20+ Best Business Development Interview Questions & Answers

The business development role is increasing in demand. Below are my set of business development interview questions and answers. If you are trying to secure a position with this role, I have to tell you, there’s a great chance you’ll earn a wonderful income as well as continue to develop a career path that you’ll be highly rewarded in. The below business development interview questions and answers are here to help you in your next job interview. There’s a variety of questions that you can use to practice with a friend or family member in your delivery of the questions that might be asked of you during a job interview session. Most likely these sessions will happen in person, with someone part of the executive team. Given the fact that all business development roles are a leadership integrated position, you’ll have more interface with executive teams than you might think.

business development interview questions

The person you might be interviewing with is going to have a really strong knowledge of the company vision, this is someone who knows the future paths of a company by about 12-24 months down the line or sometimes even further. When companies start hiring business development professionals, they are starting to think about large scale deployment of their solutions. This is usually when the company has achieved a certain level of success already. If you have to think about it in terms of revenues, I would say most times you won’t see a company with less than $10M a year in net revenue hiring a business development professional. And if they are, it might mean that they have raised a significant amount of private equity and are planning on getting their solution into the market via direct channels. You being one of those direct channels. Your strong communication skills in this role is vital. You will be a voice of the company, communicating with external executives who have strong clout. If you are unable to show that you can represent the company in way that they appreciate, your chances of securing this job will suffer.

Preparing for this interview means having a type of portfolio of your work in the past. While your portfolio of work most likely won’t be a creative one, it would be advised that you come to the table with some type of metrics and delivery of what you helped achieve. This may include what end solution you made, meaning a real product or an example of the service you executed. But ultimately, your metrics of time it took to procure a relationship and the amount of revenue you achieved from such a relationship will be really strong. Other metrics might include how much time you were able to save your team or something similar. Some type of internal number that showed you were able to represent the market opportunities in ways that not only helped the bottom line but helped the team compete in the market space they’re in, more efficiently.

I would also recommend that you send a healthy amount of time learning about the space and the company you are applying for. Coming to the table without a strong foundation for your own personal guesses as to where the company may be heading will put you at risk of not being able to answer some of the curveball type questions that are asked. And I wouldn’t think of them as curve balls but as questions that sometimes come up in conversation, and are simply part of the natural flow to any sort of human to human interaction. You can learn a lot about a company by looking up their CrunchBase profile, understanding who their investors are as well as learning about what news events have happened recently, not only about their company in particular but the space they are apart of as well. This will just make you seem more informed to the person you are communicating with and help you achieve some common ground with that person to be able to build on.

Before we begin

I often times like to show people how others describe the role they are applying for. I think it can be helpful to see how others speak to the role in particular, which should be something you use and recycle in your own language for the position. Here's a video I found which I think is really insightful. In this video CEO Jason Nazar is going to go over the 10 keys to successful business development. Its great that this is coming from a CEO as well, because this is just the type of leader that you might have to report to.



Why is business development in more demand?

The business development role is becoming more in demand because of the rise of technology companies. Technology companies generally have a larger amount of product and software development talent than they do sales and business development talent. This is a balancing act that is always trying to be achieved by the leadership team. Business development professionals help secure larger sales opportunities as well as funnel those sales opportunities and their needs back to the software engineering department. Thus it helps achieve a better overall product and service while also scaling the sales and revenue of the overall company exponentially. This is what makes the role in large demand. Though, I would say, many call themselves business development professionals but have a difficult time achieving the KPI’s of the role, since it is largely driven by bigger sales/partnership opportunities than the traditional sales role.

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Business Development Interview Questions & Answers

1. What is business development?

Business Development is a fairly new type of role that was created to help intersect the need of the business to move forward with the sales in an evolutionary manner. Business Development not only helps move sales forward but it helps move the overall product and service forward as well. Business Development secures partnerships and opportunities in the market which is addressed by the existing offerings as well the future vision of those offerings.

2. What’s the difference between business development and sales?

Sales is generally defined as a role where the professional helps move the overall revenue of the business forward by a repetitive process or a secured type of offering made by the business. This means there’s generally a particular playbook which the professional can follow in order to deliver something in the market that has been secured. In contrast, on the business development front, this role helps vet new future opportunities in the market which generally can be much bigger in terms of revenue potential. The business development role helps vet these opportunities by securing relationships and vetting their needs even if those needs aren’t immediately addressed by what already exists.

3. What do you do when a client asks for a specific feature that you don’t have?

When a client asks for a particular feature, this is an opportunity to integrate the product development team. Sometimes, a feature may address a small need of the client, which is sometimes good and bad. If the small need is something very specific to that client, then it might not be advantageous to build out that feature unless there’s an agreed-upon revenue figure that makes sense for the business. In particular, you’ll want to ensure that the feature is something that more than just that one client may want to see. That way the entire product and service offering can move in an evolutionary manner.

