Differences Between Business Development vs Sales?

Does your team understand the distinction between business development vs sales? Read on to discover more about these two vital business tasks.

When it comes to the two most important functions in any company, many people might not know the difference between business development vs sales. But understanding the distinction is key to knowing how your company operates and what role you play within it.

Business Development is all about creating opportunities for your company – developing new markets, identifying potential customers, and so on. Sales, on the other hand, is focused on closing deals with customers – finding leads, pitching products or services, and negotiating contracts

What is Business Development?

Many people disagree on the difference between business development vs sales.

Business development is responsible to find new customers and grow existing customer relationships. It generates revenue through strategic partnerships, marketing efforts, or other activities that add value to the company.

Business development is the process of identifying potential prospects within a company’s industry or outside it and establishing contact with them to explore growth opportunities.

Business developers have one goal: to build new relationships and to find opportunities that will lead to more revenue.

Is business development sales possible? The answer is both yes and no.

Roles of Business Development Representatives

Large corporations often have dedicated business development teams, while smaller companies may share this role with other departments.

Business developers typically have one of the following roles:

  • Itinerant business developer – They are focused on finding new prospects in outside markets and securing their interest to do business with your company.
  • Business Development Manager They are responsible for managing and cultivating relationships with prospects, often helping them to identify growth opportunities.
  • Corporate Sales Executive Their role is to meet potential clients in a company’s market area (or beyond it) and establish contact.

When the opportunity arises, business development representatives might also be involved in closing deals.

These business development titles are great for hiring.

  • Director of Business Development.
  • Business Development Manager.
  • Vice President, Business Development.
  • Business Development Specialist.
  • Representative for Business Development.

These are just a few of many titles that can be used for business development. Other companies might use other business development titles to attract new employees.

Here are some other names for business and creative job titles that can be used for business development.

  • Senior Account Executive
  • Strategic Partnerships Manager
  • B2B Corporate Sales
  • Strategic Alliance Specialist
  • Senior Solutions Consultant

These creative business development titles will help you attract candidates who are interested not only in “business development”, but also other job titles.

What is Sales Development?

Sales development is a department within sales teams that is highly specialized.

This function’s goal of this sales department is to identify, engage with, and bring qualified leads to the pipeline for marketing or other departments that will work on converting them to customers.

Sales Development Representative Roles

These representatives are responsible for identifying, engaging with, and bringing qualified leads into the pipeline to be used by marketing and other departments to convert them in to customers.

This person may use a variety of methods including outbound calls and email campaigns. They may also be responsible for maintaining customer relationships.

Here are some roles that a sales representative can play:

  • Cold calls and emails to generate leads
  • Outbound sales activities are used for new and qualified opportunities. This person is responsible to create a pipeline of potential customers and maintain relationships with existing clients.
  • Engaging in conversation by phone or email with prospects
  • Establishing partnerships with prospects via customer referrals or joint marketing campaigns.

Organizations invest in sales development professionals to generate new business opportunities and retain customers. They are often part of an outbound team that works with sales departments to convert potential customers into revenues.

Sales development specialists help potential customers by nurturing them through lead generation, nurturing, closing and closing. They are often the first point of contact for prospects or clients, initiating conversations to establish relationships.

These people keep in touch with potential and current customers to share information on products/services that might be of benefit to them.

What Are The Differences Between Business Development vs Sales?

It can be difficult to understand the differences between business development and sales strategies, as they often overlap. It’s not “business development vs. selling”, but rather a collaborative sales process.

When it comes to priorities, for example, business development is often in line with sales development.

  • Increasing sales revenue and finding new customers.

Increasing sales revenue and finding new customers.

  • Establishing client relationships, and improving existing connections.

Establishing client relationships, and improving existing connections.

  • Expanding into or competing in untapped sales territories and marketing regions.

Expanding into or competing in untapped sales territories and marketing regions.

This distinction can be difficult in smaller companies, where fewer employees often mean fewer defined roles and teams.

It is easiest to understand the differences between sales and business development by breaking them down and comparing them side-by side.

It can be difficult to see the differences between business development and sales activities when one area is overlapping with another within an organization.

It is important to remember, however, that business development should be prioritized in the sales process if your business or team is growing (or trying).

This is because a plan must be developed to generate more sales opportunities through well-researched leads.

According to Gartner, 89.9% of companies rely on at least two sources of contact data for their sales development needs.

Your sales reps will be able to close more sales deals and transactions if your business development team is able to connect with the right audience.

