What are business development skills?

Cameron Fleming | 27 April 2021 | 3 years ago

What are business development skills?

Business development has been a critical necessity for businesses since humanity first started trading. The earliest records of business development efforts were oral records as conveyed in the Classic of Poetry of 1100 to 700 years BCE! Traders would conduct performances with bamboo flutes to attract foot traffic, to whom they would try to sell candy.

Sales vs business development

It is important to be cognisant that making sales does not equal business development. Sales are only a part of the “biz dev” picture. With business development, you achieve the delivery and goals of your business strategy through customer-winning differentiation.

Sales is, at its core, a short-term listen and pitch technique. The salesman listens for some key buying signals and then tweaks his ‘pitch’ to include those and tries to close the deal expeditiously.

Business development frequently has a deeper involvement with the client to the point of working on the sales strategy with the client for onselling to their customers. This would be when an experienced business development specialist would introduce or forge new methods to achieve this.

Through this process and subsequent processes, the successful creative solutions will lead to new “projects” with the client that could involve new products, new pricing and new approaches to handle them.

This is not to say that selling is unimportant. Sales is a singular tool within the complex toolbox of business development and has a niche, important function.

The government’s national careers website proposes that a business development manager would require these skills:

  • The ability to sell products and services
  • Knowledge of the English language and/or additional languages if you are an expat abroad
  • The ability to use your initiative
  • Leadership skills (see our Human Relations Management Theory Basics article
  • Maths knowledge
  • Customer service skills
  • Business management skills
  • Strong ambition with a drive to succeed
  • Computer literate with additional literacy in business development software

Foundational business development skills

To become a business development specialist, it is important to have superior foundational business development skills in 7 areas.

  1. Leadership

Leadership and management should not be confused. Leadership is a fundamental attribute of a business development manager/director. As you launch a new customer or project, customers and colleagues will need your leadership with your inspiring vision underpinned by your directions and guidance.

  1. Communication

Communication is not about speaking at others. It is the culmination of multiple skills:

  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Judgement
  • Speaking
  • Writing
The most understated of communication skills are, arguably, listening and observing. These are heavily affected by the judgement of others. However, without absorbing the correct information, you cannot make correct decisions.

  1. Business Acumen

Business acumen can be difficult to quantify. Just by the simple act (not easy act) of curious listening, you expand your business acumen. This requires you to:

  • Actively engage in ongoing conversations with others in the organisation.
  • Ask open-ended questions and soak up the responses. Listen with your mind.
  • Be observant of current challenges.
  • Be observant of matters, topics, or actions that are of great importance to an individual’s pride, honour, or reputation.
  • Make an effort to dig deeper to understand the issues truly.
This will transform routine communication into a tool for expanding your understanding of the business, i.e. your business acumen.

Business acumen is strongly based on awareness – of the business world and how things work. It also has an appreciation for processes and structures within the business.

This powerful trait will help you identify gaps and turn these into opportunities.

  1. Problem Solving

This complements and amplifies business acumen and is not simply about recognising there is a problem. At its core, it is about forging solutions that also make things better to fix and improve. It is a key characteristic of a great business development specialist.

  1. Relationship Building

People buy people. Yes, that sounds like a song title, but it is the nature of business. It doesn’t have to be face to face anymore as the digital world is now an acceptable networking area. The online space is a crucial area within which you need to build relationships with consumers. It is a key performance indicator on your path to success.

  1. Results Orientated 

Winning must mean a lot to you. Do you punch the air when you win at Monopoly? Good. Business development specialists chase the win, especially in the long game. Tenacity to see the process through, long term, in the face of extreme pressure from your peers or adversities.

  1. Self Improvement

Actively learning new techniques and skills is an important tool for keeping ahead of your competitors. It will also benefit you to have an open mind and to accept that change is one of the few things you can bet on in life. Your new techniques and skills will help you deal with unexpected changes.

Business Development skills, knowing how and when to use them

Knowing when to use your skills is the key to leveraging the impact of your business development. For example, you need to be aware of when to sit and listen or when to rise to a challenge and provide leadership to move the process forward.

Customer meetings conducted by a business development executive who does not listen will fail, regardless of how good the offered solution is.

A combination of learning and a high level of self-awareness is powerful, but self-improvement is also a big part of the journey to success. Lastly, techniques deliver success when you are prepared and have planned how you are going to work with your potential customer.

At Business Advice, we pride ourselves in consistently being leaders in business development skills. Learn more on our site today!

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