In the early days of your business, you might be able to keep your bottom line in the black through the occasional referral or a little networking.

But if you’re going to hit your long-term growth goals, pretty soon you’ll need to invest in business development (BD) to identify new sales opportunities, keep a finger on the pulse of your market, and hone your pitch.

Whether you’re gearing up to hire your first business development executive or looking to hone your existing strategy, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive guide to biz dev, including:

  • Essential business development skills

  • Steps to building an effective BD strategy

  • The best business development tools

Let’s get into it…

What Is Business Development?

Business development is a process for identifying, attracting, nurturing, and acquiring new customers, with the ultimate goal of driving sales and revenue.

At this point, you might be thinking: “Isn’t that just the same as sales?

Not exactly. Sure, biz dev sits within your wider sales team, but it serves a different function:

  • Sales is about selling your product or service and converting leads into paying customers.

  • Business development is about discovering new opportunities, raising awareness of your brand and product/service, and creating well-researched buyer personas.

Or, to put it another way, business development specialists make life easier for your front-line sales reps.

Essential Business Development Skills

Business development requires a broader skill set than a traditional sales role. The more relevant skills you possess, the more successful your biz dev operation will be.

So what, exactly, are those skills?

Research shows that high-growth firms are more likely to boast the following marketing and business development skills:

Marketing function graph.

  • Project management: Biz dev is a collaborative role that requires close communication with sales and marketing. Your BD team needs strong project management skills to keep all those plates spinning!

  • Simplifying complex concepts: Not all your prospects will be familiar with the internal jargon you use to describe your product or service. They must be able to communicate features and benefits clearly and concisely.

  • Data analytics: A solid understanding of data will help your biz dev team develop stronger buyer personas and identify which promotional tactics work best for your audience, brand, and product.

  • Outreach: Your BD team should be skilled at a range of outreach channels and tactics, from cold email to LinkedIn outreach to cold calling.

  • SEO: Hands-on SEO experience helps business development professionals understand the types of information buyers are looking for (and which of your competitors are providing that information on their websites).

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to tick all those boxes from day #1.

Rather, use these skills to inform your future hiring strategy to give yourself the best chance of building a well-rounded, high-performing business development operation.

9 Steps To Create a Winning Business Development Strategy

Think of your business development strategy as the road map for your biz dev team that outlines the processes and tactics required to hit your growth goals.

Follow these steps to develop your strategy:

1. Define Your Target Audience

Every successful biz dev strategy starts with a clear understanding of the organization’s target audience. Without that understanding, it’s a whole lot harder — maybe even impossible — to achieve all the subsequent steps.

When considering your target audience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which businesses/users are most likely to benefit from your product/service?

  • Are there enough potential customers in that environment to hit your growth goals?

  • Will you be competing with a ton of high-profile, well-established businesses?

This approach should help you create an ideal customer profile that’s specific enough to be useful, without being so specific that you struggle to find relevant prospects.

2. Work on Your Elevator Pitch

Crafting an impactful, persuasive elevator pitch is a key element in converting prospects into leads (and leads into paying customers).

Your pitch should summarize:

  • What your business does

  • What sorts of customers you serve

  • What sets you apart from the competition

The goal here is to spark interest: once a potential customer has heard — or read — your elevator pitch, they should be eager to learn more. To do that, be sure to keep it brief, use specific language, and include a call to action at the end that encourages prospects to respond.

For best results, develop several different pitches and test them to see which resonates most with your buyers.

3. Set SMART Biz Dev Goals

Setting goals helps you measure the effectiveness of your business development strategy and identify areas for improvement.

Make sure your goals are SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Timely

To demonstrate the benefit of this approach, let’s compare a SMART goal to a non-SMART one.

  • Non-SMART: Increase average contract size by 10%.

  • SMART: Increase average contract size by 10% from $30,000 per year by the end of Q4.

Sure, the intention is clearly the same. But the SMART version is more specific and measurable because it includes the company’s current average contract size. Plus it imposes a specific deadline for timeliness.

That way, there’s no room for confusion over whether the goal has been achieved.

4. Carry Out a SWOT Analysis

Keeping on top of your industry and competitors is a key element of the biz dev role. That’s where step #3 — SWOT analysis — comes in. 

A SWOT analysis considers the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your business. Use it in tandem with your SMART goals to give yourself the best chance of hitting your desired objectives.

For example, a SWOT analysis for the goal we outlined in the previous section could look like this:

  • Strengths: Which BD processes and tactics helped you attract and convert your current highest-paying clients? For example, maybe you found all your most valuable customers through cold email.

  • Weaknesses: What internal factors would stop you attracting higher-value clients in future? For example, perhaps your support team lacks the resources to effectively manage larger accounts.

  • Opportunities: Are there any external trends that would contribute to hitting your target? For example, maybe a bunch of large enterprises have recently expanded in your target industry.

  • Threats: By contrast, what external factors could stop you achieving your goal? For example, maybe a disruptor recently entered your niche and undercut your pricing.

5. Conduct Market Research

By this stage, you should already know the types of customers you’re targeting.

Now it’s time to analyze your market to identify rival businesses thatwho sell similar products or services to the same audience.

