“I do biz dev.”
Few times in history have more ambiguous words been spoken. Ask ten “VPs of Business Development” or similarly business card-ed folks what, exactly, is business development, and you’re like to get just as many answers.
“Business development is hustling,” the startup folks will say, annoyingly.
Lacking any concise explanation of what business development is all about, I sought to unite the varied forces of business development into one comprehensive framework. And eureka, for I have found it – the Grand Unified Theory of business development:
Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.
There is elegance in simplicity, but perhaps this definition leaves you wanting more. At its heart, business development is all about figuring out how the interactions of those forces combine together to create opportunities for growth. But a theorem requires a proper proof, so let’s break that statement down: first, what do I mean by “long-term value?”
The “customers” portion of the definition may be slightly more obvious – customers pay the bills. They are the people who pay you for your products and services, and without them you won’t have any business to develop. But not everyone is a natural customer for your business. Maybe your product doesn’t have the features I’m looking for. Maybe your product is perfect, but I don’t even know your company sells it. Or maybe you’re not reaching me because you’re not knocking on my door.
That’s because customers “live” in specific markets. For example, take the Pet Owners market. The customers who live there, of course, are people who own cats, dogs, fish, etc. Petco is a company that clearly sells to customers who live in the Pet Owners market. I, on the other hand, do not have a pet. I don’t live in the Pet Owner market. So what if Petco wanted to sell something to me? Then they’d need to find a way to enter into a market where I do live.
For example, I have red-hair and pale skin and as such, one of the markets in which I have the misfortune of living in is the “Prone to Spontaneously Combusting When Exposed to the Sun” market. If Petco wanted to sell something to me, perhaps they can find a way to enter into that market by offering sunscreen, hats, or sun-reflecting aluminum foil suits. Now, determining whether that’s a good idea or not for Petco to do so is a job for the business development team – and another story for another blog post.
And then there were “relationships.” Just as the planets and stars rely on gravity to keep them in orbit, any successful business development effort relies on the underlying foundation of strong relationships. Relationships with partners, customers, employees, the press, etc. are all critical to the success of any business development effort and as such they demand a bolded spot in any comprehensive definition of the term.
So, is business development actually sales? Is it partnerships? Is it all about hustling? Well, frankly, yes. It’s all of the above and as we’ll see in future blog posts, it’s much more. It’s a complicated and fascinating discipline that deserves a clear understanding, so that we can marvel at the beauty of a well-done deal as much as the stars.