Vice President (VP) of Business Development
5 min read
What Are the Responsibilities of a VP of Business Development?
A VP of Business Development is responsible for establishing business partnerships that will benefit a company’s mission. This role is especially common in enterprise software, SaaS, and media companies.
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding VPs of Business Development is that they’re just another sales executive, like a Sales Director or VP of Sales. This is far from the truth. While sales executives are focused on closing product deals, the VP of Business Development finds, develops, and maintains strategic partnerships with other organizations.
This position may also be known as VP of Partnerships or VP of Strategic Business Development, and they usually report to the VP of Sales, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or even directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
But regardless of the job title and who they report to, most of the duties will be similar. Those duties include:
- Becoming an expert in their company’s products and place in the market
- Performing competitor and SWOT analysis
- Working with the Sales and Marketing departments on key initiatives
- Traveling to industry conferences, business development meetings, and trade shows
- Identifying and vetting potentially fruitful business partners
- Reaching out to promising organizations to suggest mutually-beneficial partnerships
- Negotiating and closing partnership deals (possibly including mergers and acquisitions)
- Onboarding new partners
- Managing the accounts of existing partners
- Discovering new revenue sources for the company
As you can see, there’s a significant overlap with Sales in what a VP of Business Development does, but their objective is securing the right partnerships.
What Skills Does a VP of Business Development Need?
Unlike most other VP- or director-level positions, the VP of Business Development usually operates as an individual, rather than in a leadership role. This means that team management skills are not as important as they would be for other executives at this level. However, the VP of Business Development will still need to possess a comprehensive set of skills and qualities.
Analytical & Math Skills
A major aspect of the VP of Business Development’s responsibilities is finding and evaluating potential partnerships. This will require an aptitude for analyzing the market ecosystem and reliably predicting how other companies might impact the business.
If a VP of Business Development has a team of helpers at all, it will likely be a small one. Because of this, they will need to be able to perform their duties independently for the most part. Good candidates for a VP of Business Development role will be naturally good at working as a lone wolf.
In order to make an effective pitch to a potential partner, the VP of Business Development needs to understand their company’s products and value proposition inside and out. That way, they can explain to prospects why a strategic partnership would be in both of their interests.
As a VP of Business Development, success is all about building and managing relationships with strategic partners. That means they’ll need to be skilled at verbal and written communication. They’ll also need to be able to make a winning pitch over the phone, through a video call, or in person at trade shows and industry conferences.
Just like with traditional sales, establishing partnerships can be a grind. It can take time to make a connection and close deals—if you ever close them at all. VPs of Business Development have to stick at it until the potential partner agrees. And if a deal falls through, they have to be able to get back up and keep going.
Comfort with Travel
A VP of Business Development will need to travel to events across the country—and possibly the world—to discover potential partners. This role is perfect for someone who loves to travel. (Or at least doesn’t hate it.)
What Education Does a VP of Business Development Need?
Companies looking for a VP of Business Development are going to expect candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree. And in most cases, they’ll prefer applicants with a master’s degree. This is a senior executive position, after all.
Relevant fields of study include:
What Is the Career Path of a VP of Business Development?
If you’re interested in becoming a VP of Business Development, you’ll want to start by getting the right education. This will likely mean a bachelor’s degree at the minimum, but a master’s degree will increase your chances of landing a job.
Then, you’ll need to start racking up experience. Once again, this is a senior executive position, so companies will often require that applicants have 10 or more years of related experience before considering them for a VP of Business Development role.
Many VPs of Business Development start in sales, climbing the hierarchy until they reach management positions. After several years in management, they may be able to become a VP of Business Development.
Focusing on honing the skills mentioned above will help you stand out from the crowd when pursuing this career choice. For example, demonstrating strong communication skills and a talent for closing deals in a sales capacity will help you present yourself as a worthy candidate for VP of Business Development.
One of the best ways to plan your career journey is by using a public organizational chart. This will help you see where you stand and how you could progress toward your long-term goals.