Business Development vs Sales

I’ve been having this discussion lately with a number of angel investors about the title “sales” and the title “business development.” 

In the traditional sense, business development people deal with creating channels, partnerships, and stategic opportunities for the company.  Sales are the people that go and get people to give you money for your product. 

Since “sales” can have, in some people’s minds, a negative connotation, there has been this trend to call sales people, “business development people” which I think is supposed to have the effect of making them seem less like people trying to get you to give them money.  Business Development people often have no revenue quota, and instead are managed by objectives.  So, by tagging someone a “Business Development” person, you, in theory, are making their contact with potential customers less threatening.

However, I think that the core of every successful sales strategy is one of honesty.  If you are starting the relationship as dishonest, then you are certainly starting on the wrong foot.  If you are tasked with going out and finding revenue for a company, you are a sales person.  You can call yourself an account executive or account manager, if you are tasked with establishing and maintaining relationships, but you should always be honest about the fact that you are trying to get them to purchase your product.  In my entire sales career, when people asked me what I did, I said, “I run sales for XXX” or “I’m in charge of sales for the north east region,”  etc. 

I’ve never been a ruthless salesperson.  I’m always looking for the win-win of selling value, but I never hid the fact that the entire reason I was having a conversation with the prospect was to determine if there was a way that I could improve their business – and that they were going to PAY me to do this.

I am not slamming business development.  Business development is an important function in every company – especially start-ups.  And, very often a company will have business development and sales under a single person or department.  In those cases, I say that sales and business development should be in the title so again, there is no confusion, on what the person’s intentions are.

The bottom line is that I object when the term “business development” is somehow used to trick the customer into thinking that the sales person is not a sales person, but trying to find some “partnership” with the firm.  If you are looking for a way to get someone to pay you for your product, then you are a salesperson.

And…. its OK to be proud of being a salesperson.  Sales people bring tremendous value to our clients and our companies.

  • http://innonate.com/ innonate

    I like the last paragraph. Why be ashamed, unless you're a shameful sales person!?

  • http://www.1Ricci.com/ideas Laura Ricci

    I find this most often in Technical firms. I suspect the reason is that firms will cross train and recruit from their technical staff, and these engineers and scientists are loathe to adopt a sales moniker, but can ease into it as a Business Development representative. I think it is more for the comfort of the salesperson, rather than trying to bluff the prospect.

  • http://innonate.com/ innonate

    I like the last paragraph. Why be ashamed, unless you're a shameful sales person!?

  • http://www.1Ricci.com/ideas Laura Ricci

    I find this most often in Technical firms. I suspect the reason is that firms will cross train and recruit from their technical staff, and these engineers and scientists are loathe to adopt a sales moniker, but can ease into it as a Business Development representative. I think it is more for the comfort of the salesperson, rather than trying to bluff the prospect.

  • Mark I LaRosa

    Laura,

    Its true, that often its for the “comfort” of the sales person, but thats part of the problem. Unless you recognize what your role is, and are comfortable with it, you will have problems in sales. If you see yourself as a business development person, and your prospects see you as a business development person, then there is less of a definition around what you are trying to do. If you are charged with a quota, you need to sell. The joke is always, “A business development guy is a sales guy that can't close a deal.” I don't necessarily agree with that – but the origin of the joke is that when you classify yourself as a business development person, when you are really a sales person, you actually put yourself in a position where it becomes harder to ask for the sale – because you have positioned yourself as establishing a long term partnership for the greater good of the companies. “Business Development” tagged people, that are actually sales people, are in my experience those that are afraid to ask for the close – afraid to ask for the signature on the dotted line.

    My exact point is that there is nothing wrong with being a salesperson, and if you are not comfortable with that moniker, then you might actually be too timid to actually ask for the sale – and therefore, perhaps shouldn't be in sales. Maybe you would be better positioned in a business development role finding new channels and partners for the company.

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    Laura,

    Its true, that often its for the “comfort” of the sales person, but thats part of the problem. Unless you recognize what your role is, and are comfortable with it, you will have problems in sales. If you see yourself as a business development person, and your prospects see you as a business development person, then there is less of a definition around what you are trying to do. If you are charged with a quota, you need to sell. The joke is always, “A business development guy is a sales guy that can't close a deal.” I don't necessarily agree with that – but the origin of the joke is that when you classify yourself as a business development person, when you are really a sales person, you actually put yourself in a position where it becomes harder to ask for the sale – because you have positioned yourself as establishing a long term partnership for the greater good of the companies. “Business Development” tagged people, that are actually sales people, are in my experience those that are afraid to ask for the close – afraid to ask for the signature on the dotted line.

    My exact point is that there is nothing wrong with being a salesperson, and if you are not comfortable with that moniker, then you might actually be too timid to actually ask for the sale – and therefore, perhaps shouldn't be in sales. Maybe you would be better positioned in a business development role finding new channels and partners for the company.

  • http://www.g5dir.com business directory

    The bottom line is that I object when the term “business development” is somehow used to trick the customer into thinking that the sales person is not a sales person, but trying to find some “partnership” with the firm.

  • http://www.g5dir.com business directory

    The bottom line is that I object when the term “business development” is somehow used to trick the customer into thinking that the sales person is not a sales person, but trying to find some “partnership” with the firm.

  • Mark I LaRosa

    Exactly. You should always be building trust, and unless you are actually there to build a partnership, you should not be claiming that you are. Its dishonest, and you will actually see sales decrease because of it.

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    Exactly. You should always be building trust, and unless you are actually there to build a partnership, you should not be claiming that you are. Its dishonest, and you will actually see sales decrease because of it.

  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    Exactly. You should always be building trust, and unless you are actually there to build a partnership, you should not be claiming that you are. Its dishonest, and you will actually see sales decrease because of it.

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  • Henry Jakson

    This is probably the clearest differentiator of Business Development
    vs. Sales I have ever read. As a Business Development executive, it’s a
    bit difficult to explain that my job is to open doors (strategic), not
    to close the sale. Business Development people often have no revenue quota, and instead
    are managed by objectives.  So, by tagging someone a “Business
    Development” person, you, in theory, are making their contact with
    potential customers less threatening.

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  • http://www.quotacrush.com Mark I LaRosa

    Henry,

    Thanks for the kind comments.  I agree with you wholeheartedly (obviously).

    Mark