The question is not new and it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows a bit about business development and sales – however, you would be surprised at how many “business development” roles available today state that the key responsibilities are cold calling 50 people a day. While this is great (if you believe in cold calling) – it is not business development, it is pure and true sales.
“What does business development mean?” Forbes says it’s “…the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.”
For some reason it has become very difficult to define what business development and sales is. In fact, I see it, hear it and read about it every day. In terms of context though, let’s remember that when you and your team have a clear-cut definition of a particular idea or concept, it becomes easier for everyone to tackle it confidently. And conversely, when you and your team are not on the same page, things can become confusing – just ask any cold calling, door to door selling “business development” guy.
So, what is the difference between sales and business development?
Business development touches sales, strategy and marketing, so lets stop debating about it already (or not). Business development cycles are long, instant satisfaction like in sales take a long time and if that is not enough, your primary goal is not the quick kill, but the slow building of relationships.
In sales you are trying to sign and close as quick as possible, but in business development, you are trying to convince a partner to work with you, and that means that you need to understand how you or your product/service is going to bring value not only to your partner but also to her end customers.
So basically, if you try to visualize the two concepts as layers, then you will notice that there is an extra layer between a business development team and the end customers; the network of partners. In sales, in contrast, there is no extra layer, the team just works directly with the end customers. The deal basically lives and dies almost in real time and with little planning (unless they were qualified by the business development team). This presence of extra layers allows business development teams to remain small, lean and focused, while sales teams normally will tend to be larger and really need a strategic focus.
If I had to say what I enjoy the most right now between sales and business development, I would have to sat that I particularly enjoy business development more because it really challenges you to think about your customer – even if you only deal with your partners. (I have done all 3 roles needed before)
If I had to give an example of what the business development process looks like- then on the strategy side, you really have to think about what you are offering and why it can make sense for someone to work with, what their goals and objectives are, what their customers look like, what motivates them, what could potentially hinder them from working with you etc.. – and all in all it can take months or years to close one deal. You better be ok with small gains and not big wins.
After you actually figure out how you are able to bring value, built the relationship, then you have to start thinking about how you are going to use your marketing and sales skills to get it out there (or pass the lead), without sounding like a snake oil salesmen (or woman) and build the right relationships.
Just to make sure I have not lost you, both sales and business development teams perform crucial, albeit different, roles in your organization. Neither one is better than the other. There may be areas where the functions of each team may overlap with one another, but in general, each has distinct roles in the organization. Understanding these key differences as well as the important functions each team needs to perform well will help you have a better understanding of what to expect from your people.
So, next time you get asked what the difference is, you can firmly and confidently say that sales and business development are “polar opposites” because of their approaches and goals, but that each need one another to succeed.
If we are finally able to define the differences and learn the distinction between the two then I believe it can truly lead to an improved focus and results for your business and your partners and customers.