CAREER PATHWAYS

Looking for the perfect job?
Explore our Career Guides!

Read More

What is a Business Development Manager and How to Become One

By Oluwadamilola Osisanya

Published:

In the ever-evolving world of business, the role of a Business Development Manager (BDM) is crucial for driving growth and fostering strategic partnerships. If you’re passionate about shaping business trajectories and forging impactful connections, but unsure what a Business Development Manager does, read on. This article offers actionable insights to demystify the path to success in this dynamic field. 

Career Summary

Business Development Manager Salary

Business Development Manager Salary

The business development manager salary varies widely depending on experience, industry, and geographic location.

Here are the average business development manager salary figures from Glassdoor.

  • Entry-Level: US$ 98,000
  • Median: US$ 129,000
  • Senior: US$ 174,000

When compared to the national average, which is $59,428 according to Forbes, all business development managers receive a high salary.

What is a Business Development Manager?

A business development manager is a pivotal role within an organization, tasked with the primary objective of driving business growth. Business development managers are strategic thinkers who understand the intricacies of their company’s market and industry, using this knowledge to position their company for expansion and success.

What does a Business Development Manager do?

A business development manager plays a crucial role in the growth and expansion of a company. They are tasked with identifying new business opportunities, whether that means new markets, new partnerships with other businesses, new ways to reach existing markets, or new product or service offerings to meet the needs of existing markets better. 

But what does a business development manager do on a day-to-day basis? They strategize to improve the company’s financial growth, negotiate and close business deals, and foster and develop relationships with customers, suppliers, and other partners.

Business Development Manager Career Progression

  • Junior Business Development Representative: In this role, your focus will be on prospecting new clients and markets, supporting senior business development staff, and learning the basics of sales and marketing strategies.
  • Business Development Representative: Builds on the foundation of the junior role, and you will take on more responsibility for initiating and nurturing client relationships, qualifying leads, and contributing to sales strategies.
  • Business Development Manager – In this key role, you will be responsible for identifying and securing new business opportunities, developing strategic partnerships, and managing relationships with key clients. Involves collaboration with other departments to align business growth efforts with company goals.
  • Senior Business Development Manager: With increased experience, you will take on larger, more complex deals, lead business development teams, and contribute to strategic planning at higher levels. 
  • Business Development Director: You will be involved in overseeing the business development department and setting goals, strategies, and policies. You will also be responsible for major accounts management, strategic partnership development, and contributing to the company’s overall strategy and growth.
  • Vice President of Business Development: This is an executive role involving high-level strategic planning and decision-making. You will lead company-wide business development initiatives and explore new markets, 
  • Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO): At the top of the career ladder, the CBDO is responsible for the overall business development strategy of an organization. 
Business Development Manager Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as a Business Development Manager

  • High potential for career growth and progression within the company.
  • Significant role in shaping the strategic direction of the business.
  • Chance to work closely with senior management and influence decision-making.
  • Competitive salary with performance-based bonuses and incentives.
  • Flexibility in work schedule and potential for travel.

Worst Aspects of Working as a Business Development Manager

  • High levels of stress due to constant pressure to meet growth targets and deadlines.
  • Frequent rejection when pitching to potential clients or partners.
  • Intense competition, both within the industry and sometimes within the same organization.
  • Difficulty in balancing the need for immediate results with the development of long-term strategies.
  • Requirement to constantly adapt to changing market conditions and business strategies.

Essential Business Development Manager Skills

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Communication Skills
  • Analytical Abilities
  • Sales Expertise
  • Project Management

Popular Business Development Manager Specialties

  • Technology and Software
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals
  • Financial Services
  • Energy and Resources
  • Consumer Goods and Retail

How to Become a Business Development Manager

Business Development Manager 5 Steps to Career

Achieving success as a business development manager hinges on a blend of formal education and hands-on experience, laying a foundation for strategic thinking and real-world problem-solving.

Education

Education plays a pivotal role in shaping the foundational skills and knowledge necessary for a successful career as a business development manager.

Do I need a Degree to Become a Business Development Manager?

