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Business Development vs. Sales: Everything You Need to Know

Business development vs sales

Business development and sales titles are often confused with one another. Although they are similar, each of these positions is actually quite different. There are many different sales titles, but here, we’ll identify the main differences between business development and sales. The two complement each other and round out a full sales team, but they have their own set of responsibilities, skills, and sales training requirements. When looking at building a team from a business development vs sales perspective, you first have to consider the basics of each. 

Our guide will take you through the difference between sales and business development by sharing: 

  • General information and misconceptions of each
  • Impact each has on a company
  • Skill set needed for a sales development representative vs. business development representative 
  • Job titles that fall under each category

After outlining what you need to know regarding these crucial business development roles, we’ll also share the importance of sales enablement for growth and advancement among sales teams.

Identifying the Difference Between Business Development and Sales

A business development representative’s primary focus is creating new business opportunities for the company to increase revenue and expand into new markets. This position largely focuses on prospecting activities and engaging in early-stage conversations with potential customers. Alternatively, sales reps are focused on establishing client relationships, working the sales process, and maintaining existing relationships. Both are vital to an organization and can work together to maximize results. In most sales organizations, business development reps are responsible for executing various lead generation strategies to identify and qualify leads before handing them off to sales to establish business relationships. Understanding the lead generation funnel is crucial for a BDR to successfully do their job.

Defining responsibilities is a crucial component when differentiating a business development role and a sales role. A common question about business development vs sales is where to have sales reps conduct business development efforts or how to specialize the role. While many companies utilize a “Jack-or-Jill-of-all-trades” approach, it’s important to hone in on just one. This will be a lot more effective for the sales organization in terms of staying organized and successful.

For example, having new prospects coming in on an ongoing basis is theoretically the best place to be in. However, every company needs to consider the availability of resources and how much they’re willing to pay for business development. It is much more expensive to acquire new clients than it is to work with existing accounts who already are familiar with your products and services.

Another potential issue is that many companies employ a “Jack-or-Jill-of-all-trades” model in which they expect their sales reps to do the prospecting and the selling. To maximize efforts and results, a business development specialist should be solely tasked with prospecting and qualifying new business whereas sales should focus largely on establishing deeper client relationships, closing qualified leads, and identifying opportunities in existing accounts. 

Because of the difference in these responsibilities, there are different timelines and goals for each. Nurturing leads and qualifying prospects can take weeks, if not months, before a potential client is ready to sign. Once qualified and ready to discuss contract details, the sales process can often go much faster.

Impact of Business Development vs. Sales Roles

Each role brings a distinctive impact to an organization. One of the main differences between a sales and business development representative is that a business developer enjoys the “hunt” of attracting new business. A strong initiative and self-motivation are mandatory as the role requires researching, identifying, and qualifying leads. 

It requires a true understanding of the industry and the ability to identify and expand into multiple markets. A business development manager or rep must focus on changes and knowing how to show value to clients continuously. This role is often better suited for people with an outgoing personality, who love to meet new people, expand their professional network, and prefer a fast-paced role that allows them to multitask and spend much of their days on the phone. Their role can also include doing competitive research and lead qualification.

Meanwhile, if business development representatives enjoy the hunt, then sales is for “cultivators.” The role is geared toward those who excel in closing sales and growing existing business relationships. This includes the types of sales professionals who are well-versed in nurturing client relationships and consistently acquire new business to find success in their roles. A salesperson must have strong interpersonal skills and the ability to actively listen. 

Clients appreciate a proactive approach to solving problems and preventing others from occurring. For this reason, sales reps must be ready to adapt to the industry and provide solutions through target market research and data-backed strategies. Sales reps typically have a monthly quota to hit in terms of revenue generation or closed deals. They are responsible for product demonstration and troubleshooting as well as negotiating contract terms. Overall, the primary goal for sales is to close deals.

Business Development Skills and Job Titles

A key difference between sales and business development is a division of time and resources. Business development professionals are responsible for guiding prospects through the early stages of the sales funnel and qualifying them as prospects. General qualifiers often include:

  • Talking with a decision-maker
  • Level of interest and need
  • Budget restraints
  • Current solutions and future opportunities

Due to the high level of interaction, business development professionals must have an innately curious nature. Finding new ways and solutions to solve problems is one of the core characteristics of this type of role. A personable and inclusive approach is also valuable to create concise and valuable messaging. Additionally, it keeps the prospect’s interest peaked.

When qualifying leads, it’s also important to speak to a potential customer’s unique needs. In this stage of the sales process, a business development rep must be able to possess the required business acumen to have meaningful conversations, answer questions, pique interest, and network effectively. All of these approaches help to secure trust and eventually convince a prospect to buy. 

A typical structure of business development positions within a company is:

  • Business Development Specialist or Representative
  • Business Development Manager
  • Director of Business Development
  • VP of Business Development

Other roles may include: 

  • Strategic Partnerships Manager
  • Solutions Consultant
  • Business Relationships Associate

Furthermore, many organizations consider marketers a key component of their business development team. Marketers are responsible for attracting new leads through various inbound and outbound channels. These include skills not generally associated with a traditional sales role. 

Content marketing, social media, paid advertising, database marketing, and public relations are part of what helps generate new business. Additionally, it may involve setting up and scheduling conference appearances, speaking engagements, and other networking opportunities. A business development team should consider working with their in-house marketing department to achieve greater success. 

Establishing the right combination of roles optimizes prospecting efforts by delegating tasks and tracking individual results for overall effectiveness. 

Sales Skills and Job Titles

The information-gathering and relationship-building of the business development role is established before continuing the sales conversation. A sales rep will review all information and continue to drive the relationship momentum toward opportunity conversion. During this time, a sales rep will embark on a thorough discovery process, present a tailored solution, overcome objections and answer any questions, discuss the investment and cost, and provide information on the implementation and post-implementation support options.

When considering the responsibilities of a sales representative vs. business development representative, it follows a similar hierarchy from Sales Rep to VP of Sales. Other jobs listed in this category include:

  • Inside sales rep
  • Outside sales rep
  • Account executives

Each of these roles establishes different points of a customer relationship. A person responsible for inside sales is typically office-bound and communicates primarily via phone and video conferencing tools with their clients. Often, inside sales reps will work with clients from across the country or the globe without specific territories assigned to them.

Outside sales professionals are often out in the field, travel frequently, attend trade shows and expositions, and will try and meet with prospects and clients face-to-face. Outside sales reps are also frequently assigned specific states, regions, or entire countries that they’re responsible for. This type of sales representative must be able to work without a lot of supervision as they are often on their own. A person must have confidence as well as the ability to work quickly and navigate the likelihood of a sale before moving on. 

Organizations set up their sales team differently, but the goal is the same: establishing and retaining client relationships. Sales professionals are responsible for answering the needs of clients and anticipating changing needs. They must be adept at knowing how to:

  • Build trust
  • Overcome objections from customers
  • Recommend products and services specifically tailored to customer needs
  • Determine the best solutions to enhance the customer experience

Sales development and reinforcement are crucial to any organization. A sales team is only as strong as its individual members. When one person struggles, the whole team eventually struggles as well. Since each person has their own skill set and experience, some may request ongoing sales coaching in specific areas such as presenting and closing deals. Others may need guidance in managerial roles when expanding their responsibilities. Part of being a good sales leader is finding a customized sales enablement strategy that delivers the best lasting results for the team. If you’re a manager looking for ways to advance the skills of your BDR or SDR team, Janek’s training programs are a great place to start. From sales coaching and training to management training programs, we have the resources you need to take your organization to the next level.