How do you define business development?

Some companies define it as "Partnerships and Alliances" while others define it as "Whatever it takes to Develop the Business".


Business development can be many things.

It really depends on company. In my mind, however, the role of business development is to find new strategic opportunities for the company and start the company on the path to execute (incubation). It is not uncommon for business developers to have a combination of strategy, marketing & sales, finance, legal, and operations background.
Based on my experience in business development,

here's the flavors I've run into (roughly from more to less common):

  • Partnership development
  • Strategic market development and sales
  • Strategic marketing
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and financing
  • New business line exploration
  • Channel sales
  • New product development


Steve Shu specializes in incubating new initiatives with a primary focus on strategy, technology, and behavioral economics. He is author of Inside Nudging: Implementing Behavioral Science Initiatives (to be released June 2016) and The Consulting Apprenticeship: 40 Jump-Start Ideas for You and Your Business.

Function of Business Development

The singular function of business development is to figure out how to  get your product or service into the hands of clients or customers,  ultimately, to increase the value of your business by gaining market  share or directly generating revenue. It's easier to think of business development as a role within an  organization in the context of that function. A business development  role can include a wide range of responsibilities depending on the needs  and stage of a given company.

   One of the most exciting and challenging roles for a BD person is to  help a start up find product-market fit. That might mean one-to-many  'selling' to drive user adoption of the service/product or one-to-one  'selling' to advertisers or licensees. In either case, what makes this  challenging there is little or no process or formula for success. For  example in the later case, it's on the early stage BD person to discover  the practical need and value of the product or service in the  marketplace through trial and error with partners.

  At more established  companies that have reached product market fit, the spectrum of BD roles can vary. It can range from a sales  person with a target/quota that has a BD title because the sale is  considered 'highly consultative' to a more strategic BD person who is  responsible for taking a more broad view of the business and generating  new businesses/revenue streams based on the current businesses assets.

Chuck Reynolds