Yes, a degree is generally required to become a business development manager. Most employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing, finance, or a related field as a minimum educational qualification. 

This foundational education equips individuals with the necessary knowledge of business principles, market analysis, and strategic planning, which are crucial for identifying and leveraging business opportunities. 

While it’s possible to progress in this career through extensive work experience and skills development, a degree significantly enhances your prospects and may be a prerequisite for many positions.

Why is it Important to get a Degree in Business Administration?

Obtaining a degree in business administration is crucial due to the comprehensive understanding it provides of the business world. 

This degree equips individuals with essential skills in strategic planning, market analysis, financial management, and operational efficiencies—core competencies necessary for identifying and capitalizing on new business opportunities. 

It also lays a solid foundation in business principles and practices, enhances problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, and prepares individuals to navigate the complexities of business growth and development strategies effectively. 

Moreover, the degree offers valuable networking opportunities, access to industry insights, and the credibility often required by employers in this competitive field, significantly enhancing one’s career prospects in business development.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree in Business Administration?

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in business administration, which is crucial for aspiring business development managers, generally involves a four-year study period for those enrolled full-time. 

This degree encompasses a comprehensive curriculum focused on key business areas like marketing, finance, management, and economics. It lays the foundational knowledge needed for a successful career in business development.

For individuals targeting higher-level positions or seeking to deepen their expertise, pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a common next step. An MBA usually requires an additional two years of full-time study after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. 

Nonetheless, the duration can vary based on the program structure, such as accelerated or part-time options, which might adjust the completion timeline.

How Much Does It Cost to Study Business Administration at University?

Understanding the cost of studying business administration is crucial for aspiring business development managers, as it forms the foundation of their career path. Pursuing a degree in business administration is a significant investment, with expenses varying based on the choice of institution and the student’s residency status.

For those considering an undergraduate program, average tuition and fees can be expected to be around $9,243 annually for individuals who qualify as state residents at public universities. However, students from outside the state can anticipate costs of approximately $25,950 per year at the same institutions. 

For individuals aiming to enhance further their qualifications through graduate studies, the financial considerations slightly shift. State residents attending public universities can expect to spend about $10,867 on average for tuition and fees, whereas out-of-state students may face charges of around $19,485. 

These figures underscore the financial commitment required to pursue advanced education in business administration, laying the groundwork for a career as a business development manager.

Can I Become a Business Development Manager through Online Education?

Yes, you can become a business development manager through online education. Online programs offer flexibility and accessibility, making it possible for individuals to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills while balancing other commitments. 

Many reputable institutions provide online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business administration, marketing, finance, or related fields, which are essential for a career in business development. 

These programs typically cover core business principles, strategic planning, market analysis, and other relevant topics that prepare students for the challenges of business development roles. Additionally, online education can also facilitate networking opportunities through virtual events and forums, allowing students to build connections that are valuable for career advancement. 

To enhance your prospects further, consider complementing your online degree with relevant work experience, internships, and professional certifications, which can be pursued alongside or after completing your online studies.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Business Development Manager?

To learn the necessary business development manager skills, you can explore a variety of web resources that offer educational content, industry insights, and professional development opportunities.

Here are some valuable resources:

Practical Experience

Practical experience is the cornerstone of success in becoming a business development manager, providing the real-world insights and skills essential for navigating complex market dynamics and fostering strategic partnerships.

What are Internship Opportunities for a Business Development Manager?

Here are some common internship opportunities for individuals aspiring to become business development managers:

  • Sales and Marketing Internship: Many companies offer internships in sales and marketing departments where interns can learn about customer acquisition strategies, market research, lead generation, and sales techniques. 