Business Development talks Technology, sales talks Products

Business development in the context of advanced materials is about:

  • Approaching the market with an exploratory and learning mindset to uncover and capture challenges that could be solved with the company’s technological abilities is key.
  • Creating awareness among potential buyers of your technology and what it might mean for them. This stage is typically where you go through testing and codevelopment.
  • Working together with R&D to find a solution to the problem.
  • Once initial sales are made, you can interact with sales and marketing to establish the appropriate sales channels (internal, distributors, agents, …), fine tuning the marketing message to the target audience(s ),…).

Why it is important to separate business development vs Sales

Let’s look at some of the key reasons your business will benefit greatly from separating the business development roles and sales roles.

How business development & sales work together (4 common Questions)

Now that we are clear about the distinction between sales and business development, let’s discuss how these two roles should be used in conjunction to maximize the effectiveness of your sales team’s efforts.

1. When should business development be passed to sales?

Your sales team must meet their quotas. This means they cannot waste time talking with prospects who aren’t qualified. They’ll waste time and energy hunting down the wrong leads, which will dilute their close rate.

As soon as they are qualified , business development representatives should pass on a lead to sales. This doesn’t mean that sales and business development teams should not have a collaborative relationship.

Scott Pollack, WeWork’s VP of Business Development, explains that business development teams should identify, evaluate, and pursue opportunities to create long-term value. This means that BD and sales teams can coexist happily. The sales team works on closing revenue today while the BD team focuses on opportunities to open new channels, drive a flood in new leads for tomorrow.

Pollack suggests that business development teams should focus their efforts and time on building relationships with only the most qualified leads who have the potential to become happy customers. They will then be able to pass the torch on to sales.

How can you tell when a lead has been fully qualified and is ready to be closed? This can vary depending on the product or market you are selling, but you can start by asking these 42 questions to your prospects.

To qualify prospects, you will need to accurately assess how closely they match your ideal customer profile. This will include key information about company size, industry, and location.

Next, assess their needs to ensure that your product is a good fit for their needs. Also, understand their buying process to make sure your selling process matches theirs. Finally, evaluate any other options they might be considering.

If all goes well and the prospect is still a strong potential client, they are qualified–and ready for you to close the deal with your sales team.

2. Is there overlap between business development vs sales?

What are your day-to-day activities? No, it’s not.

Prospecting and qualifying should be the sole focus of business development. Sales should only be about closing qualified leads and generating sales.

Your business development and sales reps must agree on who your ideal customers are. They need to know their characteristics, qualities, and the types of problems you can help them with.

This is because of the constantly changing environment in startups and requires frequent cross-team collaboration.

Kimberly Pousman, CreativeLive Director of Partnerships and Business Development explains that there should be overlap in business development and sales. But, there must also be overlap – whether you want it or not.

Pousman says, “Asking the right questions is key to success in sales or business development.” If you want to grow and expand your business, you must ask the right questions and experiment. You also need to actively seek feedback from others.

If your teams operate in silos, they will miss out on valuable opportunities to learn and improve your growth rate.

The downstream effect is that sales reps will have trouble closing enough deals with the leads they have if the alignment between business development teams and sales teams is not up to par. This can lead to frustration and a close ratio below the 20-30% industry standard for SaaS.

If your close rate for sales is lower than 20%, it’s either because they aren’t closing as well as they should or your leads don’t qualify.

3. What is the difference between business development reps’ day-to-day activities and sales reps’?

Although the responsibilities of a business developer rep may vary depending on the specific needs and demands of an organization’s internal environment, they are generally responsible for two core tasks.

  • Managing Inbound Leads: This involves working through an internal database, qualifying leads from different marketing campaigns, and classifying the best leads as sales opportunities to be passed to the sales team for further vetting.
  • Leading outbound prospecting This type of outreach involves researching and contacting potential clients that haven’t expressed an interest in your product via cold calls or emails. The goal is to qualify sales opportunities for your sales staff.

Business development representatives are the intermediary between sales and marketing. They filter marketing leads and qualify them before assigning them the right sales rep to close the sale.

Before they can start contacting prospects, business development representatives should first go through the sales training process of your company. Your company’s size will determine how your business development representatives start researching prospects before they send an email or call.

Outbound business development should be about starting a conversation and building a relationship that can lead to closing the sale. Every business development rep’s job should be about finding more prospects, qualifying them, and routing them to your sales team for close.

