great work. But, if something is wrong, we should correct it right away.

That way we won't be learning the wrong things. So every time you learn something new, don't hesitate to ask other BD pros for feedback. That way you will make sure you are on the right path to master business development!

7. Practice, practice, practice!

We all know that practice makes perfect. So practice and repetition should be your best friends when it comes to learning business development. The more you learn and practice BD, the more important it becomes. And it will stay in your memory much longer. Simply that is the way our brains work.

You can always find a mentor, learning buddy, or someone who can help you learn business development. Then you can practice together. And your whole learning experience will be much more fun if you do it together with someone.

8. Explain what you’ve learned to someone else.

If you want to test your BD knowledge, share what you have learned with your peers. Try to explain the recent BD topic you've learned to someone else and try to do so in the simplest way possible.

To be able to explain it you will have to go back to your initial knowledge and rephrase it. And this is one of the best ways to see if you've truly internalized your BD knowledge.

9. Don’t stop learning once you achieve one goal

New knowledge can easily slip away if you stop learning when you achieve one goal. Many people make this mistake on an unconscious level. They think if they have learned something they will know it without constant practice and repetition.

Some of the knowledge will stay memorized, but most of it will evaporate without proper maintenance and refreshment. Yet, that's a big mistake and you should avoid it by any means. So keep learning and refreshing your knowledge even if you’re sure you already know it well.

3 - Tools to learn business development

If you want to start a career in business development the first thing you need to do is to gain knowledge about it. That doesn’t mean only following a formal course at the university. It's about seeking all the possible ways to learn.

Luckily, there are so many of them! For example, you can learn by reading books, watching videos, or listening to podcasts. You can also just talk to the experienced BD pros and learn from their experience.

Another great way to learn about business development is by reading articles about it or participating in business development webinars. You will be able to learn by doing. However, the fastest and most efficient way to learn is by taking business development courses.

If you are just starting your learning journey, use these tools in this order:


1. Free content

Before you spend money on learning business development, look for free content online. Go ahead and find some inspiration on Google and YouTube. This will help you understand what you need to learn.

In this way, you'll be able to focus your efforts instead of wasting time on the wrong things. Moreover, you will have a wide range of formats to choose from, so you can learn what's the most effective for you.

Free content includes blogs, videos, webinars, white papers, podcasts, and social media pages.

2) Books

Books are your best friends when learning anything. They are more thorough than any article you will find online.

Although it seems reading books takes forever, they actually help internalize knowledge. That way you won’t forget important topics. And the knowledge you gain by reading will be stuck in your mind for a long time.

If you need some inspiration check this list with the top 10 books for business development.

3) Connecting with experienced people

Learning from experienced business development pros will open your eyes. Luckily, there are more than enough ways to do so. For instance, you can find interesting people on LinkedIn and learn from their example.

Also, you can join a community of your interests. Do not hesitate and ask for their advice. You’ll surely find a bunch of nice people willing to share their expertise and experience.

There are many ways to connect with other BD pros, for example, by joining a community or attending meetups. You are welcome to join our Business Development Network.

4) Learn by doing

Learning by doing is also known as experiential learning. It is based on the idea that we can learn more when we perform the action. This technique can be an effective learning tool.

When you're actively engaged in a particular activity you have a deeper learning experience. Since learning by doing is more personal and engaging, you can memorize new knowledge better. And even if you make mistakes it's not a big deal as long as you learn from those.

5) Take a business development course

Once you set all your goals and have a clear vision of your career, it’s a good idea to take a course. Formal training will give you confidence and a concrete plan to be successful in your job.

On platforms like Udemy or Coursera, you can find many cheap courses. But be careful, cheap doesn't always mean good. Before investing in a business development course, read through the reviews so you can have better expectations.

Furthermore, have a deep look at the content of the course. Many online courses are actually not about BD, but sales, which is only a small part of business development.

At The BD School, we created a methodology that will teach you business development in all its forms (not just sales). It consists of live, tailored business development training with an actual trainer who's a field expert.

Moreover, you will learn in a very practical way with roleplays, case studies, and exercises that will give you immediate results. At the end of the course, you will be able to build your own BD process and you will have complete confidence in your skills!

Check out the complete overview at this link and don't hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.

4 - Where can I find Business Development resources?

Looking for resources in business development can be a really daunting task. It’s not a surprise since there are so many different resources. And often you don’t know what resources are good and what are not.

Searching for info and then using them to learn business development are engaging activities. Thus, it’s very time-consuming. It takes time and effort to find, check, and use resources to learn about business development in depth.

5 - How to retain business development knowledge?

In today’s competitive world, it's not easy to stand out from the crowd. As a business developer, your skills and knowledge are your greatest assets. So you have to work on keeping them.

Retaining knowledge is crucial for success at work. From time to time we all struggle to remember important information. Yet, it’s possible to boost your memory which will help in keeping your knowledge up to date.

Also, having extensive BD knowledge will give you a professional advantage. Follow these 3 methods to retain your BD skills and knowledge:

  1. Retrieve information

This is the first step toward understanding and retaining knowledge. To retrieve information use spaced repetition technique. If you want to remember what you've learned, let some time pass by before you go through it again.

When learning business development, don’t go over the same topics constantly. Wait a few hours or even a day and then repeat your lessons.

If some topics are easy to remember, you can stop repeating them. Instead, focus on repeating the difficult ones. And don't forget to allow some time to pass by between your learning sessions.

Another great technique is to test yourself. That will help to keep the information you’ve learned.

For instance, when reading, stop often and ask yourself if you can briefly summarize what you've read. Further, after a learning session write down the main takeaways in your own words. Then see what you can remember, without looking back at your notes.

Finally, take your notes by hand. Handwriting is more effective than typing because it's slower and forces you to turn the words you've read into your own.

  1. Create connections

Link your knowledge to bigger perceptions. It’s much easier to remember something if you understand why that is a fact. Once you get the larger theoretical framework, you will retrieve knowledge much more easily.

Connect facts to ideas. You are more likely to remember something if you can link it with related knowledge. For instance, tell yourself a simple story about some BD topic. That will help to keep the fact in your mind even if your story is about something random like a piece of cake.

Self-evaluate your own learning process by asking yourself if you're gaining new knowledge. And if you understand the big concepts of the topic you're learning.

Then reflect on what part of your learning process has worked well and what was less efficient. This will help you to transfer what you’ve learned to new frameworks and situations.

When learning business development, always look for connections between the different topics. Once you see how knowledge fits together into a larger picture, you'll understand its importance. And as a result, you will remember it better.

  1. Try different ways of learning

When learning BD, try to learn the same topic in as many different modes as possible. That will help boost your ability to remember it.

Everyone can learn the same information in different ways. For example, you can learn by looking at images, listening to the other person, or reading a book.

You will never know what works best for you if you don't try all the modes. Yet, there’s no evidence to suggest that learning in your adopted mode is the most efficient. So, try out different modes and test your learning abilities.

You can even come up with a little song about the topic you're learning. Or create a mental image connected to the specific BD topic. Also, try to draw a concept map with all the related ideas.

Time to start learning

Based on our research, it takes on average 9 years to master business development. But now you have all the tools to shorten your learning curve, so you don't have to wait that long!

Make sure you follow all the steps and become a professional business developer!

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