An Analysis Of Startup Biz Dev Jobs

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Business development (biz dev, BD) is one of those job roles that is often misunderstood, especially in the startup world. Maybe ill-defined is a better term. While I certainly have my own way of viewing biz dev, I want to know how the industry as a whole does. So, over the last month or so, I’ve collected almost fifty BD job postings with the intention of analyzing them to identify patterns. What better way to determine what is expected of today’s biz dev folks?

A little about my super-scientific methodology:

  • I curated 45 job postings, all found online
  • All jobs were located in the U.S.
  • All hiring companies were early-to-mid-stage startups (1-50 employees)
  • Most positions were senior (Sr. Manager / Director / VP)
  • I did my best to avoid BD jobs that were clearly straight sales gigs (commission-based, labeled as “sales”, etc.)

First, I separated all copy used in each posting into two buckets: “job description” (responsibilities, about the position, etc.) and “job skills” (requirements, ideal candidate profile, etc.). I deleted some fluff words that kept reappearing like “the”, “work”, “business”, “development”, and so on. Then I turned each bucket into a word cloud:

Biz Dev Job Description Word Cloud

Descrip 3

Biz Dev Job Skills Word Cloud

Skills 3

Next, I selected many of the most-used words in each bucket and tallied how often they appeared in the job postings.

Biz Dev Job Description Keywords

Biz Dev Job Descriptions

Biz Dev Job Skills Keywords

Biz Dev Job Skills

To provide a little more context, below are some common uses of these words in the postings:

  • Manage key relationships / vendors / partners
  • Manage strategy and execution of XYZ
  • Manage the pipeline
  • Manage XYZ team / team member
  • Collaborate with sales team
  • Create sales messaging / collateral
  • Meet / Establish sales goals
  • Identify / Explore / Attract new opportunities and accounts
  • Proven sales ability / record
  • Comfortable with sales (inbound, outbound, emails, calls)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Lead / Build / Manage a team

Here’s what all this information says to me:

BD Job Descriptions

  • The top words used in job descriptions: manage, sales, team, new
  • “Manage” was expressed primarily through managing teams and the process/pipeline
    • Some mention of managing strategy, but not as often
  • Most mentions of “sales” related to peripheral sales actions, not necessarily a traditional sales position
  • There was strong emphasis on team leadership and management
  • “Revenue” was a little-mentioned term, which supports the aforementioned view of a BD role being less of a direct sales job
  • “Strategy” was another word I saw little of, possibly due to the types of postings I chose (?)
  • I was pleased to see both “relationships” and “product” listed pretty high up the keyword chart
    • The common view of biz dev involves partnership management, and that’s a big time relationship game
    • Even more important, biz dev teams are now expected to work along with product teams to drive growth and squeeze every ounce of value out of partnerships (see my post about APIs)

BD Job Skills

  • The top words used in job skills: sales, communication, team
  • While “sales” was used often, it was not the primary skill identified; rather, most hirers are looking for some sales experience
  • Sales-type skills and processes were highlighted over direct sales experience
  • Not surprisingly, strong verbal and written communication skills were a mainstay in all postings
  • The ability to build, manage, and lead teams is also a crucial skill for BDs
    • As is playing well with other internal teams (product, sales, executive)
  • While “degree” showed up quite often, “MBA” was infrequent
  • “Technical” was not in as high demand as I would have expected, given the product team collaboration noted in the above section
    • I wonder if BDs with some technical chops will begin to surface to the top in the near future
  • “Sales” came up much more often than “marketing”, showing that even though BDs aren’t expected to be used car salesmen, the selling/negotiating/pipeline management part of the job cannot be understated
  • Interestingly, “fun” was mentioned as many times as “strategic” and “analytical” (drinkin’ beers and closin’ deals, baby!)

PS – you can download the word clouds and charts in this post for free on my Slideshare page.

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