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Business Development Manager Career Guide

What is a business development manager?

A business development manager works to generate new business opportunities for a company. They focus on increasing revenue, identifying new market opportunities, building and maintaining relationships with partners, clients, and industry stakeholders, and aligning the business development strategy with the organization’s overall strategic objectives.

These professionals play a vital role in driving growth and profitability. They identify expansion opportunities, propose and develop new strategic partnerships, and align their sales and new client acquisition strategy with the company’s goals.

Duties and responsibilities

Business development managers identify and create new business opportunities. They research potential leads, establish relationships with prospective clients or partners, and negotiate contracts.

BDMs also aim to improve the company’s market position, including developing strategies for entering new geographies or verticals and increasing share in existing ones. This work often involves competitive analysis, market research, and customer relationship management.

Additionally, these managers often contribute to product strategies by identifying new opportunities and giving feedback on the product’s market fit. They also frequently work with other departments, such as sales, marketing, and product development.

Work environment

The work environment for business development managers can vary significantly depending on the industry and specific role. They often work in office settings but frequently travel to meet with clients, attend industry events, or visit different parts of the business operation.

BDMs usually work as part of a team, but must be comfortable working independently, particularly when traveling or working with clients and partners.

Typical work hours

Business development managers typically work full-time during standard business hours. Travel, networking events, and deal negotiations can extend beyond the typical workday. It’s not uncommon for them to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. The role requires flexibility and willingness to work extra hours as needed.

How to become a business development manager

To become a business development manager, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Typical degrees include business administration, marketing, finance, or a related field. This education provides a solid foundation in business concepts, marketing strategies, financial analysis, and management techniques.

Step 2: Develop relevant skills

To achieve success in this role, you should develop a variety of skills, including:

  • Strong communication and interpersonal abilities
  • Relationship-building and networking
  • Strategic thinking and planning
  • Financial analysis and forecasting
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Negotiation and persuasion
  • Adaptability and resilience
  • Proficiency in CRM software and Microsoft Office Suite

Step 3: Gain experience

Professional experience is often necessary to secure a job as a manager. Start by looking for entry-level positions or internships in sales, marketing, or account management to build experience and demonstrate skills. As you progress, seek opportunities to manage client accounts, develop business strategies, and work with cross-functional teams to gain a well-rounded skill set.

Step 4: Take additional courses specific to business development

The business world is constantly changing and evolving. Consider taking additional classes to review information and strategies throughout your career. 

Here are some excellent online course options for continuing education:

  • Business Mind – Mastering Business Development is a course from Udemy that covers business development’s product, sales, and marketing perspectives. Topics include growth strategies, service development, and multiple ways to utilize sales and marketing in business development. 
  • If you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, consider Coursera’s Professional Selling course. You will learn the “why” and the “how” of successful sales, as well as the essential skills and techniques that will help you become a successful, high-performing sales person.
  • Focus on relationship building with the Business Development: Grow With Strategic Relationships course. The class teaches strategies for structuring business development deals, negotiating deals, and growing and building relationships. Strong relationships with other businesses can carry long-term benefits and help with growth.

Step 5: Consider industry certifications (optional)

Although not required, obtaining relevant certifications can help to stand out among other candidates and validate skills. Some popular certifications for BDMs include the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) certifications, the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) designation from the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP), and various CRM software certifications (e.g., Salesforce, HubSpot).

Step 6: Network and seek opportunities for advancement

To increase the likelihood of career advancement, attend industry events, join professional associations, and engage in online communities. Networking can lead to job opportunities and help to stay updated on industry trends. Additionally, as you gain experience, seek higher-level business development roles or pursue a sales, marketing, or strategic planning management position.

How much do business development managers make?

The salary of a business development manager can depend on several variables. Educational background, especially a degree in business, marketing, or a related field, can influence earnings. Professional experience, particularly in management, can also significantly impact their income.

Industry can also affect salary. Those in highly competitive industries, such as technology or finance, often earn more due to the complexity and high profitability of these industries.

Geographical location can also be a factor, with higher wages often seen in areas with a high cost of living and a high concentration of businesses, such as in major metropolitan areas.

Additionally, BDMs often earn bonuses or commissions based on performance, which can significantly contribute to total compensation. Please note the figures below represent base salary only.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishers: $132,500
  • Securities Brokerages: $130,200
  • Computer Systems: $127,450
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $124,000
  • Pharmaceutical: $122,100

Highest paying states

  • California: $135,000
  • New York: $130,300
  • Massachusetts: 122,500
  • Virginia: $121,600
  • New Jersey: $121,400

Browse business development manager salary data by market

Types of business development managers

While the primary role is consistent, responsibilities may vary based on the industry, company size, and business model. This career guide section will explore the different types of business development managers.