Related: Business Development Job Description: Salary, Duties, Skills

4. How do you transform your learnings into product?

There’s a variety of ways to take what I learn and transform it into potential product development. The best way I can help the product development team is to essentially build a matrix of the questions and/or desires of our future clients or customers. In that matrix, we can start to understand who needs what and what the monetary value of that solution might be. If I deliver every single piece of information I get from the client, we’d end up with a product that doesn’t meet the needs of multiple companies in the market.

5. What types of KPI’s do you follow as a business development professional?

The types of KPI’s business development professionals should be following include the number of partnerships we’ve achieved in the annual year, the amount of product insight we’ve been able to garnish and the overall revenue figures we’ve been able to drive forward because of those things.

6. How can business development professionals help guide the overall business?

Because the role has close contact with the customers who can provide the future needs of the market, this role can help provide a high degree of market insight to the executive team who is helping to drive all department visions forward. This is a level of insight that you can only get by having deep conversations with the market.

7. Who are some of the departments you should be speaking to often as a business development professional?

As a business development professional you should be speaking to a number of departments often. That includes your executive team, the sales team, the product owners and product managers. These are generally the people you will speaking with often to find intersections of your opportunities and opportunities that the business can start building towards.

8. How would you work with product managers?

There’s a couple of different ways you’ll end up working with product managers. One way may be to help product managers get more traction on what they’ve already built. For instance, they may have built something they feel the market will respond to really well and you’ll be helping them to get it out there. The other way may be to vet future potential product opportunities and feed that information back to the product managers.

9. Would you say partnerships are a big part of business development?

Partnerships are a huge part of this role. The development of partnerships often happens because what the client and the business development professional agree upon is something that’s not yet been created or developed by the product development team. So in those instances, a partnership is made to essentially fund the development of the solution that’s not yet in the market. Partnerships should be the main way business development professionals lock in revenue.

10. Is the business development role needed in more than just technology companies?

Business Development roles are becoming high demand in more than just technology companies, yes. While its more often seen in technology companies because of the gap that exists inside their organizations, it is helping other industries realize that they may also have a gap. You’ll see this in manufacturing for instance, since their customers are often in need of new types of products that help them achieve their goals.

11. How do you measure your success?

Measuring success in this role should be by the happiness of the partnerships that are being developed, the smoothness of the product development life cycles being in progress (meaning that you are helping the product development team offer better solutions) and the overall revenue of the company and/or its departments increase or increase in demand.

12. What are some ways you manage clients expectations?

Managing expectations is a really important part of this role. Because of the fact that the client and the business development professionals are talking about future visions of service or offering, that means that there’s not something immediately available to buy. You have to manage the expectations of that client with regard to timing in particular. Because if they are looking for something that helps their teams move forward, then they have to manage that teams expectations, too. It can be quite complicated to get these many people on the same page. The best thing you can do is to embrace transparency and try to push forward on frequent updates as well as conversations with the client that help them inform their teams.

13. What are some ways business development can fail?

There are so many ways that this role can fail. That’s why it can be quite intensive to be involved in this role. You are taking a fairly high responsibility position within the organization. You can fail in a variety of ways, first of which is to fail your client or partnership expectations. The other way is to fail your teams by not providing them with enough insight or deliverables in the market. You can also fail by taking too long to try and get solution in-market. These opportunities can take a long time to procure. So if you are not letting your managers and leaders know about the time it's going to take you, then you are essentially setting yourself and your team up for potential failure.

14. Can partnerships intersect with the business in a negative way?

Absolutely. There’s definitely a risk that a partnership can carry the vision of the company a little too far. The risk is that one client might have heavier demands than the others and that can indirectly steer the direction of the company away from the core vision that the executives might have. This is why the role is really important to have clear lines of communication and a strict path of which the partnership should exist within. I don’t think there are many other ways that partnerships can interact with the business in a negative way. I would say the client being too demanding is the largest one. If we don’t meet those demands they may pull out of their monetary arrangement with us as well, which is a tough balancing act.

15. How do you work with other business development colleagues?

Having a team of business development professionals can make for a really strong company foundation. Just having one professional might not allow for the type of blossoming outlook that an executive might expect in the next 12 to 24 months. Interacting with other colleagues in this role is pretty easy but also important to constantly to be collaborating. In particular, there’s one way this role needs to communicate with other colleagues, about which partnerships and relationships they are attempting to develop. If there’s potential overlap either within a category or even with the same type of business, then the whole role and department of business development lose its potential. This communication can be had pretty simply, with bi-weekly meetings or even just weekly emails back and forth.

