The Difference Between Sales and Business Development

The Difference Between Sales and Business Development

Almost daily, I run into the misconception that the function of sales and business development are interchangeable, from co-workers to industry peers. This stems primarily, I believe, from the shift in titles of salespeople to business development — which has been done in an effort to avoid the negative connotation that surrounds it.

In reality, the two are very different. Hence, this tweet.

Andrew Dumont

@AndrewDumont

If you use the terms Business Development and Sales interchangeably, you’re doing it wrong.

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But 140 characters just isn’t enough to explain of the subtleties, so here we are.

When you think about the function of business development, it should be thought of as a marketing function. Yes, there are some soft sales skills (qualification, negotiation, etc.) that are necessary to become a good business development professional, but at the end of the day, it’s a marketing function.

If you were to think about it on a sliding scale between a pure function of sales or marketing, it would wind up somewhere around here.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.24.31 PM.png

The reason behind this, is that typical goals of business development include brand placement, market expansion, new user acquisition, and awareness — all of which are shared goals of marketing. The slight slide towards sales is simply because of the tactics business development employs to achieve those goals.

Which is where we get into the meat of it.

Regardless of the company, business development tends to hold the same structure, which I sketched up quickly below.

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Simply stated, the function of sales is to sell directly to the end customer. The function of business development is to work through partners to sell to the end customer, in a scalable way.

That last part is key.

Scalability is the differentiator. It allows a company to use pre-existing sales teams or communities that a partner has developed to reach new audiences. Sales is very much an equation of capacity, which is why sales teams tend to grow so large. Business development teams, on the other hand, are typically very small, maintaining their small size by working through existing partner infrastructures. The art of business development comes in identifying partners that fit that description, while finding a way to provide value to the partner’s end customer and business.

You can see this relationship in a few of the examples I laid out in a previous post on the role of business development at a startup.

Now, all of this isn’t meant to de-value the function of sales. Truth be told, I really respect good salespeople. It’s an extremely difficult career, one with constant denial and pressure to succeed. Sales is hard, and should be respected when it’s done at a high level.

But the two are very different, despite their apparent overlap.

What is a project manager ?

What is a project manager ?

A project manager is the person in charge of communicating the most effective plan to all teams involved in a project. This allows projects to be structured, tasks divided among teams and for accountability to be correctly assigned.

This is a relatively new model and it comes from a number of project management professionals who came up with methodologies that you could use. These helped create what is now project management. It is a growing profession, which many companies see as essential to their productivity and success.

 

Project manager day-to-day basis?

 

As mentioned above, the project manager role is an essential component across a countless number of industries and project types, meaning the day-to-day specifics often vary widely depending on the role’s context. However, there are several tasks shared by nearly all project managers.

Relay information about the projects progression to the appropriate parties

Keep on top of reporting and the financials of the project.

Keep on track of tasks completed, who they were completed by and if this was on time.

Liaise between various contractors and keep coordination levels high.

 

What personality type?

There are three main areas of importance.

Outgoing – able to keep communicating with everyone and ensure that all parties are aware of any changes and requirements.

Analytical – Are able to use prior experience to gauge if the project is on track and fix things if it seems to be increasing in scope or delaying.

Organised – A project manager should be able to organise teams effectively and be the POC between all the teams.  

 

A good trait to have is the ability to learn from your mistakes – In every project there is usually minor setbacks and delays, these can be unavoidable delays due to contractors not delivering goods or services, it can even be delays caused to weather of finances. But a good project manager will be able to learn from mistakes and delays and avoid them in future projects.

 

How do i become a project manager?

Most people find themselves in a project management role by surprise. Doing a great job as a project contributor can often lead to finding yourself in charge. If you haven’t had any experience as a project manager then i can’t think of any better motivation to excel during your next project. If you have some experience and want to move on with your career, you can find some great Project Manager job opportunities from Emperic.

 

What, Exactly, Is Business Development?

“I do biz dev.”