Strategic partnerships manager

Strategic partnerships build alliances with relevant organizations to achieve business goals. This work might involve collaborating with complementary businesses, non-profit organizations, or government bodies. Strategic managers seek potential partners, negotiate agreements, and manage ongoing relationships.

Channel development manager

Channel development includes managing indirect sales channels with distributors, resellers, affiliates, or franchisees. The role involves identifying potential channel partners, setting up agreements, and supporting partners in selling the company’s products or services.

New business development manager

New business development managers conduct market research, develop entry strategies, and initiate marketing and sales activities to attract new customers. Their entire focus is on identifying and pursuing new markets or customer segments. 

Product development manager

Some companies, especially those in technology or manufacturing industries, focus on product development. These managers work closely with the product management and R&D teams to identify market opportunities for new products, steer product development toward market needs, and launch new products.

International business development manager

International business development managers specialize in expanding a company’s operations to foreign markets. This work requires a deep understanding of international trade regulations, cultural nuances, and market conditions in different countries.

Mergers and acquisitions manager

Some businesses focus on growth through company acquisitions or strategic mergers. The BDM’’s role includes identifying potential acquisition targets, negotiating deals, and managing post-acquisition integration.

Government relations manager

Government relations managers work to establish and maintain a strong relationship between the company and government agencies. They lobby for favorable legislation, secure government contracts, and represent the company’s interests in legislative matters.

Top skills for business development managers

Excelling as a business development manager requires a sound understanding of sales and marketing principles. This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success.

Their primary role involves identifying business opportunities, setting goals, and developing strategies to achieve these goals. Turning a strategic plan into actionable steps and overseeing its execution is critical to ensuring business growth and meeting organizational objectives.

BDMs need exceptional sales and negotiation skills to pitch products or services, negotiate deals, and close sales. Strong abilities in these areas can significantly increase a company’s customer base and revenue.

Robust leadership capabilities are crucial for managing teams and inspiring, motivating, and guiding them toward business goals. Effective leadership fosters a positive work environment, promotes collaboration, and drives the team to excellence.

These professionals must build strong relationships with clients, partners, stakeholders, and internal teams. Proficiency in relationship management can lead to repeat business, productive partnerships, and a more harmonious work environment.

A firm grasp of market research is vital to understand trends, know what competitors are doing, and understand the needs and behaviors of customers. This knowledge can inform strategic decisions and help the company stay competitive.

BDMs also leverage business intelligence tools that provide valuable insights into sales trends, customer behavior, and market dynamics. The ability to interpret and apply these insights can greatly enhance decision-making and contribute to developing more effective growth strategies.

Business development manager career path

The career path for a business development manager usually begins with an entry-level role in sales, marketing, or a related field. This early stage provides fundamental knowledge about market trends, customer needs, and sales strategies, which are crucial for business development.

After gaining experience and demonstrating proficiency, individuals may move to roles like account executive or business development representative. These positions involve managing client relationships, identifying new business opportunities, and potentially meeting sales targets.

With proven success in generating business and building strong customer relationships, they can advance to the BDM position. This role includes creating and executing strategies to increase company revenue, forging strategic partnerships, and leading business development teams.

It is possible to progress from the manager role to senior or executive positions, such as a senior BDM, director of business development, or VP of business development. These roles involve broader strategic responsibilities, overseeing larger teams and contributing significantly to the company’s growth strategies.

At the highest level, individuals could aspire to become a chief business development officer or CEO, responsible for setting the strategic direction of the entire organization and driving its growth.

One of the most significant trends is understanding and leveraging digital technologies, such as data analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, and social media channels. These tools can help identify new business opportunities, enhance customer engagement, and improve decision-making processes.

As businesses operate in an increasingly global environment, BDMs must understand international markets and cultural nuances. They often must develop strategies to penetrate these markets and foster cross-border partnerships.

Another noteworthy trend is the growing emphasis on sustainability in business. Managers are now often tasked with identifying and pursuing opportunities that align with environmental and social sustainability goals.

Employment projections for business development managers

While specific projections are not available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, business development managers are included under the “Sales Managers” category. The employment for this group is projected to grow by 5% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The continued importance of sales in generating revenue and the necessity of solid leadership in navigating the shifting business landscape suggest that the demand for BDMs will remain strong. Those with an excellent understanding of digital tools, international business, and sustainable practices will likely have the best job prospects.

Business development manager career tips

Understand your market and customers

Managers need to understand their market and customers, including market trends, customer or client needs, and the competitive landscape. This insight can help identify growth opportunities, develop effective strategies, and build strong relationships.

