Top 10 Business Development Books to Level Up Your Career

Jeff White August 30, 2021

Jeff White

Jeff is a small business expert focused on marketing, finance, sales, business development, and legal work. He's been featured in a number of publications such as USNews, Forbes, The Week, The Street, Investopedia, and CNBC.

The best business development books are going to provide either direct insight into the business development industry or it will teach you a specific set of skills that will help you level up your career. While BD in general still isn’t that old of a profession, there is some great information out there that you should read if you feel like you need help developing within your business development career. In this article, we’ll provide you with the top ten business development books. 

Top 10 Business Development Books

We have decided on this list based on a number of factors, including their online ratings by readers, recommended books to us by actual business development professionals, the topic and goal of the book itself, and the type of action the book attempts to achieve. Below we’ve listed out the books that we think represent the 10 best books that can help a BD professional at any point in their career. 

1. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on it by Chris Voss never split the difference - best business development books

Never Split the Difference is about the notion of urgent negotiating. The author, Chris Voss, was an FBI hostage negotiator who takes you through his world of very high-stakes negotiations to help you find ways to better understand those who are on the other side. If his skills have helped to find common ground in situations where hostages are involved, you certainly can learn a lot about negotiating a partnership deal and how to navigate crucial conversations. 

Amazon Rating: 4.8/5 stars on 19,848 reviews

Skill to level up: Negotiation

2. The Sumo Advantage by Bernie Brenner

the sumo advantage - best business development books

The Sumo Advantage is our first business development-focused book on our list. If you’re trying to figure out how to correctly leverage strategic partnerships to grow your business, then this book is for you. You’ll learn how to leverage partnerships with companies that are referred to as “giants” which basically just means Fortune 1000 companies. Doing so, the author Bernie Brenner says, will turbo-charge your growth.

Amazon Rating: 4.7/5 stars on 123 reviews

Skill to level up: Strategic partnership growth

3. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

blue ocean strategy- best business development books

In Blue Ocean Strategy, you’ll question what you currently know about strategic thinking and what it means to achieve success through your strategic plans. Many people believe that their strategic success has come from “winning” against their competitors. The authors explore the notion, however, that real success is when you’re able to create a previously untapped market, which they refer to as a “blue ocean.” 

Amazon Rating: 4.6/5 stars on 2,882 reviews

Skill to level up: Strategic thinking & market penetration

4. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet & Why it Matters by Priya Parker

the art of gathering - best business development books

The Art of Gathering focuses on how we meet together and what we can do to maximize the effectiveness of that time. The book doesn’t just look at work-related meetings but also how we interact and spend time together at home and in our communities. You’ll get an inside look at different types of meetings from all over the world to see what worked and what didn’t when it comes to creating meaningful experiences. 

Amazon Rating: 4.6/5 stars on 1,278 reviews

Skill to level up: Hosting meetings & communication

5. What, Exactly, is Business Development? By Scott Pollack 

what exactly is business development - best business development books

What, Exactly, is Business Development? is written by Firneo’s Co-Founder and CEO, Scott Pollack, and it covers all things business development. If you’re looking to break into the field of BD or to better understand how to navigate these waters then Scott’s book is a must-read. You’ll better understand how the industry works and what you can do as a BD professional to level up your business’ growth efforts. This is a great opportunity to learn from someone who has been in the trenches for about as long as any BD professional out there.

Amazon Rating: 4.1/5 stars on 76 ratings

Skill to level up: Industry knowledge & growth tactics

6. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

never eat alone - best business development books

Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone, says that the secret to getting ahead in life and climbing the ladder of success is in reaching out to other people and the ability to use the power that your relationships can bring. In this book, you can learn Ferrazzi’s specific steps that he has used to connect with thousands of people, from Hollywood A-listers to power brokers in Washington to executives at major Fortune 100 companies. 

