The Basics of Sales vs. Business Development

Sales and Business Development

Too many folks use the terms “sales” and “business development” interchangeably. BD and sales are different beasts, so I thought it would be helpful to lay out the basics…

SALES

Convincing a potential customer to purchase your product.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Creating long-term value for your company via partners and relationships.

SALES

Focused on customers.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Focused on channels.

SALES

Numbers-driven 24/7.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Sacrifices short-term bumps for long-term value creation.

SALES

Measured by sales quotas, with expected quarter-by-quarter growth.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Measured by business objectives, whether that be distribution, marketing, or otherwise.

SALES

A scalable business function to drive revenue.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Regularly testing non-scalable things to drive exponential growth.

SALES

Cold calls are the lifeblood of success.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Cold calling means you’re not connected enough.

SALES

Measure, measure, measure. How many calls can you do in a day? What’s your sales conversion rate? What communication method converts best to a sale? How do we drive customer acquisition prices lower?

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Calculate value constantly. Where can we get our biggest bang-for-buck in a partnership? What value do we create for our partner? What value does the partner bring to us?

SALES

Make a sale, hand it off to customer onboarding and support.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Manage a partnership through its lifecycle.

SALES

Sales team training, onboarding, and growth is expected with company growth.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

BD teams are amorphous and rarely look the same from business-to-business.

SALES

Always be closing.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Always be hustling.

SALES

The best salespeople come from the school of hard knocks, rigorous on-the-job sales training, can think big picture, and have exceptional strategic quantitative skills.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

The best business development people are well-connected, know how to navigate partner organizations, can craft a story, and have an exceptional eye for value potential.

SALES

A dirty word in Silicon Valley.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

A catch-all title for every MBA grad coming to a startup.

SALES

Glengarry Glenn Ross. The Wolf of Wall Street. Tommy Boy. Mad Men.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Moneyball. Jerry Maguire. Entourage. Risky Business.

Sure, there are plenty of similarities. But sales and business development fundamentally aim for different goals. They take different people and approaches. Get it right, or pay the price.

  • http://bestdelegate.com/ Ryan Villanueva

    Cool post! Love the back-and-forth comparison between sales and BD. For a small start-up (like 4 people or less), do you think it’s more important to focus on one or the other?

    • mattdsandler

      Thanks man! It totally depends on the startup. Different priorities for different situations. B2B software? Likely sales. Consumer music? Likely BD.