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The business development process involves moving leads through your sales pipeline, and can require trying a variety of different methods to reach success. — Getty Images/damircudic

Business development can be a vague term — every small business defines it differently. Some common themes include planning for the future, forming partnerships and adding value to your company and its employees. Business development (also called “biz dev”) is essential for any small business in operation: You have to have a plan for the future and an idea of how to get there.

[Read: How to Create a ‘Biz Dev’ Strategy to Grow Your Business]

Top 3 startup considerations for business development

As fledgling businesses (hopefully) on the brink of success, business development is the way to keep your head above water and allow your business to grow. So, what are some practical considerations for business development as a startup? Consider these three things as you start planning:

  • Audience. Who is your business serving? What do they value?
  • Market opportunity. What is your target market like? Is it expanding? What are your competitors offering?
  • Outreach channels. What methods will you utilize to connect with new clients and partners? Networking, referrals, paid advertising and content marketing are all good places to start.

Communicate with your target audience and learn as much about them as possible.

Steps in the business development process

Overall, the business development process involves moving leads through your sales pipeline. Sales pipelines are an essential part of any small business. Building a sales pipeline, or sales funnel, involves lead generation, nurturing and conversion. In terms of business development, there are six major steps you can follow:

[Read: How to Build a Sales Funnel for Your Business]

  • Targeting: Start with identifying what you have and what you know. This means analyzing your offering, your target audience and your unique selling proposition. This can also involve identifying your own company values and understanding what it is you want to provide in your offering. To get started, you have to know where you stand.
  • Identifying: Analyze your current market and identify the best places and ways to find new customers. Further define your target audience and build an overall profile: Who is using your product or service and what do they value? Once you can flesh out who your target audience is and where they are, you can move on to the next steps in the business development strategy mindset.
  • Positioning: Communicate with your target audience and learn as much about them as possible. Define where their biggest problems are and consider how your product or service can address these issues. Next, work on ways to “position” your company as a solution to what ails your target audience. This is a crucial step in the business development process, as it will serve as the root for your company’s future.
  • Presenting: Make it known that your service or product can solve whatever problem your target audience is facing. Keep in mind that communication is a two-way street, and you should be constantly listening to your audience and analyzing your current offering. Part of presenting means seeing what works and what doesn’t. The idea is with each pitch or conversation, you learn more about how to improve.
  • Closing: This is arguably the most important stage of the business development process. If you can’t close clients, that means you’ve established an effective, but fruitless, process. When closing a sale, ask for their business. Recount the most important points of your offering and re-establish your client’s problem. Then, explain why working with you is their best option.
  • Follow up: No matter what happens with the potential client or partner, follow up and keep in touch with them. This is an essential part of the sales and business development process. There’s no telling what the future will bring, and it’s a good way to practice being a savvy, genuine business person.

Business development can be a challenge for any type of business. Do your best to establish who you are and what you’re providing to your clients. Once you have a target audience, find soft spots and do your best to position your product or service as a solution to their problem. Close new clients and stay in touch, and you’ll be on the right path toward healthy future development.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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