The Interesting Case of Business Development

Business Development is a title that seems to be everywhere, with a job description that seems to span a wide range. So what exactly is it?
Sarah Si
Sarah Si


Image credited to Larry Yap

Many job descriptions for business development positions are vague, leading to confusion among students and graduates. Some even think business development and sales are similar! But they are very different job roles – in reality, business development doesn’t even involve sales!

Read on to find out what business development really is, through the eyes of a Business Development Manager!


TheInterestingCaseofBusinessDevelopment_The Premise

The premise

It’s not uncommon to come across professionals in business development who also dabble in sales and other aspects of running an enterprise. As a matter of fact, many of them supervise either sales or operations on top of developing a business! This is what Larry Yap, Business Development Manager at EP-Tec, does as well.

“As part of business development, I source for the correct products, ensure the team has something to sell on top of making that they have sales, and also ascertain that marketing campaigns translate into enquiries,” he stated.

Although it’s clear that business development drives, and works closely with, these fields, Yap is careful to hold it apart.

“The core of business development involves spending a lot of time networking, though there’s not always a guarantee of getting anything out of it,” he said. “In fact, business development is about finding the correct people to work with, either as partners or future partners.”

In Yap’s case, he prefers to talk to current and potential partners as friends. “I approach them as someone who’s concerned. If a chance to develop the business comes about, I’ll just casually bring up something that you probably need. So, if you need it, just get it from me. That is where you get your development from.”

But all these factors result in an unexpected perk, though, as Yap revealed.

“It’s actually quite fun in that you’re always picking up new know-how in that you’re always looking around for new products that will make people’s lives better. So it’s not a dead-end kind of job.”


TheInterestingCaseofBusinessDevelopment_The Necessary Mindset

The necessary mindset

According to Yap, the mindset needed to get into business development is simple enough: “There are only three things: you must be passionate about what you’re doing, you must be confident about yourself, and you need a correct and cheerful attitude.”

To help you ease into this mindset, there are some things you can do as well. Yap’s advice is to do your homework at home, and bring your best self to work in business development.

Your mindset and attitude is especially important in business development, Yap added, which leads to another point.

“You need to bring adaptability. You need to put your family matters aside and concentrate on your business. After work hours, you can go back to your family.” he advised.

“You must be able to adapt easily. Your mind has to be strong!”


TheInterestingCaseofBusinessDevelopment_Essential skills

Essential skills and characteristics

On top of adaptability, passion and observation skills are other vital skills and characteristics graduates interested in business development need.

“Personally, I tend to observe my client’s body language, like how they sit and how they talk, so I can roughly gauge their interest,” Yap said.

“If you are serious in pursuing business development as a career path, I would suggest that you read up some things on body language – it is a big help, especially when you are networking.”


TheInterestingCaseofBusinessDevelopment_No experience, no problem

No experience? No problem!

To Yap, a lack of experience in business development does not matter. In fact, he himself did not have the relevant experience or qualifications needed when he first took on his role in EP-TEC.

“Before I was even in the audio-visual trade, many years ago, I was doing events,” he explained. It was quite a big jump!”

In the end, it was his passion for technology that won his interviewer over.

“I went for my interview without any background on audio-visuals, but I guess my passion came through, and I was accepted even though I did not have the background at all,” Yap recounted.

“From there, I learned. I read books to gather my knowledge, and when the internet was more mature, I started shifting there to continue adding to, and upkeeping, my knowledge.  In fact, my supervisor, and even my manager, didn’t even tell me “You should read this, you should read that”. I did it all on my own, all because of one thing – my passion for it. It will drive you to gather that knowledge.”

As such, to Yap, passion is far more important than experience, or lack thereof. “Your passion is what will keep you relevant,” he said. “And it will also make it easier for managers to guide you!”

And according to Yap, even if you don’t have much of an idea of what a Business Development Executive does, a little research still goes a long way.

“Being suitable for the job is one thing, but having some knowledge about the company you’re gunning for is another,” he said. “Knowledge will really impress the interviewer!”