Man researching what is business development

By Michael Braun, Enterprise Sales Manager, Bond Collective

If you’re new to the business world (and even if you’re not), you may be wondering what is business development and is it different than sales? The short answer is yes, business development and sales are two very different activities.

But how exactly do they differ? Is there any overlap? And what are the responsibilities of each position? In this article, the experts at Bond Collective tell you everything you need to know about these essential positions in your business.

What Is Business Development?

The answer to the question, “What is business development?” is fairly simple. It’s all about finding and generating new leads. How is that different than sales? Let’s use an illustration. Think of both business development and sales as excavating an underground power supply (i.e., a new lead).

In that case, business development is like the first step in the digging process: removing great swaths of extraneous material that is hiding your goal with a backhoe or excavator. Your business development professionals are like those pieces of heavy equipment. They work to identify potential markets, make contact, and develop leads.

Going back to actual excavation, once the power supply is unearthed, the heavy equipment moves out of the way so workers with hand tools can do the more dexterous work. That brings us to sales.

What Is Sales?

Put simply, sales is about generating transactions and closing deals. In our excavation analogy, sales is like getting in there with a shovel and brush to completely uncover the underground power supply so that it can be repaired.

You wouldn’t do that kind of fine, detailed work with a backhoe — the backhoe is too big and too imprecise. You run the risk of destroying what you were digging for. The heavy equipment — the business development professional — did its job getting you close to the goal. Now it’s up to the sales team to take it the rest of the way.

As great as analogies are for helping you understand the big picture, they are limited in their scope. To really understand what is business development and what is sales, we need to drill down to the details of each job.

What’s The Difference Between Business Development And Sales?

Business development professional walking up steps

Before we get too deep into the discussion, let’s reiterate the answer to the question, “What is business development and what is sales?”

Business development is about finding leads. Sales is about turning those leads into customers.

The easiest way to make a distinction between the two is to examine the responsibilities of each position.

Business Development Responsibilities

Here are the basic responsibilities of business development:

  1. Qualifying leads from marketing campaigns

  2. Classifying leads as sales opportunities

  3. Researching potential customers

  4. Contacting potential customers

Sales Responsibilities

Here are the basic responsibilities of sales:

  1. Nurturing leads

  2. Closing deals

  3. Maintaining existing relationships

Business development comes first — they find the leads. Then sales steps in to grow those leads into customers.

Should Business Development And Sales Be Separate Positions?

In the early stages of your business, it may be necessary to combine business development and sales into one position. As a startup, you may not have the capital or the manpower to maintain separate business development and sales position. In fact, many a founder and CEO wears both hats (plus many more) when their business first gets going.

Eventually, though, as your business grows and develops, you should separate business development and sales into distinct positions (or at least distinct divisions within the sales department).

This allows your employees in each job to focus on one specific skill set. Uncovering leads and closing deals require different abilities. There is some overlap, but the jobs are different enough that they warrant a bit of separation.

Having an employee focus on one or the other frees up their calendar and allows them to specialize. This specialization then helps them develop their skills at a more rapid pace. When they have to do both jobs, they tend to wear themselves too thin and are unable to excel at either activity.

5 Traits Of A Good Business Development Or Sales Rep

Manager researching what is business development

1) Communication

Good communication is vital for both business development and sales reps. Without it, there’s little chance that a lead will move through the sales funnel to become a customer.

Communication encompasses a range of skills, including but not limited to:

  • Clarity of meaning

  • Getting along with others

  • Persuasion

  • Getting people to listen to your ideas

  • Empathy

If you want to build strong relationships with potential and long-time customers alike, your business development and sales reps need to have strong communication skills.

2) People Skills

Like communication, people skills are crucial for success as a business development professional or sales rep. And like communication, people skills have a wide variety of facets, such as:

  • Patience

  • Flexibility

  • Trust

  • Interest in others

  • Ability to listen

  • Good judgment

  • An open mind

  • Honesty

  • Adaptability

These skills will help both business development pros and sales reps develop the relationships necessary to cultivate relationships with clients and customers.

3) Drive

Both business development and sales reps need drive to be successful in their given field. A laissez-faire attitude is counterproductive for your employees when they’re trying to cultivate customer relationships and reach their goals. They need an inner drive that motivates them to put in the long hours to find a potential lead or make a sale.

That drive also helps your business development and sales reps avoid succumbing to discouragement when negotiations don’t go their way or deals fall apart.

4) Discipline

Even highly-motivated (driven) professionals experience failure at one point or another. A good business development or sales rep will have the discipline to get back on their feet and keep going in the face of rejection.

They know that all it takes is one more phone call or one more email to experience success again. It requires a special kind of discipline to push through the failure, to get back on task, and to continue executing at a high level. That’s what you want to find or develop in your sales team.

5) Confidence

Good business development and sales reps are confident in their abilities to get the job done. But confidence doesn’t always come easy. It takes experience — success and failure — to develop the confidence necessary to be successful.

It’s great if a potential business development rep or sales rep exhibits all five traits, but don’t hold your standards too high. All of these skills can be taught and improved with the right training program and a healthy dose of experience.

Don’t hamstring your hiring process by holding out for an employee with all five of these skills. If you interview someone who has excellent people skills and a drive to succeed, move them to the top of your list. You can develop the other three traits after they’re on the job.

Take Your Business Development And Sales To The Next Level

Work space for business development professionals

Whether you’re a one-person business development/sales rock star or you’re part of a dedicated team of 10, where you work has a profound impact on your success. If your team is spending eight, 10, even 12 hours in a shabby workspace, their focus, engagement, and morale will be affected.

And don’t forget the very real possibility that clients and potential investors may want to drop by your offices to touch base. The lack of a professional image at that point can be disastrous to both your business development and sales.

Bond Collective Coworking Space

That’s why it’s vital for the success of your business to take advantage of the myriad benefits of a professionally designed and maintained coworking space offered by Bond Collective. With seven locations to suit your every need, Bond Collective is the go-to solution for businesses of all sizes.

At Bond Collective, you get more than just a beautiful and spacious work environment. You’ll also benefit from the low overhead inherent in the shared workspace concept and infrastructure — like lightning fast internet, storage, snack bar, and on-site technical support — that you might not be able to afford on your own.

So whether you choose a coworking space, a dedicated desk, or a private office for you or your team, the work environment will allow you to focus on what’s most important: taking your business development and sales to the next level.

For more business advice and to learn about the advantages of coworking spaces for startups, digital nomads, remote workers, and enterprises of all types and sizes, visit today. We know what businesses need.