Well-planned business development decides over success or failure of small- or medium-sized entities in the field of bio- and medtech, (digital) health, chemistry/pharmacy and all the other varieties of life sciences. Any organisation that puts a lot of effort and time in growing needs to dedicate 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) scientists are valuable employees for 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 due to often little experience with 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?
When 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 their 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 about the strategic planning of a business, including its marketing- and sales-plans for (new) markets.
It is tempting to assume that going with the flow and taking opportunities when they come along, goals can somehow be reached. This might be true for some time, but on the long term every business needs a coherent strategy. The clearer and sharper this strategy (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 to 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 to know the market very well, it also includes the ability to determine (in the best case even foresee) trends and developments. Only this way a company can use all opportunities for the product(s), and be ahead of competitors. If you are targeting the wrong market or using the wrong approach to approach the right market, you will drown, no matter how great the product or service is.
Going alongside the market are obviously the customers. In start- or scale-ups, usually a big part of the daily business is dealing with customers and sales. This can be in a variety of way and includes the generation of need leads, but also advising and helping existing clients with their problems and projects. Also here, 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 the combination of all, 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 the 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.
If you are motivated and driven to grow into a BioBusiness leader role, you probably don’t like to leave your business and professional development to chance but want to take control of your skills and performance. If that applies to you, the Talent Accelerator Programme for BioBusiness is for you. Designed for junior BioBusiness professionals, it offers an intensive training programme of eight months. During this time, you will accelerate your learning curve, learn from peers and receive guidance and mentoring from experienced commercial leaders. Find here more details.