What Is a Business Development Manager? (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 10 October 2022

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Working as a business development manager is an excellent way to use your leadership skills and passion for business and commerce. Business development managers hold senior positions within their organisations. If you're thinking about becoming a business development manager, knowing what's required can help you make a more informed decision. In this article, we explain what is a business development manager, what they do, the skills they need to succeed, how to become a business development manager and how much these professionals earn.

What is a business development manager?

A business development manager, sometimes called a business developer manager, helps a business grow and evolve so it increases its profits and reputation over time. They do this by researching and identifying new business opportunities and establishing and managing relationships with clients. They also identify new business markets, partnerships and techniques for appealing to existing markets. They may suggest new products and services that can help the business attract new and existing customers. Some of their common tasks include:

  • Identifying and mapping the business's strengths and its customers' needs

  • Researching local and international industry trends

  • Using research and mapping to develop business plans and growth strategies

  • Researching and cold-calling potential new customers

  • Responding to leads from potential new clients to increase client base

  • Arranging appointments for sales executives to make sales based on generated leads

  • Attending networking events, exhibitions and conferences

  • Advising developers and management on existing and proposed products and services

  • Negotiating, drafting and reviewing business partner contracts

  • Delivering sales reports and predictions

Related: What is Business Development?

What is the average salary for a business development manager?

The average national salary for a business development manager is $101,930 per year. Manager of business development earnings can vary depending on their experience and career history. They may also negotiate better salaries as their career progresses.

Related: 6 Tips for Your Next Salary Negotiation

What skills does a business development manager need?

Business development managers use the following skills to succeed in their careers:

Self-management

As they have leaderships roles, business development managers can motivate themselves to perform duties, such as generating leads and research trends. The best business development managers are goal-orientated people who are self-motivated to meet and exceed key performance indicators. Their desire to achieve their goals helps them stay focused and work efficiently.

Read more: Self-Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Strong interpersonal skills help business development managers interact with people inside and outside their company. These skills help them connect with potential and existing clients. They also use these skills when working closely with sales executives and other department heads.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Verbal and written communication

A business development manager's communication skills help them clearly pass on information to their colleagues and clients. As they communicate with people outside their department regularly, they can know how to explain complex topics in simple terms. They apply their verbal communication skills when speaking directly to people and their written skills when writing proposals and reports.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Business awareness

Keen business awareness helps business development managers understand their company and its products and services. They can also stay aware of local and international developments within their industry. Being aware of their own business and its place in its industry helps them have informed conversations with colleagues and clients.

Commercial acumen

Commercial acumen helps business development managers judge which opportunities should help their businesses grow. This business skill helps business development managers focus on the right opportunities. It also ensures they work efficiently, as they spend time pursuing opportunities that yield the best results.

Negotiation

Negotiation skills help business development managers finalise deals with business partners and entice customers to purchase from their organisation. Applying their negotiation skills to cold calls with customers lays the groundwork for sales representatives to close their deals. They can be perceptive to build rapport and determine quickly how to win people over.

Flexibility

Days are rarely the same for business development managers. Sometimes they work alone and sometimes they work with a team. They may spend time in the office or weeks on the road. Their flexibility helps them adapt to the changes and succeed in all circumstances.

Organisation

Business development managers can manage a variety of growth strategies at once. Organisation skills help them manage all their tasks accurately and effectively. It ensures they follow up all potential leads and never let an opportunity pass by. Strong organisation skills also help business development managers meet their deadlines.

Research

Strong research skills help business development managers identify and understand key local and international industry trends. Their research skills help them identify credible research materials. They also help them synthesise information and retain the key details.

Computer literacy

Business development managers use various software to conduct research, create proposals and reports and map data. They should be confident using Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and leading analysis software such as IBM (Cognos Analytics) and Microsoft Power BI. Business development managers should also feel comfortable using customer relationship management software, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Driving skills

Business development managers travel frequently to attend industry events and meet business partners. While it may involve some air travel, travelling by car to locations in the same state or territory is more common. Many employers insist their business development managers have valid driver's licenses and reliable vehicles so they can drive themselves to events and meetings.

Industry-specific skills

Some business development managers working in special industries may need skills specific to their sector. For example, a business development manager working for a kitchen fixtures distributor can understand building plans. This skill would help them convince potential new clients, including architects and builders, to work with their products.

Related: How to Be a Product Reviewer (Plus Skills and Benefits)

How to become a business development manager

Follow these steps to become a business development manager:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree in business or a related field.

Complete your bachelor's degree in business or a similar topic. Bachelor's degrees in economics, finance and marketing can also prepare you for a career in business development. Your degree program should take four years of full-time study or the part-time equivalent.

2. Gain experience in sales or similar in your preferred industry

Working in sales in your preferred industry provides hands-on experience in client relationships, industry development and business growth. It also helps you understand your industry and develop any industry-specific skills business development managers in this sector need. Focus on developing your sales track record, achieving sales targets and attracting new business to your organisation. Employers hiring business development managers look for candidates who have helped their business grow. If you studied economics, finance or marketing, you may also get relevant experience working for a finance or marketing department in your preferred sector.

3. Apply for business development manager roles

After gaining between three and five years of industry experience, start applying for business development manager roles. Emphasise how you've helped your business grow and your relevant skills, such as research and self-management, when applying and interviewing for positions. Be patient, as some companies prefer hiring business development managers with more than five years' experience. Continue working in sales or a related field and learning about your industry until you secure your dream job.

Example business development manager job description

The following is an example of a business development manager job description you might see when you're applying for these roles:

'Our waste management company requires a business development manager with strong interpersonal skills and the motivation to help our company grow. You should be committed to exceeding sales targets, building strong customer relationships, following up leads and identifying new business opportunities. Our ideal candidate is self-motivated and an expert communicator with proven sales success, including experience in developing markets'.

Related careers

If you're interested in becoming a business development manager, you may also like to consider pursuing one of the following related positions:

  • Sales executive: Sales executives focus on following up leads from business development managers and finalising sales deals.

  • Retail manager: Like business development managers, retail managers focus on helping businesses grow. However, they focus their efforts on a single retailer or retail chain.

  • Operations manager: Operations managers also need strong leadership skills. They apply these skills to manage a business's operations and production processes.

  • Project manager: Like business development managers, project managers also need leadership and drive to succeed. They manage projects and project teams to ensure to effectively meet project goals.

  • Marketing manager: Business development managers interested in how marketing aids business growth may enjoy working as marketing managers. These professionals develop and oversee marketing campaigns to increase a business's profits and customer base.

  • Office manager: Office managers oversee office environments. They are essential for ensuring a business operates smoothly and successfully.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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