Sales vs. Business Development 101

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Sales and Business Development couldn’t be more different

So many people in business do not understand the fundamental difference between sales and business development. Usually these same individuals also carry the title VP/Director/Manager of Sales and Business Development!

How can someone possibly understand the nuances and practicalities that go into artful selling if they do not even understand the appropriateness of their role?

Simply put, sales is selling a product, service or other thing to a buyer directly for revenue. That’s it. A sales person is responsible for revenue. They are expected to carry a quota – a bag – and be responsible for a number.

Business development on the other hand requires selling skills but is not revenue generating – or at least not directly or immediately. It is the practice of developing relationships that can lead to greater revenue. These relationships introduce revenue opportunities with a multiplier such as a channel, resellers or access to customers that would not otherwise be accessible or easily accessible to your sales team.

Sometimes business developers are also responsible for selling through their channels as well. For example, if you are selling ad technology and you establish agency relationships, you may still want to sell to advertisers through the agencies to increase your revenues through that channel. But that takes time and your compensation should reflect that.

So which are you, sales or business development? If you’re both, you have conflicting goals. If your compensation is based on revenue, then you want to be in sales. If you are business development, then your compensation needs to have a different metric, such as number of channels, partners etc. – an override on revenues some time down the path is meaningful only if you have the opportunity to sell through the channels you create.

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