    These internships provide valuable experience in client interaction and relationship building, which are essential skills for business development roles.
  • Business Strategy Internship: Internships focused on business strategy often involve analyzing market trends and competitive landscape and conducting industry research. Interns may assist in developing business plans, identifying growth opportunities, and evaluating potential partnerships or acquisitions.
  • Market Research Internship: Market research internships involve gathering and analyzing data on customer preferences, market trends, and competitor activities. Interns may conduct surveys, interviews, and data analysis to provide insights that inform business development strategies.
  • Partnership Development Internship: Internships in partnership development involve identifying and establishing relationships with potential partners, such as suppliers, distributors, or complementary businesses. 
  • Product Management Internship: Product management internships focus on understanding customer needs, developing product strategies, and overseeing the product development process. Interns may assist in market research, product planning, and collaborating with cross-functional teams to bring products to market.
  • Startup Internship: Interning at a startup can provide hands-on experience in various aspects of business development, including sales, marketing, strategy, and operations. Startups often offer interns the opportunity to work closely with founders and gain exposure to the fast-paced, dynamic environment of early-stage companies.
  • Consulting Internship: Consulting firms often offer internships where individuals work on projects for client companies across different industries. Business development interns in consulting may be involved in market analysis, competitive benchmarking, and developing growth strategies for clients.
  • Corporate Development Internship: Corporate development internships focus on supporting corporate growth initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and investments. Interns may assist in conducting due diligence, financial analysis, and strategic planning for corporate development activities.

What Skills will I Learn as a Business Development Manager?

As a business development manager, you will develop a diverse set of skills that are essential for identifying opportunities, building relationships, and driving growth for a company.

Here are some key business development manager skills you can expect to learn:

  • Strategic Planning: You’ll learn to develop and execute strategic plans to expand the company’s customer base, enter new markets, and achieve revenue targets.
  • Market Analysis: Understanding market trends, customer needs, and competitor activities is crucial. You’ll learn how to conduct market research and analysis to identify opportunities and make informed decisions.
  • Sales and Negotiation: Business development managers often lead sales efforts and negotiate deals with clients, partners, and suppliers. You’ll develop skills in sales techniques, pitching, and contract negotiation.
  • Relationship Building: Building and maintaining relationships with clients, partners, and stakeholders is essential for success. You’ll learn how to cultivate strong relationships based on trust, communication, and mutual benefit.
  • Networking: Networking skills are crucial for expanding your professional network and identifying business opportunities. You’ll learn how to leverage networking events, industry conferences, and online platforms to connect with potential partners and clients.
  • Communication: Effective communication is key in business development, whether it’s presenting proposals to clients, negotiating deals, or collaborating with internal teams. You’ll develop skills in verbal and written communication, including persuasion and presentation skills.
  • Analytical Skills: Analyzing data and metrics to evaluate the performance of business development initiatives and make data-driven decisions is essential. You’ll learn how to interpret financial reports, sales data, and market research findings.
  • Project Management: Business development managers often oversee complex projects involving multiple stakeholders. You’ll learn how to plan, organize, and execute projects efficiently to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Problem-solving: Business development involves overcoming challenges and finding innovative solutions to achieve business objectives. You’ll develop strong problem-solving skills and the ability to think creatively.
  • Adaptability: Business environments are dynamic and constantly evolving. You’ll learn to adapt to changes in the market, industry trends, and company priorities to stay competitive and seize new opportunities.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Business Development Manager?

The work-life balance of a business development manager can vary significantly depending on the industry, company culture, and individual workload. Business development managers often face high-pressure situations, tight deadlines, and the need to meet ambitious sales targets, which can lead to long hours and occasional periods of intense work. 

Additionally, extensive travel may be required to meet with clients, attend conferences, and explore new market opportunities. However, many business development managers also enjoy flexibility in their schedules, autonomy in managing their workload, and the opportunity to work remotely. 

Achieving a healthy work-life balance in this role often requires effective time management, setting boundaries, and prioritizing tasks to ensure both professional success and personal well-being.

What’s the Career Outlook for a Business Development Manager?

The career outlook for business development managers in the USA is promising. Zippia reported that employment of business development managers is projected to grow 10% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This translates to about 33,700 job openings over the decade​. 

Business Development Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Business Development Manager?

A business development manager (BDM) typically plays a crucial role in identifying new business opportunities, building strategic partnerships, and expanding a company’s client base.

