4 Keys To Pivoting To A Career In Business Development
“I’m interested in moving into business development, but I have no experience. How can I do that?” Over several decades of leading business development—including recruiting, interviewing and retaining top talent—I’ve heard that question more times than I can count. Most often, this question comes from high-potential internal talent that has grown up in other parts […]
“I’m interested in moving into business development, but I have no experience. How can I do that?” Over several decades of leading business development—including recruiting, interviewing and retaining top talent—I’ve heard that question more times than I can count. Most often, this question comes from high-potential internal talent that has grown up in other parts of the organization—often from customer service but also from operations, IT and PMO roles.
If you're looking to dip your toes into the world of business development professionally, here are four of my recommended starting points.
Understand your "why."
Going into any new career search can feel quite daunting. This is especially true when you're looking to transition from one organizational function area to business development.
The first step is exploring your values and crafting a purpose statement. This can begin with a simple values wheel or purpose exercise. Creating a visual reminder of your purpose statement and how a career transition to business development honors your values can be effective as you begin to plan your process.
In addition, during the interview process, you will certainly have the opportunity to share the introspective work you've done to determine why you're passionate about moving into business development. There are values assessments and tools to help define your purpose available online or through an executive coach.
Request to job shadow.
Ask to work side-by-side and shadow an individual in the department or role that you are targeting. This accomplishes two things: You get to see what the day job is like, and you demonstrate to leadership that you are motivated to do what it takes to learn more about the job.
At times, business development roles can be glamorized. However, they often carry an unusually heavy workload with off-hours, can be fraught with operational details and require significant travel and administrative tasks, including CRM (customer relationship management) updates and expense and mileage reports.
Shadowing is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to demonstrate to hiring leadership that you're truly interested and willing to take the time to learn what it takes to be a high-performing business development individual. Mark my words: The leadership of that department will take notice!
My recommendation is to first approach your leader and advise that you have an interest in job shadowing. Having that individual’s support is critical to ensuring you will be given the time and support to do what is needed while maintaining your daily responsibilities.
Seek out a mentor or coach with business development experience.
Many companies have created formal mentoring programs. It's always a good idea to reach out and see if there's a mentor who would be available for you who has either past or current experience in business development. This individual can be inside or outside of your company.
A mentor can provide unique insights into what it takes to be truly successful in not only landing a job in business development but also being a top performer. A mentor should create a safe place for you to learn a little bit more about business development roles and how your experience is relatable. Internal mentors can also assist in navigating organizational politics and nuances that exist.
An executive coach with experience in business development can also support you in preparing to apply for a role during the interviewing process and negotiating a final offer. Examples include guiding you through values exercises and creating an individualized purpose statement. In addition, most coaches offer career-related assessments that can provide you insight into your strengths and how they relate to the specific position you are considering.
Treat the interview process as your first sale.
Some of the most successful interviews I've held have been with individuals who treat the entire interview process as if they're landing a deal. Here's what I mean by that: These individuals consider a job offer in business development as equivalent to landing a client contract. In doing so, they're demonstrating throughout the interview process that they hold a business development mindset and can be counted on to learn quickly and take an energetically assertive approach toward landing a deal.
Some considerations here include going above and beyond what's required in the interview process. For example, you might come prepared with a mock sales pitch using carefully branded PowerPoints (several AI tools can craft the PowerPoints for you, including fantastic art) or presenting a 30-60-90-day onboarding plan. Of course, I recommend asking each interviewer for the business!
In conclusion, although it's no easy task to pivot your career to business development, some intentional investments by you on the front end will position you well above other candidates. Keep in mind if you don't have direct business development experience today, you may be invited into a lower-level role to give you an opportunity to learn the culture, get to know colleagues and clients and prove yourself while getting a more direct view on those sales roles. My advice to you is to keep an open mind about the entire process and know that with the proper planning and investments, you can make the pivot!
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.