The business development manager is increasing in importance, as the world's economy teeters back into life and multinational corporations start shifting to market expansion.
"The key responsibilities for a seasoned business development manager are to develop and execute business strategies - internally or for clients - that maximise revenue streams," says Connie Au, manager for sales and marketing recruitment at Ambition. They identify business opportunities, whether that is exploring new products for existing markets, pursuing a new market or forming partnerships.
They have to find out which opportunities yield the best returns on investment, prepare business proposals, develop sales strategies, make presentations and negotiate with prospective customers to bring to fruition the opportunities that make the biggest profit.
Depending on the nature of the company, business development may consist of elements of sales and marketing. It is not unusual for entry-level professionals to prospect potential clients, members or partners - sometimes through cold-calling. In other companies, their roles may be oriented to product development.
In Hong Kong, candidates with at least six years of experience in the field have the option of progressing from junior roles to business development manager. As managers, they oversee the process of a company's partnerships, from initiating contact and negotiations to drafting contracts and supervising joint operations.
At even more senior levels, such professionals develop broad-stroke strategy such as deciding on new activities or markets, market positioning and technology investments. Senior-level business development managers in big companies can take on shades of mergers and acquisitions work, scanning the market for acquisition opportunities.
Salaries range from HK$30,000 to HK$50,000 a month for a typical middle-management business development manager. Pay tends to be better in professional or financial services firms.
Degree in business management a good start
There are no specific professional qualifications or certifications for business development roles. However, companies typically favour candidates with a university degree in business management - especially an MBA or an EMBA. Many universities and institutions run such programmes in Hong Kong, including:
Kellogg-HKUST EMBA - run jointly by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (www.bm.ust.hk/emba)
University of Hong Kong's MBA programme - offered in association with London Business School and Columbia Business School (http://mba.hku.hk/ full-time)
Hong Kong Management Association's MBA programme - offered in association with Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Australia (http://www.hkma.org.hk/program)
Interpersonal skills vital
Business development managers need strong interpersonal skills to be able to effectively communicate the benefits of the company's products or services to customers, or mutual synergies that can be achieved in business partnerships. They should also be able to utilise their professional contact network in order to find new business opportunities, and liaise across internal company departments to ensure a deal is consummated.
A middle-management business development role requires strong research and analytical skills because managers need to understand the businesses' competitive landscape. They need to stay abreast of new developments in the company's industry, have a thorough and up-to-the-minute understanding of a company's strategy, positioning and operations, and understand the market for the company's products. They will also need to choose the opportunities that take the best advantage of a company's resources to provide the best possible revenue streams.