How to become a business development manager (plus salary)

Updated 18 September 2023

Development and growth are imperative for any business that seeks to increase profits, visibility and streams of revenue. Business development managers oversee the business's development strategy and the meeting of short and long-term goals. If you currently work in business development or would like to find out more about this career, you may benefit from learning how to become a business development manager. In this article, we look at what a business development manager does, explain how to become one, look at the required skills for this position and how much you could earn in this role.

What is a business development manager?

Before learning how to become a business development manager, it's useful to look at what a business development manager does. A business development manager is in charge of overseeing developments relating to the progression of a business. As with many other managerial roles, this role is a senior one. This means that those in business development management positions have worked their way there, by gaining experience, a good reputation and through developing their skills. They're highly sought after in almost any industry, but especially in administrative-based industries. Business development managers are responsible for several duties, including the following:

  • sourcing new clients to grow the business's customer base

  • pitching sales proposals to those in a position of seniority

  • developing relationships with both existing customers and partners

  • creating short and long-term strategic goals to maximise company growth

  • advertising the business to generate interest from both partners and customers

  • assessing the needs of the company and what's necessary for the company to expand

  • monitoring growth targets and milestones to ensure progress is going as anticipated

  • negotiating deals and contracts with partners and stakeholders in the company's interest

Related: The difference between marketing vs business development

How to become a business development manager

If you want to learn how to become a business development manager, there are several components on this career path to consider. This includes learning how to gain the relevant experience and qualifications required for this role. There's no singular path necessary to become a business development manager. It depends on a variety of factors, including the company you intend to develop. But, there's a consistent foundation upon which you can build your business development career. Here are five steps to follow to become a business development manager:

1. Consider your education

Business development managers often don't need a specific educational background. Companies advertising business development manager vacancies typically seek experienced individuals, as opposed to ones with a particular background. Despite this, having previous education that relates to business development management can be beneficial. This is because it provides you with the theoretical knowledge that relates to the core concepts of successful business development and management. Gaining a degree in a relevant subject, such as business management or marketing, can therefore provide you with the opportunity to learn more about the industry you intend to enter.

​​​Related:​​ ​What does a business development manager do in their role?

2. Gain relevant experience

Experience is a large part of what makes a prospective business development manager appealing to potential employers. This is because this role is a senior one. Those in senior positions are usually responsible for managing others, alongside handling complex tasks and important responsibilities.

If a career as a business development manager interests you, there are several ways that you can gain experience. One of the most popular ways is by joining a work experience scheme, such as an internship or apprenticeship. You can also gain experience by applying for entry-level jobs that help you develop core business management skills. An example of such a job is a business administrative assistant.

Related: Business development vs sales: similarities and differences

3. Apply for entry-level roles

Once you have some experience, your next step is to begin applying for entry-level roles within the industry you seek work in. Entry-level roles are beneficial to potential business development managers, as they enable you to not only continue gaining experience but also to refine your business management skills.

The entry-level roles available to you vary, depending on the industry you enter. Within office-based companies, entry-level roles are more likely to be administrative. In administrative roles, tasks include filing paperwork, taking minutes and liaising with the other company departments. Some entry-level roles are more relevant and offer the opportunity for some involvement in business development.

Related: ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What does a school business manager do? (Plus requirements)

4. Consider becoming certified

As this position is a senior one, its salary and perks are higher than that of its entry-level counterparts. There are also usually fewer vacancies available, which means that this role is very competitive. One way to stand out from other candidates is by having relevant certifications. Holding a relevant business development manager certification demonstrates your commitment to the role and is desirable for companies, as it typically means they require less time and resources to train you.

5. Work towards promotion

Becoming a business development manager requires a strong work ethic and ambition. Most business development managers have at least five years of relevant experience and the most competitive openings ask for at least seven years of experience. Once you've gained significant experience, you can either apply for any business development manager vacancies with your current employer or you can look at external opportunities.

Related: What is a senior business development manager

What skills does a business development manager require?

Business development managers utilise a range of different skills. Below, you can find some of the skills required to become a business development manager:

  • Communication: Business development managers frequently work with a large team of people. This means that having excellent written and verbal communication skills are essential.

  • Organisation: Business development managers work on a large range of tasks throughout the day. Having strong organisational skills can help business development managers to keep on top of their workload.

  • Negotiation: Business development managers often liaise with important figures, such as stakeholders and suppliers. This means that having the ability to negotiate a better outcome for their company is critical.

  • Persuasion: Business development managers use their persuasion skills to make changes within the organisation they're working for, alongside building important working relationships with stakeholders.

  • Conflict resolution: Business development managers manage a team of people that may not always get along, so conflict resolution skills allow them to maintain a positive work environment.

  • Research: Business development managers utilise their research and analytical skills to evaluate competitors and determine how the business can outperform them.

  • Project management: Effective business development managers know how to plan and manage projects. This includes setting goals, calculating budgets and analysing any risks involved in the project.

Related: Business development skills: definition and examples

How much does a business development manager earn?

The national average salary of a business development manager is £37,258 per year. As this is the base salary, the earning potential is higher depending on the amount of experience you have. Salaries also vary according to your location, since some cities have a higher cost of living, and employer.

Related: Essential business roles and their responsibilities

What is it like to work as a business development manager?

The majority of business development managers work full-time. This typically is about 37-40 hours a week. Additional hours are occasionally necessary to meet project deadlines. Business development managers are usually expected to wear formal business attire, such as a suit or smart dress. Business development managers spend most of their working hours in an office environment. Depending on the industry they work in, business development managers may visit other environments, such as a construction site.

What are the career progression opportunities for a business development manager?

There are many options available for business development managers that still seek career progression. The most common step is to become a senior business development manager. Senior business development managers have more responsibility than business development managers. Usually, a business development manager reports to the senior business development manager.

Another popular career progression choice for experienced business development managers is to enter the education sector as a lecturer for higher education institutions, such as universities. This allows them to use their knowledge and practical experience to tutor the next generation of business development management professionals.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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