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What Is a VP of Business Development, Really? by Todd Hand

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What Is a VP of Business Development, Really? by Todd Hand Banner

If you were to ask five different CEO’s what they each looked for as an ideal candidate for VP of Business Development, you would likely receive five different answers. And, some of those answers might even be a little vague. Why? Because the role of VP of Biz Dev is one of the most varied and misunderstood job. Qualifications and experience for all VP of Biz Dev positions are driven primarily by the type of company the role works for, and where that organization is in its lifecycle.

To help explain Biz Dev, let’s first start with what it isn’t; it is not sales, it is not marketing, and, it is not product management. However, the role can, and often does, include functions of each of those responsibilities, as well as others, such as finance and M&A. The full list of responsibilities and job expectations for a VP of Biz Dev depends on several important factors about the company looking to fill this role.

As an executive recruiter for over 20 years, CEOs often ask to brainstorm before launching a search. I strongly encourage these types of discussions. The reason these early conversations are necessary is that they help my clients and me formalize a solid list of desired candidate experience. These conversations are also the right time to address current market conditions and begin to outline talent compensation packages.

Here is an example of a list of questions I might pose to a client looking for a VP of Biz Dev:

1. Does your company already have a biz dev plan in place or do you need to develop one and have the same person execute it? If your organization needs to write a plan then the candidate you’ll be looking for should have strategic planning as well as development experience.

2. Does the hire need to help develop a two-to-five year product roadmap with product management, or is this plan already established?

3. Does your company need this person to be revenue and quota focused?

4. Does your company’s business model rely heavily on partnerships? If so, then the VP of Biz Dev needs to be an expert in discovering who to partner and work with at the C-level of other companies.

5. Creating, negotiating, and maintaining partnerships is a complicated business. Will the VP of Biz Dev be responsible for running partnerships or just partner outreach and exploration?

6. The VP of Biz Dev needs to have commercial smarts and domain knowledge to be able to structure all transactions in the ways that will protect, promote, and enable your company’s interests and profits. Expertise negotiating complex agreements across multiple domains is a critical skill for the role.

Here are some VP of Biz Dev role traits:

1. Often a “lone wolf” and does not manage a big team, so leadership experience is not as important as a strong individual contributor mentality

2. Usually needs to become “black belt” expert in the market – able to map the value chain and ecosystem of clients, partners & competitors

3. Is often the front line to build and establish partnerships which can lead to acquisitions and can sometimes be responsible for M&A corporate development

4. Needs strong analytical and communications skills – able to develop partnership discussions and quickly determine which partners are long-term strategic options and identify which aren’t

5. Requires a lot of travel (hunting for potential partners, attending conferences and tradeshows)

6. Can include channel sales (that would carry a quota), these are more distribution partner oriented, and more tactical than strategic

7. The VP of Biz Dev can also be called VP of Partnerships; the lines becomes blurred when the Biz Dev responsibilities merge within the role of VP of Sales

So, if you’re a CEO, on a company board, or with a private equity group advising a company to find a VP of business development, consider what I’ve set forth: what stage is your company in and what are the specific traits required for the role to be successful?

This article was published on bsgtv.com/blog


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