Let’s now talk about the responsibilities for sales reps.

Sales representatives have the following main responsibilities.

  • Selling: Closing Deals (ideally with prequalified leads from your business team to save time). Use solid arguments and objection management to communicate with potential customers.
  • Maintaining relationships: While prospects might not be the right fit for your product or service today it doesn’t mean that they won’t be in a different situation 6 months from now or a year later. Therefore, a sales rep must keep in touch with leads to promote future sales.

Sales representatives work against a sales target. This is a monthly or quarterly minimum number of customers, or revenue, they are responsible for closing. Sales reps are often incentivised with increasing bonus payouts if they exceed their quota within a certain period.

Sales reps are encouraged to focus all their attention on revenue-driving activities by focusing on hitting revenue benchmarks or customers.

More meetings. More product demos. More qualified leads for sales calls. More contracts sent for approval and More follow-up emails are sent.

Sales reps in mature sales organizations are empowered to spend less time on prospect research, qualification leads, and booking meetings. These are the activities that a business development representative should be involved in.

4. What is the difference between a business development call or email and a sales rep’s?

The main difference between business development reps’ calls and emails and sales reps’ is that most business development activities are directed at cold prospects. This means that these prospects likely have had little to no interaction before making the initial contact.

This is when you need to brush up on your cold emailing and cold calling skills.

A sales rep is already qualified and established by the time they are brought on to an account. This makes the communication warmer than that of a business development representative. Instead of gauging initial interest or need, the conversation with a sales representative is about making a mutually beneficial deal.

How To Hire Sales And Business Developers?

Sales, marketing, business growth, lead generation: There are so many roles and so much potential for overlap, it can be easy to get lost in the process of building a sales or business development team.

It is important to remember that business development professionals usually handle the top-of-funnel activities while sales personnel typically work further down in the sales cycle and are more focused on closing.

The first thing you need to do is assess how your business is performing at each end of the sales process.

  • Are your closing deals consistent? Perhaps your sales team is a well-oiled machine but has trouble filling their pipeline with qualified leads. It may be time for a new set of business development reps.

Are your closing deals consistent? Perhaps your sales team is a well-oiled machine but has trouble filling their pipeline with qualified leads. It may be time for a new set of business development reps.

  • Are your sales reps having difficulty following up with all the qualified leads that you have generated?

Are your sales reps having difficulty following up with all the qualified leads that you have generated?

You should have a plan to find the right people for your sales and business development team, since they often work together to achieve growth goals.

For example, you might choose to focus on candidates who have demonstrated their ability to work in a team environment. You might also ask your team members to participate in group interviews and give feedback.

This brief list of key attributes will help guide you in creating your business plan.

What should you look for in a sales rep

Sales reps must have a strong desire for solving customer problems and a belief in the value of their solution.

Look for:

  • Excellent communication skills.

Excellent communication skills.

  • A balance between confidence and approachability.

A balance between confidence and approachability.

  • Demonstrates time management and sales organizational skills.

Demonstrates time management and organizational skills.

It is possible to acquire closing and selling techniques. It is important that the candidate you are considering has a willingness to learn and a genuine drive to help clients.

It may be easier to attract and keep top talent if you offer ongoing training and a competitive compensation plan that rewards reps who work hard and grow their accounts.

What to Look for in Business (and Sales) Development Reps

Business development reps must be able to think for the long-term and do work that may not always produce immediate results.

Look for:

  • Experience in sales or a talent for networking and social media.

Experience in sales or a talent for networking and social media.

  • Knowledge of buyer personas, customer research and lead qualification.

Knowledge of buyer personas, customer research and lead qualification.

  • Ability to take initiative

Ability to take initiative

Ideally, you should look to hire people who understand the value of relationship-building and who are excited to learn all they can about your solution and the benefits it offers.

It may be easier to attract and keep top talent if you offer a competitive wage, supportive work environment, and ongoing communication skills training.

What is the difference between a business development manager and a sales manager?

The main difference between a business development manager and a sales manager is that the business development manager’s role is to identify new potential customers or markets for the company, whereas the sales manager’s role is to manage and increase sales within current customer accounts.


So what’s the difference between business development vs sales? At a basic level, Business Development is about creating opportunities for your company, while Sales is focused on closing deals with customers. But there’s more to it than that.

Business Development teams typically have a broader skillset than do Sales teams, including areas such as marketing and product development; whereas Sales teams are often experts in their particular area of the market or industry they serve. 


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