What should I look for in a business development / account manager


We are a software development house that has a specific target of maintaining and extending existing systems for mid sized companies. We work with them to evolve what they have and improve each aspect of their business over time.

I am looking at hiring a business development person and account manager as other methods of finding new clients haven't been that successful even though I'm sure the market exists.

I want someone who will:

  • Find new clients for us and get the door open for us.
  • Who will be able to keep the existing client base happy
  • Find new projects and work within our existing client base (other divisions of the same company etc).

So at a high level I think I know what I want but if I start interviewing people what are indicators of good and bad candidates?

Sales Business Development

asked Jul 15 '11 at 17:25
Robin Vessey
8,394 points
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3 Answers



You're definitely on the right track. You know what you want and now just need to go find him/her. I don't have experience in software sales, but I do have extensive experience building a business development team(s).

My advise to you make a list of clearly defined traits you would like for your new business development candidate to possess. This list shouldn't include job responsibilities, but rather personal quality traits.

Here is a list of qualities I look for when hiring sales or business development people.

  1. Are you comfortable talking to this person within the first 2-3 minutes? In business development its important for clients/customers to feel immediately comfortable with someone.
  2. Is the person coming to you with a clean work history or another way to look at it are they reputable? A clean history of employment in sales or business development says a lot about a person working in this position. If they had an entrepreneurial experience that didn't work out then don't hold that against them. On the contrary you could use this as a catalyst to dig deeper in conversation with the person to see if they could add additional value to your business you might not find in another candidate.
  3. Do they have any experience training others in a similar position? If so, ask them about the process they used for training and how they measured the results. This is another way for you to understand their level of understanding in the business development process.
  4. Are they involved in a non profit or community activity? If so in what capacity? Business development folks have a tendency to get involved in most activities, time permitting.

As for the job specific requirements, you want to consider some of these questions.

  1. Ask them how they spent their time in their last position. % of time calling on new customers in person. % of time cold calling new customers via phone. % of time calling previous customers? in person or telephone? Then ask them how they filled the rest of their work day. If the person can recall on site how they structured their day then its a good chance you've found an organized person.
  2. It is critical that you ask the candidate what their personal business development strategy was in their last job. A part of this may have been dictated by their employer, but a good business development person will create personal goals from an overall business development strategy. Their answer will tell you whether he/she was an order taker or a business development leader.
  3. See if you can get them to provide you with some personal goals they set for themselves at their last job, and then after they've answered follow with a question on what their results were.

I hope some of this is helpful to you.

answered Jul 19 '11 at 19:18
Chris Telles
51 points


Since this person will be in a customer service position you'll want to test their ability to listen.

During an interview it is common for the prospective employee to be nervous and compensate by talking too much. That's OK to a degree but be wary of a babbler who won't shut their trap.

If you mention, for example, that using Excel spreadsheets is critical to the position you'll want to pay close attention. Should the person say, "Yeah, I know Excel and did I tell you about my vacation to the beach", get the hook. This one is a babbler.

Another indicator is the flow of conversation. If you feel it flows easily from A to B to C then the interviewee is likely a great candidate. But if the conversation jumps all over the place and you can't keep the person on track it's time to look elsewhere.

answered Jul 19 '11 at 19:36
309 points



The answers above are great. Good (active) listening skills are so critical for any customer-facing position. I would also add a little perspective:

In my experience working with Sales, there is a difference in skill set between salespeople (hunters) and account managers (farmers), even though the titles might be the same. You may not find all the skills you need in the same person, but keep looking because you can probably find people who do both well enough. Just understand what's more important at this stage of your business.

As your business grows you may find yourself in a position where you can hire people who are better at one or the other, and allocate them appropriately.

Also be careful about titles. "Business development" can often mean people who focus more on market development and/or alliances, or at least strategic accounts/partnerships. It can also simply be a fancy title for a salesperson. Either way, know what you want and make sure those are the type of people you're spending your time interviewing.

Good luck.

answered Jul 24 '11 at 23:30
Scott Berry
51 points

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