Well-planned business development is crucial to the success of small or medium-sized entities in the field of biotech and medtech, (digital) health, chemistry/pharmacy and other forms of Life Sciences. Any organisation that puts a lot of time and effort into growing needs dedicates time to business development. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-time position; in small or young companies it often is the CEO, or somebody else in part-time. If business development is not covered by the CEO alone, he/she usually works closely together with the business development unit.
Since it is often very important to thoroughly understand the product and the market (customers being targeted), former and current scientists are valuable employees in the role of business development managers. If you are interested in relations with partners, customers and markets, sales and strategic planning, business development might be for you. Starters and young professionals can make a lateral entry, but often due to lack of experience in business, sales and marketing, many need to learn a lot and sharpen their skills in a short period of time. This article points out important factors, qualities and challenges for business developers
What is business development?
If you ask five people what they think business development is, you will get five different answers. The exact definition and responsibilities vary between different enterprises and different sectors; depending on the exact set-up, team size and distribution, and other factors. A rather broad definition is that business development aims at developing and implementing growth opportunities within (and also between) companies on a long-term basis to create and grow value. It also includes developing strategies to use a company’s USP to the right target group using the right marketing approach, and to acquire new customers as well as bind existing customers to the company. Sounds complicated? Let’s have a closer look.
Long-term strategic planning ...
Business development is concerned with the strategic planning of a business, including its marketing- and sales-plans for (new) markets. It is tempting to assume that by going with the flow and taking opportunities when they come along, goals can somehow be reached. This might be true in the short term, but in the long term every business needs a coherent strategy. The clearer and sharper this strategy is (not only in mind, but also on paper), and the more it is connected to the company culture and values, the more successful it will be.
… with the ability to adapt to new circumstances
It is not enough to develop a business development plan and then stick to it religiously. A good business developer is capable of continuously adjusting and fine-tuning the strategy based on changing (market) conditions and opportunities. Business developers need to be very flexible and versatile, and at the same time have a long-term vision. It is about consistent improvement, not about selling a lot today and nothing in the future. Last but not least it is important to communicate the strategy and integrate all employees in the process. This helps create team spirit, support and loyalty
Know the market, your product and your customers
A comprehensive understanding of the market is indispensable for business developers. This doesn’t only mean knowing the market inside out, but also includes the ability to determine (in the best case even foresee) trends and developments. Only in this way, can a company make the most of all opportunities for its products and stay ahead of competitors. If you are targeting the wrong market or using the wrong approach to get into the right market, you will drown, no matter how great the product or service is. Along with the market come obviously, the customers. In start-ups or scale-ups, usually a big part of the daily business is dealing with customers and sales. This can be in a variety of ways and includes the generation of need leads, but also advising and helping existing clients with their problems and projects. It is indispensable to understand their needs and be able to communicate clearly with them
Connect, network and mingle
There is a saying that having contacts only harms those who don’t have them. This is especially true for business development. The broader the network and the more known, the easier it is to establish strategic partnerships, get referrals, receive support and be aware of upcoming opportunities before others do. Creating visibility for your business and product is important, but you also need to establish a personal connection with your target group. The bigger your outreach, the better. Don’t forget that this is not a one-way street. Others are as interested as you in this; and helping each other out will be beneficial for both sides in most cases.
It all comes with experience
Taken together, business development is not only market analysis, not only sales, not only partnership, not only a fast-moving part of business. It’s rather the combination of all of these, a complicated and fascinating field. True for most jobs, especially in business development experience is key to success. If you make a lateral entry or start fresh in business development, the more and faster you can learn from own experiences and experiences from more senior colleagues or mentors, the more likely you are to thrive and make your business a success.