Amazon Rating: 4.5/5 stars on 758 reviews

Skill to level up: Networking & relationship building

7. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

the greatest salesman in the world -best business development books

Every person who has some type of sales-related activity in their jobs should read The Greatest Salesman in the World at least once. This book is widely viewed as the best manual for salesmanship, which can teach you a lot of different skills from relationship building to proper communication and even strategic planning. Og Mandino crafts an inspirational story that teaches these sales-related lessons and principles in a straightforward and easy-to-understand way that you can’t help but learn from. 

Amazon Rating: 4.7/5 stars on 4,799 reviews

Skill to level up: Salesmanship

8. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

the lean startup - best business development books

The Lean Startup isn’t a business development-related book if you just look at the outside, but once you dive into its pages you’ll see just how inspirational it can be to your role. Eric Ries takes an in-depth look at how startups are made and the innovation that drives them. The need for constant innovation is a common theme around how some of the most successful startups have turned into the most sustainable businesses. 

This is a great lesson that BD professionals can take and learn from because business development work also requires a great amount of innovation to sustain the business’ growth over time. 

Amazon Rating: 4.6/5 stars on 8,681 reviews

Skill to level up: Innovation & strategic planning

9. Give and Take by Adam Grant

give and take - best business development books

Give and Take is another book that focuses on building great relationships and how it can benefit your work. Adam Grant teaches how important it is in today’s business world to have quality relationships and communication with people inside your organization and those you create partnerships with. The common theme throughout is that our interactions with others hold the key to our own personal success and the success of our team. 

Amazon Rating: 4.6/5 stars on 2,614 reviews

Skill to level up: Relationship building and communication

10. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

thinking fast and slow - best business development books

Thinking Fast and Slow helps you better understand the reasons why we think the way that we do. He uses a two-system process for how we think about everything. The first system is where we think quickly and make intuitive or emotional decisions. The second system is much longer and more deliberate. If we understand how to think through situations with the right system then we’re able to learn when and where to think fast and trust our intuitions and when to research more. This can give you a huge advantage in negotiations and in building partnerships.

Amazon Rating: 4.6/5 stars on 21,264 ratings

Skill to level up: Decision making

Other Ways to Level Up Your Business Development Career

While books are often thought of as one of the best ways to level up your career because of the ease of access to the information, this isn’t the only way you can progress. You can also take courses, get a new educational degree or certification, or you can find a mentor. There really can be limitless opportunities to grow and develop to help you reach your goals. Below we briefly discuss our three favorite ideas that you can do quickly, in addition to reading all of the great books on this list. 

Attend a Conference

One of the best ways to level up your business development career is to attend a conference, either online or in person. These are typically a good way to learn more about specific topics that you’re interested in or to increase your practical skills. In-person conferences are also a great way to network and build relationships with people for future partnerships. If you’re able to attend a conference then you should make the most out of every minute you have by constantly networking and looking for new ways to provide value to others. 

Take a Business Development Course Online

The next best thing to a conference is to take an online course or be a part of a cohort-based experience with your peers (like you can at Firneo). Completing a course can provide you with needed information and resources on a very niche topic that you don’t have needed experience with. Many professional-focused courses provide a certificate of completion that you can provide to an employer if needed, and you can add the completion to your resume to show that you’ve been trained with a specific skill. 

A cohort-based experience is even better than a course because you’ll be able to learn from your peers. This is a great way to digest course-like content while getting real-world examples from others who are actively working in similar fields as you are. 

Join a Networking Group

Another way to level up your BD career is by joining a networking group that connects you with other business development professionals. These groups typically hold meetings on a regular basis and give you an opportunity to meet others and potentially build partnerships for your business. Even if you can’t find a group that would benefit your business, these groups can be a helpful way for you to practice your communication and overall networking skills. This is another perk that comes with being a part of what Firneo is building.

Bottom Line

One of the most important things for any BD professional is to be continually improving. Every book on this list will help you progress something in your life or career and each is a good addition to your reading library. We suggest reading the most relevant books to the issues you’re dealing with at work right now so that you can level up the skills you need at this moment and get to the rest when you can. Let us know what your favorite books are for the business development industry.