You’ll hear many MBA graduates and business schools talking about Business Development jobs or just Biz Dev if they want to sound cool. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it can be difficult to grasp what the role of business development manager entails. So we take a detour from talking about GMAT preparation, MBA essay writing and MBA interviews to delve into another MBA careers post. We hope this unravels the enigma behind another exciting post MBA goal.
Though it’s tough to outline precisely answer the question, we’ll take a shot at creating a general definition of business development.
Definition: of Business Development is a set of activities undertaken by a company to ensure the long-term sustainability of its growth and competitive advantage.
Quite a mouthful? Let’s make it more real and digestible.
Business Development isn’t just Sales, though it would include a whole lot of selling. Often, it’s tough for a single company to dominate all aspects of business. So there’s a reliance on building and nurturing partnerships.
Business Development isn’t just about Money, though cash does form the focal element that influences many Biz Dev activities. Apart from Money, companies also need to build respect, credibility and a solid brand.
Business Development isn’t just about short-term results, although demonstrating some quick results is a great way to keep the morale of the Business development team and the company that’s paying their salaries high. Any quick wins that you can win for your company, could be easily replicated by your competitors. So Biz Dev (BD) is about building a bigger moat around your business.
Business Development isn’t about winning at any cost or at the expense of everyone else. This one is linked to the point about having partnerships. However, you might still want others who aren’t part of the partnership, to win with you. For instance, if your business development role helps the overall market size to grow, it may benefit everyone in the industry – including your competitors. And their good work would benefit you too.
Most biz dev strategies revolve around 3 basic areas – Strategy, Sales and Relationship Management.
The simplest approach for a company to grow would be to seize as many opportunities as possible and aggressively put all its power behind it. But that’s not a very wise approach. Why? Because a companies resources are limited. As the business expands, the strain on these limited resources increases. That means Business Development managers have to think strategically about the opportunities that are worth chasing vis-a-vis those that don’t fit the bigger goals of the company.
Taking a cue from the point about partnerships, as the business development manager you need to take your relationships seriously. Whether it’s with your customers, your vendors / suppliers, those who come into the value chain (upstream or downstream), policy makers (lobbying is HUGE in several industries), media and anybody else linked with your industry.
All the brilliant strategic thinking or relationship management techniques mean nothing if it doesn’t translate into Sales. So, sales strategies form the culmination of all that’s happened earlier. You’ll need to identify the buyers and influencers in the industry, and find a way to get to them in the most efficient, impactful and cost-effective manner.
There’s a lot of overlap across these areas, so as the business development manager, you’d probably be working on ideas that span across multiple zones.
In your MBA class, you’ll read plenty of business development case studies from the big companies. Let’s switch tracks and look at something different. At some point in your life, you might want to launch your own company. So let’s use MBA Crystal Ball as the guinea pig to dissect how business development works in a startup setting. Nah, no secrets, happy to share how we think and operate (here’s why).
Since inception, our focus has been on GMAT MBA programs. In India, this is a very niche (and small) field and there are many opportunities for us to consider. Here’s a quick snapshot of what any team in our business could look at.
Opportunity 1: Entering the CAT MBA market which is bigger by many magnitudes. But despite the market and revenue potential, we lack the expertise to provide quality advice in the area of CAT preparation or bschool admissions advisory process. Which is why we’ve said nay to this.
Opportunity 2: Changing our revenue model. Getting commissions from (lower ranked) business schools, rather than charging applicants. The money and growth prospects in this model are huge. But this would mean working in the interest of business bschools, rather than applicants. So we’ve skipped it.
Opportunity 3: GMAT preparation – MBA applicants in India are more likely to pay for test preparation courses rather than MBA consulting. Though there’s plenty of GMAT material on our website, we don’t have an in-house GMAT course yet. But we don’t have the resources yet, so this domain remains empty for now.
Opportunity 4: MS, Mphil, PhD and other (non-MBA) degrees: The skillset required to build a strong application are similar. So we do take up a few non-MBA related admissions assistance service requests.
We think there are other good, ethical and highly professional MBA consultants operating in the GMAT MBA consulting space in India and abroad. We have collaborated with several of them over the years and we’ll continue to do so. In fact, you’ll find guest posts and interviews featuring teams that would conventionally be considered competition for us. We are happy that they found value in being associated with us.
We’ve also regularly featured interviews with Admission Committee Officers from top MBA programs. The reason they agree to it is because it’s Business Development for the business schools as well.
As a startup, when there’s no real brand to rely on and no track record either, it’s easier to use paid promotion (social media advertisements, Google adwords) to get leads. But the effects are short-lived and not sustainable. Also, the quality of paid leads can vary dramatically. So, we adopted the slower and more tedious approach of relying on word-of-mouth publicity.
Btw, if you are wondering, so far we’ve not spent a single rupee on marketing our services.
Being a small, boutique team has it pros and cons. The smaller capacity (con) also translates to lesser focus on sales (pro) and more on the actual advisory work.
Business Development strategies can and should change over time. What’s listed here is our current gameplan. It could evolve over time. Hope our internal business development strategies and techniques help you connect the theory to practice and adapt it for your own (future) business.
In the next post in the series, we’ll look at Business development job description for executive and manager positions.