Here are some common job opportunities for individuals with experience and skills in business development:

  • Sales Manager/Director: BDMs often transition into sales management roles where they oversee a team of sales representatives, set sales targets, develop sales strategies, and manage client relationships.
  • Marketing Manager/Director: With their understanding of market trends and customer needs, BDMs may move into marketing management positions where they lead marketing campaigns, conduct market research, and develop marketing strategies to promote products or services.
  • Product Manager: BDMs with a strong understanding of market demands and customer feedback may transition into product management roles where they are responsible for overseeing the development and launch of new products or services.
  • Strategic Partnership Manager: BDMs skilled at building relationships and negotiating deals may pursue roles focused on forming strategic partnerships with other companies or organizations to drive mutual business growth.
  • Business Consultant/Advisor: Experienced BDMs may choose to work as independent consultants or advisors, offering their expertise to businesses seeking guidance on market expansion, sales strategies, or partnership opportunities.
  • Entrepreneur/Startup Founder: BDMs with an entrepreneurial spirit may choose to start their businesses or join startups, leveraging their skills in business development to establish and grow new ventures.
  • Corporate Development Manager: In larger corporations, BDMs may transition into corporate development roles where they focus on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances to drive corporate growth and expansion.
  • International Business Development Manager: BDMs with experience in global markets may pursue opportunities focused on expanding business operations internationally, including market entry strategies, localization efforts, and global partnership development.
  • Customer Success Manager: Some BDMs may transition into customer success roles where they are responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty by providing ongoing support and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

What Type of Companies Hire a Business Development Manager?

Business development managers (BDMs) are sought after by a wide range of companies across various industries.

Here are some types of companies that commonly hire BDMs:

  • Technology Companies: Software companies, IT services firms, and startups in the tech industry often hire BDMs to identify new business opportunities, form strategic partnerships, and drive sales growth.
  • Consulting Firms: Management consulting firms and advisory companies frequently employ BDMs to expand their client base, develop new service offerings, and secure contracts with businesses seeking consulting services.
  • Manufacturing Companies: Manufacturing firms hire BDMs to identify new markets for their products, establish distribution channels, and negotiate contracts with distributors or retailers.
  • Financial Services Firms: Banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and other financial services providers often employ BDMs to acquire new clients, promote financial products, and expand their market share.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and healthcare startups may hire BDMs to explore new business opportunities, forge partnerships with healthcare providers, and drive sales of healthcare products or services.
  • Real Estate Companies: Real estate developers, property management firms, and real estate agencies often hire BDMs to identify potential real estate projects, negotiate deals with property owners or investors, and drive business growth.
  • Hospitality and Tourism Industry: Hotels, resorts, travel agencies, and tour operators may employ BDMs to attract new customers, develop strategic partnerships with travel agents or corporate clients, and expand their market presence.
  • Retail Companies: Retailers, e-commerce businesses, and consumer goods companies hire BDMs to identify new distribution channels, negotiate contracts with wholesalers or retailers, and develop strategies to increase sales.
  • Telecommunications Companies: Telecommunications providers and technology firms in the telecom sector often hire BDMs to identify opportunities for new products or services, forge partnerships with other companies, and expand their customer base.

Should I Become a Business Development Manager?

Deciding to pursue a career as a business development manager is a significant step that requires careful consideration of the factors discussed throughout this article. 

As we’ve explored, the role of a business development manager is complex and multifaceted, involving a blend of strategic analysis, relationship building, and innovative thinking to drive business growth. It’s a position that demands not only a deep understanding of the business landscape but also a unique set of skills and personal attributes.

Before making the decision, it’s crucial to reflect on your interests and skills. Do you thrive in dynamic, fast-paced environments? Are you passionate about identifying and pursuing new business opportunities? Do you have strong analytical abilities combined with excellent communication and interpersonal skills? If your answers lean towards a yes, then a career in business development could be a fulfilling path for you.

Careers Related to Business Development Manager


Oluwadamilola Osisanya

About the Author

Read more articles by Oluwadamilola Osisanya