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.