Business Development Skills That Employers Value

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Business owners and executives often experience bottlenecks in growth because they fail to see problems forming. Sometimes these unexpected issues develop within an organization, and sometimes they develop outside the organization because of poor customer management. Either way, it helps to have a set of “fresh eyes” come in and identify the problem(s) hindering business growth.

To that end, companies sometimes hire business developers—consultants operating as business development experts. If you seek to work in the field of business development, you will need a certain combination of hard and soft skills. You'll also need to be familiar with specific industries and the company you are helping.

What Are Business Development Skills?

Business developers evaluate a business’s current performance and look for ways that it can improve. They often work as coaches or consultants. Business developers identify opportunities, while carefully building and maintaining long-term relationships with business partners and their affiliates.

While business development jobs don't always require a business degree, it does help, and some employers will require it.

To work in business development, you will need strong skills in English, math, communication, and information technology, and you’ll need prior experience in business management, marketing, or sales.

Types of Business Development Skills

Communication Skills

Business development is all about communication with clients and their customers, from cold-calling prospects to maintaining long-term relationships to sharing information and ideas with colleagues and other stakeholders. That means that business developer must be able to speak and write clearly and confidently, as well as listen with an empathic and open mind so as to be able to address others’ needs and concerns.

  • Collaboration
  • Oral Communication
  • Written Communication
  • Public Speaking
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Active Listening
  • Assertiveness
  • Discernment

Negotiation Skills

Part of business development is convincing other people to do certain things, such as offering assistance, lowering prices, or making investments. There are negative ways to influence people, but the more ethical and effective option is to learn the subtle art of finding common cause and earning trust. That requires prioritization, understanding, and above all, a tactful and genuine demeanor. 

  • Collaboration
  • Persuasion
  • Compassion
  • Active Listening
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Discernment

Strategic Skills

A big part of business development is strategy. You have to be able to plan months, years, and decades ahead. Remember, one role of business development consultants is assessing the current strategy, looking for ways to improve it, and predicting issues down the road. Sound strategy depends on rational thought, a strong sense of priority, and the research skills necessary to understand the situation in depth.

  • Analytical Ability
  • Adaptability
  • Critical Thinking
  • Decision Making
  • Devising Strategic Plans to Expand Sales
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Scenario Planning
  • Project Management
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Teamwork
  • Attention Management
  • Tracking Industry Trends
  • Marketing

Computer Skills

While a business developer need not be able to provide IT support in this day and age, communication, research, and analysis all depend on using computers. Understanding basic programs, such as Microsoft Word, and knowing how to take full advantage of the program’s features, are essential. Poor computer literacy will leave a person less efficient and effective, and less likely to fulfill their potential. Additionally, if your computer skills are poor, your clients will suspect that you are not able to stay “with the times” in business.

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Online Meeting Tools
  • Email Management
  • Marketing Automation Software
  • Search Engine Research
  • Mobile Devices
  • Accounting Software

Project Management

Of course, developing a business is a project. The business itself is the project, so it stands to reason that a good developer will have a lot of the same skills as a project manager. These include the ability to set goals, establish timelines, manage risk, create and stick to budgets, delegate tasks, and manage teams.

  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Six Sigma
  • Creating Milestones
  • Building Mission Statements
  • Identifying Objectives
  • Estimating Costs for Jobs
  • Budgeting
  • Organization
  • Prioritizing

Business Intelligence

Business development requires not only understanding one’s own business, but also that of competitors and of the market as a whole. Part of gaining that understanding is simply researching and listening with an open mind, while another component is collecting and analyzing data. Knowing which market segments respond to what types of campaign, how large the market is, and whether the market is currently changing, will give you an advantage over competitors. That means understanding and staying current with statistics and trends.

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Outbound Marketing
  • Differentiation
  • Customer Segmentation
  • Developing New Business
  • Developing Proposals for Projects
  • Developing Sales Pitches
  • Finance
  • Identifying Benefits of Products and Services from the Customer Perspective
  • Interviewing Current Customers to Assess Satisfaction
  • Managing Leads
  • Managing Competing Demands

More Business Development Skills

  • Articulating Clearly
  • Financial Statements
  • Assertiveness
  • Attention to Detail
  • Client Relations
  • Cold Calling
  • Customer Service
  • Sales
  • Documenting Business Development Activities
  • Drafting Quotes for Projects
  • Facilitating Meetings with Staff and Clients
  • Product Knowledge
  • Persistence
  • Presentation
  • Problem Solving
  • Proposals
  • Promoting Additional Products
  • Providing Input to Product Developers
  • Qualifying Leads
  • Relationship Building
  • Remaining Calm with Agitated Clients
  • Resilience
  • Salesforce
  • Taking Initiative
  • Using Social Media Tools 
  • Working Independently
  • Working the Room at Events
  • Meeting Deadlines
  • Calendar Management

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

ADD RELEVANT SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: Add the relevant skills you have as keywords in your resume or other application materials.

HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: When you write your cover letter, use relevant skills from the list above to highlight some of your work experience. You may also want to review these lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.

USE SKILL WORDS IN YOUR JOB INTERVIEW: Be prepared to cite in your resume and cover letter examples of when you used the skills you’ve identified.