Conducting market research will help you identify the unique selling points that set you apart from the competition. To give a simple example, if your competitors are more expensive than you, it makes sense to differentiate on price.

If you already have a bunch of paying customers, consider surveying them to understand why they chose you over your rivals.

6. Back- Up SMART Goals With Specific KPIs

You’ve already set one or more SMART goals to measure the effectiveness of your business development strategy. But those goals are too high-level for day-to-day use. Plus they don’t consider the specific actions required to hit your overarching objective. 

That’s why you should set granular key performance indicators (KPIs) to keep you on track toward big-picture goals.

Again, let’s say your SMART goal is about increasing average contract value. In that case, your KPIs could look like this:

  • Find 50+ accounts per day with annual revenue of $2+ million

  • Identify 3+ target prospects at each account

  • Send 50+ introductory cold emails per day to target accounts

  • Achieve 50%+ open rate

  • Achieve 30%+ reply rate

Learn more: How to Write a Cold Email: The Ultimate Guide 

7. Set Your Biz Dev Budget

You might be thinking: “Shouldn’t we have set our budget already?”

The reason we’ve included this step so late in the process is because you want your budget to be as detailed and realistic as possible. And you can’t do that until you’ve assessed market opportunities, researched your audience, and analyzed your competitors.

Because the last thing you want is to underestimate your budget, then find out you can’t afford the necessary business development tools and resources to achieve your goals.

8. Choose Your Outreach Strategy

Defining your outreach strategy is about choosing the method(s) you’ll use to reach and engage potential customers. There are plenty of options, including:

  • Email outreach

  • LinkedIn outreach

  • Cold calling

  • Customer referrals

  • Networking

  • Paid ads

  • SEO

Learn more: Not sure which strategy is right for you? Find out more in our guide: Complete Guide to Successful Lead Generation: Strategies & Tools

9. Set Lead Qualification Criteria

Business development executives deal with a ton of potential customers.

Depending on your sales process, they might handle marketing-qualified leads, identify their own leads through prospecting, or both. So it’s essential they understand what a high-quality lead looks like: an account or individual who could be a good fit for your product or service.

Help them by setting clear criteria that make it easy to sort the good leads from the bad. For example, you might set parameters around:

  • Industry

  • Annual revenue

  • Headcount

  • Location

  • Software use

5 Essential Business Development Tools

You want your BD team to focus on high-value actions, not busy work. That’s why it pays to invest in the following business development tools:

ToolPricingKey Features
QuickMail$49 – $129 per monthMultichannel cold outreach, automated email sequences, personalization at scale
LinkedIn Sales Navigator$99 – $1,600+ per monthProspecting, lead generation, 14+ account filters
ZoomInfoUnlistedProspecting, buyer signals
NeverBounceFrom $0.008 per emailEmail verification, list cleaning
Aircall$30 – $50+ per license per monthCold calling, CRM integrations

1. QuickMail

Homepage Latest image for QuickMail

Pricing: $49 – $129 per month; free trial available

QuickMail is a cold outreach solution that helps biz dev teams attract and engage prospects through multiple channels. Save time and improve results through features like:

  • Automated campaigns: Build multi-step outreach sequences including touchpoints across email, LinkedIn, and cold calling.

campaign steps in quickmail linkedin and email automation

  • Personalized outreach: Increase opens, replies, and conversions by sending personalized emails and LinkedIn messages at scale.

Quickmail Email draft with personalization.

  • Tracking and reporting: Get an at-a-glance view of which campaigns are delivering your best results, including the best days to reach out to prospects.


Learn more: QuickMail pricing

2. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinikedIn Sales Navigator website.

Pricing: $99 – $1,600+ per month

Sales Navigator gives you access to LinkedIn’s database of over 61 million accounts and 1+ billion users, making it the go-to prospecting and lead generation solution for many business development teams. Track down exactly the right prospects using the platform’s 14+ account-level filters.

3. ZoomInfo

Zoominfo website.

Pricing: Unlisted

ZoomInfo is a treasure trove of B2B buyer information. Beyond the basics — name, company, title, contact details — it provides actionable data such as senior hires and new software purchases, helping you reach out at exactly the right time.

4. NeverBounce

Neverbounce website.

Pricing: From $0.008 for up to 10,000 emails

Found a bunch of prospect names and contact details? Before you plug them into a cold outreach  campaign and click “send”, clean the list and verify their email addresses using NeverBounce. It’ll help keep your bounce rate low and your deliverability high.

5. Aircall

Aircall new image

Pricing: $30 – $50+ per license per month

Aircall is an integrated business phone system that helps business development specialists get better results from cold calling in less time. Connect with CRM platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce to easily identify previous call notes, helping your team deliver more personalized experiences.

Learn more: 12 Essential Business Development Tools (2024) 

Enhance Your Business Development Strategy With QuickMail

Effective business development relies on finding effective channels for reaching and engaging prospects. And it also requires access to the latest data so your team can understand where your campaigns are succeeding — and where they’re falling short.

QuickMail can help with both of those key factors. Turn prospects into leads with automated, personalized, multichannel outreach campaigns. Then track the results with our advanced analytics to optimize future performance.

That’s why we think QuickMail is the ultimate business development tool.

But don’t take our word for it.

See for yourself by starting your free trial!