Develop strong negotiation skills

Negotiation is a vital part of business development. Whether you’re finalizing a partnership deal, pitching a proposal to a client, or negotiating terms with suppliers, strong negotiation skills can help secure favorable outcomes that benefit the company.

Foster relationships and partnerships

Building and maintaining relationships is at the heart of business development. This work includes networking, establishing partnerships, and maintaining ongoing communication with clients, partners, and other stakeholders. Strong relationships can open doors to new opportunities, enhance the company’s reputation, and drive business growth.

Embrace innovation

In today’s fast-paced business environment, staying ahead of the curve often requires innovative thinking. Find new ways to meet customer needs, explore untapped markets, or leverage emerging technologies. A creative mindset can uncover unique opportunities and give the company a competitive edge.

Continuous learning

Staying updated and enhancing your skills are essential in the dynamic field of business development. Consider:

  • Enrolling in business or leadership training courses
  • Attending industry conferences and webinars
  • Reading books and articles on business strategy, sales, and leadership

Build a professional network

Networking can provide valuable opportunities for learning, collaboration, and career advancement. Here are some professional associations and networks for business development professionals:

  • Association for Strategic Planning (ASP)
  • Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA)
  • Business Networking International (BNI)

Master strategic planning

BDMs are often involved in strategic planning. They set goals, identify opportunities, and develop plans to achieve growth. Mastering strategic planning can help drive a company’s success and significantly impact its direction or development.

Enhance presentation skills

Presenting ideas, strategies, or proposals is a standard part of their role. Enhancing presentation skills can help communicate ideas effectively, influence others, and make a positive impression.

Where the business development manager jobs are

Top companies

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Apple
  • IBM

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


What qualifications are typically required for a business development manager role?

A business development manager generally needs a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or a related field. Some companies may prefer candidates with a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or a related field. In addition, several years of experience in sales, marketing, or related fields are typically required, with a proven track record of generating new business or growing existing accounts.

What skills are important for a business development manager?

Critical skills include strong communication and negotiation skills, building and maintaining relationships, and a good understanding of marketing and sales principles. Strategic thinking and planning skills are crucial for identifying growth opportunities. They should also have good problem-solving skills, a high level of initiative, and the ability to work well under pressure.

What are the typical duties of a business development manager?

Typical duties for managers include identifying and pursuing opportunities for business growth. This work might involve developing relationships with potential new customers, identifying opportunities to sell additional products or services to existing customers, or developing new product markets or channels. They often work closely with sales, marketing, and product teams and may also be involved in strategic planning and forecasting.

What is the role of a business development manager in a company’s growth strategy?

BDMs play a pivotal role in a company’s growth strategy. They are often responsible for identifying and pursuing opportunities for new business, whether finding new customers, entering new markets, or developing new products or services. They also contribute to the company’s strategic planning, helping to set growth targets and develop plans to achieve them.

How does a business development manager work with other teams in the company?

The role often includes working closely with other company teams. BDMs might collaborate with sales to develop strategies for winning new customers, work with marketing on campaigns to promote the company’s products or services, or partner with product teams to create new offerings based on customer needs or market trends.

What’s the difference between a business development manager and a sales manager?

While there can be some overlap between the roles, the focus of a BDM is typically more strategic and longer-term. They identify new business opportunities, develop relationships, and set up deals that the sales team can close. On the other hand, a sales manager is typically more focused on achieving short-term sales targets, managing the sales team, and handling the operational aspects of selling.

What challenges might a business development manager face?

Business development managers can face various challenges, including constantly identifying and pursuing new business opportunities in a competitive market. They may also face challenges when building and maintaining relationships, negotiating deals, and achieving targets. Work often occurs with teams across the company, requiring strong collaboration and communication skills.

What role does a business development manager play in customer relationships?

Customer relationships are vital for success. BDMs often develop relationships with potential customers and work to understand their needs to match them with products or services. They also maintain relationships with existing customers, identifying opportunities to sell additional products or services and ensuring that the customer remains satisfied with the company.

What is the typical career path for a business development manager?

The typical career path might start with roles in sales or marketing to develop a strong understanding of the market and customer needs. After gaining experience as a BDM, it is possible to move into senior business development roles or related areas such as sales or marketing management. Some may eventually move into general management or executive positions.

What opportunities for advancement are there for a business development manager?

With experience and success in the role, a BDM may have the opportunity to advance to senior or director-level positions within business development. They may also be able to move into related areas such as sales management, marketing management, or strategic planning. Eventually, managers can move into top executive roles, such as chief business development officer or chief executive officer, particularly if they have a broad business background and development experience.