While guiding owners of business startups through marketing and sales conversion solutions, I sometimes hear them talk about sales and business development as if the two are the same thing. Everyone is clear on what sales is, but an explanation of business development, as I’ve provided below, often helps new business owners better understand what it is and what it actually involves, in contrast to sales.
Selling, of course, is making your best presentation of information about why a prospect should buy your product or service. It includes stating facts about features of the product or service and about the benefits of those features for the prospective customer. Selling also includes closing—which is, of course, the part of the selling process in which the salesperson asks the prospect to actually make the move to buy the offered product or service. Without this part, the presentation of information on features and benefits really just amounts to promoting, which is a component of marketing, not of sales.
Experienced sales managers provide their teams of sales reps with a proven successful, repeatable formal sales process. And, they equip them with all the tools they need to accomplish sales department objectives during that process. These include a standardized sales presentation (a.k.a the sales pitch), which each rep can then modify to fit his/her personal communications styles, and to add or remove some parts, as applicable. The sales tool box typically also includes:
- Customer testimonials
- Current competitive market analysis
- Case studies
- Training materials for managing scenarios and objection handling
- Various call scripts for use at point along the process
- Pricing grids
- Other POS documents
And, the most accommodating companies supply their sales reps with leads as well.
Although sales reps usually don’t design the company’s sales pitch or process, they’re experts in executing sales processes. They utilize a very specific skillset to repeatedly complete a selling process by drawing from their tools and methodically developing a lead, to move it through the sales pipeline and ultimately convert it. That’s selling. It’s the repetitive process performed by the income generating machinery that is the department of business activity known as Sales.
The business developer, by contrast, is an executive occupied with searching for ways to identify, capture and infuse resources from potential business partners, lenders, and civic decision makers, new market entries, and other possible external or internal sources.
The purpose of development activity is not to the same as that of sales department activity. The sales rep is tasked with generating income for the company in the amount of each individual sale he or she makes of one of the company’s offered products or services to an end customer. The business developer is engaged in creating model business plans by which the company can expand or add product or service lines. A business developer:
- Starts by forming an understanding of the business eco system surrounding and permeating your company, e.g., market factors, oncoming technologies, broader economic considerations.
- Charts the market and estimates which of your industry’s stakeholders may be capable of and attracted to leveraging your company’s offer of equity for investment, a development loan, grant, bond initiative, etc.
- Works to explore possibilities for mutually advantageous, unique business partnership(s), or other cooperative relationships with companies in the same or related industries, venture capitalists, conventional lenders, and civic developers.
- Depending on a company’s position and goals, they may analyze timelines and more modest options in bootstrapping to spur growth from every angle as well.
- Evaluates many of the countless possibilities for mutually viable arrangements for leveraging another company’s customer base, sales and/or marketing capacity, production compatibility and capacity, long-term acquisition goals.For example, he/she may look at the feasibility of an agreement for another company to accept a revenue sharing agreement to carry a minimum sales quota for your product or service. Or, an arrangement in which another company sells your product along with a particular product of theirs.
- Explores possibilities for various levels of entry into new markets as a growth strategy.
The art of business development is in creating a business plan that integrates one or more of the above solutions. For contrast, while the sales professional is adhering to an established process, the business developer is creating unique potential arrangements, possibly to suit a variety of types of possible partnering, or other development resources for the business.
Ultimately, the business developer’s job will be to sell the business plan he or she has created to decision makers and to close a development deal. So, at this stage, the role may appear to be a sales job after all. But, the distinctions are in the work to create viable development plan(s) and in the development objectives of the effort to sell the plan(s). Whereas, the sales team member’s task is to follow a pre-designed process, with the objective of increasing the company’s sales revenues by the amount of the individual sale (and, usually also to attempt to generate referrals at the time of that sale).
When to Engage in Business Development
Business development deals can transform a company from a small startup or going concern into a formidable competitor, even a mega-market presence. For a small company in the early stages of operation, it’s an especially exciting opportunity to accelerate growth and alter the business model.
But, keep in mind—you first need a repeatable selling process, and an increasing customer base, so that your sales department adequately supports your business developer’s case to prospective providers of loan(s), cash investment (and advanced business knowledge and guidance) resources. Your business developer can be effective when he/she is in a position to provide your company’s proof of viability as leverage against risk for stakeholders in your business development venture.
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