16. How long does it generally take for business development roles to start reporting success?

Because of the types of relationships that are being developed, a business development professional has a much longer sales cycle than a sales professional. For instance, a sales professional might be able to start closing sales within 3-6 months of getting into the market. A business development professional might take a lot longer than that. Because of the people they are speaking to in particular. It might be other members of an executive team at another company. These professionals are often more calculated in their decisions and thus it might take longer for them to commit to something. 12-24 months is often times the right type of cycle time it would take for this role to be reporting on success.

17. How do you report to your team your ongoing discussions and work in progress?

Reporting is a big part of this role. Because you will be judged on the work you are doing, and that work has a really long cycle to it, you’ll be at the helm of your peers judging you. And if you don’t have frequent communication with them about what you are doing and why it's going to seem as though you aren’t making progress. There are all sorts of ways to report on progress, one of which is to show who are you developing relationships with and what companies they are apart of. The other is to show the types of conversations you are having with those relationships, that could be in the form of outreach or maybe something else. Every single business development professional needs to find their own way of reporting success. But the general need is the same, its vital to the rest of your team that you are being fully transparent with them about your progress and what might happen and when.

18. How do you develop relationships in this role?

Developing relationships in this role is definitely one of the most difficult parts to the job. You really don't want to be speaking to just anyone, you need to be speaking to leaders of the organization that you are trying to help move forward. So, because of this, you should be relying pretty heavily on your personal network to get warm introductions with. Attending conferences can also help with this but it's not really the only channel. You just need to be in places where your target market is going to be and find ways to get a few minutes of their time to let them hear you out. Ideally, this isn't a hard sales pitch, it's just you telling that person that there's a really interesting opportunity available and that you should have more conversations down the line. You need to be looking at this as a multi-channel type of approach, developing core relationships any way you can. But the hard term here is relationships, not just sales opportunities.

19. How do you interface with your relationships to let them know what opportunities exist?

Developing relationships isn’t the easiest. It would be considered the fostering part of the partnership opportunity. But once you do have a few relationships that have been fostered it's really important to start putting on your creative thinking cap. Remembering the vision of the company that’s being set by the executive team is really important. Then, you might have to really dig your heels into the company you are talking to and learn what their potential needs might be. Once you have this axis, putting together a pitch deck or presentation on what you feel the company can do to help them achieve their goals will be on your plate. This is why this role is very unique because it helps to carry a creative vision forward as well as a monetary one.

20. What do you want to see from your other business development colleagues?

Ideally, you want to see a type of unified front for which the team is thinking about opportunities in the market. For example, one of the members of the team might be thinking about a particular industry or category for which we feel there are significant levels of opportunity. You want to see one of the colleagues controlling that category and reporting on the in-market movements they are making. You, then, as another member of the team can move forward on the category you are trying to control. Other ways this moves forward is by geography or maybe by something else, like companies who are already customers of ours that meet certain criteria. Its vital that each member is moving forward, reporting on their movement forward and that they aren’t deviating from the long-term plan. Any short-term thinking or deviation of the plans can impact the team pretty heavily and offset the goals of the business development department which is considered a type of ‘debt’.

21. Do you have any questions about our expectations of the business development role here?

This is an opportunity for you to ask questions related to the expectation management of the role. For example, you really don’t want to get involved in a company that has near-term expectations for this role because it's not realistic for you. If they say something like, we’d like to see 5 partnerships in the next 3 months, unless they’re a company like Amazon or Google, it's going to be really hard. And that might set yourself up for a lot of potential failures. Be sure you are asking questions that help you understand if the company you are interviewing with really understands what this role is about and why it exists. There’s a lot of ways to do this but ultimately you will need to practice asking these questions in your own way as well as coming up with something on the spot depending on where the conversation is being steered. Be sure you are doing your homework about the company you are applying to and be sure you understand the stage of a company that is as well, the younger the company is, the more difficult it will be to garnish new relationships. Mostly because those executives won’t have a brand awareness to the company you are working for and you’ll have to essentially build that up for them.

Conclusion & Prepping For Business Development Interviews

This is a really sought after role. And honestly, there aren’t too many people out there who can fulfill it. If you are trying to secure this position, I would say you have a really great opportunity of developing a career which can be really fruitful. Your salary or compensation in this role is going to be much higher than that of a sales person and in terms of averages, will be higher than that of someone in the product development department as well. So your efforts in being well prepared is going to come in handy. Be sure that you are experienced enough to be applying for this position at the company level they are in. You really don’t want to ruin your chances of developing this career opportunity by simply not being experienced enough and convincing yourself that you are. Hopefully this article has helped you understand some of the needs of the role as well as some of the domain knowledge that you’ll need to have in order to be successful in it. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to include other pieces of information on this article that might be helpful for other viewers.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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