What’s The Difference Between Sales And Business Development Jobs?


There’s an extremely important function in a business that has gained a lot more prominence in companies today.

The words business development are starting to pop up more and more. Even more relevant is businesses’ willingness to let young workers and interns participate in this function. What exactly is business development and what does the role entail?

Fundamentally, as the name suggests, business development is about growing a business.

Wait, how is that different from sales?

In larger companies, this means creating a very high-level vision and developing the relevant strategies for the company to reach that vision. There’s often a mix-up that happens in people’s minds between business development and sales.

“The confusion happens because with start-ups, those two stages are the same: in comparison to the early days of brute force selling, companies gradually need to start looking at growing at a more strategic level,” explains Jet Cooper Co-Founder and Director of Business Development Satish Kanwar.

In smaller start-ups, a lot of business development is intertwined with sales because that’s the most healthy way for smaller organizations to grow. Customer acquisition, especially in the early stages of a company, is a crucial task for a young company – both in terms of cash, but also in terms of idea validation and increasing its appeal to potential investors or acquirers.

“Business development determines how much of the business will grow and where that growth will come from, and defines the approach to capturing that growth,” elaborates Satish. “Sales creates the relationships with customers or users in order to align them to that product or service. Sales is the execution of the plan; business development is the creation and focus, and measurement, of that plan.”

There are many different strategies for growing a company. Sometimes, this is done through collaborating with another organization. A basic example would be Company A keeping an eye out for prospective clients for Company B, and referring prospects to one another.

Nike+This could also mean developing completely new products together. One excellent example of this, as marketing expert Seth Godin highlights, is the collaboration with Apple and Nike in their Nike+ product. In case you haven’t seen it around, Nike+ is a platform that helps you track your exercise progress and results. Nike and Apple worked together to create software that tracks this on the mobile Apple devices and through Nike+ powered running shoes.

As you can see, customer acquisition is just a small tenet of this entire partnership. Sales is simply a word used to describe the execution of the customer acquisition strategy. So, essentially, sales is one part of business development.

What it takes to succeed in business development

Business development, as a whole, is very much about exploring the unknown. It’s about knowing your vision for the partnership, understanding your partners’ vision, and being adaptable enough to use any vehicle to get to that vision. Creativity is crucial to this role.

Similarly, focus is important: business development professionals can’t afford to spend their time in random meetings with people. Instead, they need to work with brands that have momentum. Both Apple and Nike are great examples of brands that have gained and sustained their respective momentum.

Some business development executives recommend grad school as a helpful part of the business development career, but only because this experience is able to help develop people management and negotiation skills. It doesn’t really serve as a prerequisite to a career in business development. In fact, if you’re able to find an alternate experience that similarly replicates that skill development, you’ll be able to save yourself some time and money in the process.

One prerequisite to excellence in business development comes in the form of a quality that a lot of successful business development people share. The term, “hustling,” refers to a trait that is extremely valued, particularly by individuals looking to recruit for business development. There isn’t one standard definition of hustling, but essentially, hustling is about working hard, being resourceful, and making results happen on time.

Business development is an extremely exciting role in an organization. It combines many disciplines and skills together, and ultimately requires a balance of knowledge and preparation. At the end of the day, a good salesperson could make for a great part of a business development team, but may not make a strong business development leader.

Those of you interested in a business development role may be curious to see if you’d fit in well. Vino Jeyapalan, who was a Business Development Account Manager at mobile advertising start-up Kiip, highlights these principles as essential:

The results show

A business development role absolutely requires delivery of promised results – if you like the challenge and work best under this bit of pressure, then this will be a good role for you.

Build quality relationships

Clients aren’t just prospects with names – they’re human beings. It’s important not to only sell your product, but to also sell your personality traits and your delivery of services for the client.

Be persistent

There will be days when you close every deal, but there will also be days when nothing seems to go properly. As an individual responsible for growing the business, your job calls for you to come to work everyday fresh and ready to hustle.

Would you rather start your career in sales or business development? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sales & Marketing Week

Photo credits: Infusionsoft and Krijn Schuurman