Few times in history have more ambiguous words been spoken.  Ask ten “VPs of Business Development” or similarly business card-ed folks what is business development, and you’re like to get just as many answers.

“Business development is sales,” some will say, concisely.

“Business development is partnerships,” others will say, vaguely.

“Business development is hustling,” the startup folks will say, evasively.

The assortment of varied and often contradictory responses to the basic question of “what, exactly, is business development” reminds me of the way physicists seek to explain what, exactly, is the universe.  With conflicting theories on the nature of black holes and bosons, the ultimate goal for those scientists is a Grand Unified Theory, a single definition that can elegantly explain how the universe itself operates at every level.

Lacking any concise explanation of what business development is all about, I sought to unite the varied forces of business development into one comprehensive framework. And eureka, for I have found it – the Grand Unified Theory of business development:

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

There is elegance in simplicity, but perhaps this definition leaves you wanting more.  At its heart, business development is all about figuring out how the interactions of those forces combine together to create opportunities for growth.  But a theorem requires a proper proof, so let’s break that statement down:

Long-Term Value

First, what do I mean by “long-term value?”  In its simplest form, “value” is cash, money, the lifeblood of any business (but it can also be access, prestige, or anything else a company seeks in order to grow).  And there are plenty of ways to make a quick buck for you or your company.  But business development is not about get-rich-quick schemes and I-win-you-lose tactics that create value that’s gone tomorrow as easily as it came today.  It’s about creating opportunities for that value to persist over the long-term, to keep the floodgates open so that value can flow indefinitely.  Thinking about business development as a means to creating long-term value is the only true way to succeed in consistently growing an organization.

Customers

The “customers” portion of the definition may be slightly more obvious – customers pay the bills.  They are the people who pay you for your products and services, and without them you won’t have any business to develop.  But not everyone is a natural customer for your business. Maybe your product doesn’t have the features I’m looking for.  Maybe your product is perfect, but I don’t even know your company sells it.  Or maybe you’re not reaching me because you’re not knocking on my door.

Markets

That’s because customers “live” in specific markets.  One way to understand markets is by geography – if I only focus on selling in the U.S. but you reside in London,  then you are currently unavailable to me as a customer as I do not currently reach the European market.  But customers also “live” in markets that are defined by their demographics, lifestyles, and buying mindset.  Identifying opportunities to reach new customers by entering into new markets is one important gateway to unlocking long-term value.

Take for example the Pet Owners market.  The customers who live there, of course, are people who own cats, dogs, fish, etc.  Petco is a company that clearly sells to customers who live in the Pet Owners market.  I, on the other hand, do not have a pet.  I don’t live in the Pet Owner market. So what if Petco wanted to sell something to me? Then they’d need to find a way to enter into a market where I do live.  For example, I have red-hair and pale skin and as such, I am prone to spontaneously combusting when exposed to the sun.  Therefore, one market that I “live” in is the Sunscreen Buyers market.  If Petco wanted to sell something to me, perhaps they can find a way to enter into that market by offering sunscreen, hats, or sun-reflecting aluminum foil suits.  Now, determining whether that’s a good idea or not for Petco to do so is a job for the business development team – and another story for another blog post.

Relationships

And then there were “relationships.”  Just as the planets and stars rely on gravity to keep them in orbit, any successful business development effort relies on an underlying foundation of strong relationships.  Building, managing, and leveraging relationships that are based on trust, respect, and a mutual appreciation of each other’s value is fundamental to enabling the flow of value for the long-term.  Relationships with partners, customers, employees, the press, etc. are all critical to the success of any business development effort and as such they demand a bold-faced spot in any comprehensive definition of the term.

So, is business development actually sales?  Is it partnerships?  Is it all about hustling? Well, frankly, yes.  It’s all of the above and as we’ll see in future posts, it’s much more.  It’s a complicated and fascinating discipline that deserves a clear understanding, so that we can marvel at the beauty of a well-done deal as much as the stars.