Sales vs. Business Development: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 September 2022 | Published 27 July 2021

Updated 17 September 2022

Published 27 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Although sales and business development are closely connected and many often use these two terms interchangeably, they serve separate functions in a firm. A single individual may execute both roles in a small firm, but a bigger firm usually requires distinct teams to succeed. If you're in the midst of starting your career in either sector, understanding the distinction between sales and business development can assist you in determining which role is ideal for you. In this article, we answer important questions pertaining to sales vs. business development.

Sales vs. business development

To identify the differences between sales vs. business development, business development efforts come before the sales process. When an organisation enters a new market, the first step is to find the most promising leads in the market. The business development team is in charge of generating these leads. Once the business development team has discovered these leads, sales representatives may begin leading consumers through the purchasing process.

A company that's looking for additional leads or that wants to grow into new specialised markets can engage more business development experts to look for possible sales possibilities. In contrast, a company with numerous untapped leads needs additional salespeople to follow up with them and build connections with them. Essentially, business development revolves around creating new business opportunities, while sales revolve around closing product sales.

What is business development?

Business development entails discovering prospective consumers and clients that suit the organisation's product offerings. The business development function is responsible for sourcing the best match between a buyer and a product. Business development professionals are typically in charge of:

  • Studying and finding potential leads

  • Matching products to niche markets

  • Assessing competitive and product positioning

  • Participating in trade associations have a better understanding of the market

  • Attending trade shows to network with prospective clients

  • Building strategic partnerships to incite word of mouth

  • Sourcing prospects through social selling, cold emails or cold calls

Related: 32 Business Development Manager Interview Questions

What is sales?

Sales refer to the process of generating income that arises from the transaction of products or services offered by the organisation. Sales professionals direct customers through the sales funnel, converting them from leads to purchasers. Sales professionals are in charge of:

  • Building rapport with leads to determine their needs and finding suitable products or services for them

  • Following up with leads acquired from marketing campaigns

  • Overcoming and solving complaints pertaining to products or services

  • Demonstrating products

  • Creating contracts

  • Concluding sales

How do sales and business development work together?

Despite the fact that business development and sales are two distinct professions and frequently two different functions in a company, both sales and business development professionals may collaborate and depend on each other to reach overall business goals. Both of these professionals typically engage and collaborate with the marketing team, forming a critical success team. Outlined below are the steps involved in the company development, marketing and sales processes:

1. Positioning the products and services

Product positioning is essentially the process of determining and communicating the way you want your target market to perceive your product offering. The business development team collaborates with the marketing team to determine the optimal product and service positioning. Both departments may collaborate to assess the industry and discover excellent positioning within it. Business development professionals want to reassure that the product fulfils the needs of a specific niche, while sales professionals want to ensure that the proposed product positioning can translate into sales.

2. Determining the value proposition

Consequently, both the business development and sales teams may work closely together to identify the most effective value proposition for the organisation's product offering. These professionals may identify the pain points encountered by the target market, highlight what distinguishes the organisation's product offering and tie this back to the identified pain points. The value proposition has to describe all the benefits that the organisation offers and how these benefits can help the customers.

3. Choosing the most suitable marketing channels

The marketing team is largely in charge of determining the best marketing channels to market the organisation's product offering. At this stage, the business development specialists may come in to determine the best strategies to approach prospective leads. Sales professionals, on the other hand, may offer input on the channels that have shown to be the most effective in connecting them with clients.

4. Specifying the process of lead generation

The business development and marketing teams typically define the lead generation process from the initial point of contact through the final sale. The business development team can contribute the insights and knowledge they've acquired from industry study, as well as networking. In this process, the organisation may develop tactics and strategies to attract prospects and transform them into leads.

5. Building relationships with customers

Through its campaign efforts, the marketing team can foster client interactions and build relationships. The marketing team may engage customers through online advertising, television commercials, social media campaigns and posts, email newsletters or search engine optimisation. The marketing department also monitors exposure, keeps the organisation's reputation up to date and provides educational resources to assist customers in comprehending the company's product offering. On the other hand, the business development team can connect with customers through cold calls, cold emails and networking. Combined, all of these activities can generate a list of promising leads.

Related: What Is Field Marketing? A Definitive Guide and Benefits

6. Following up on leads

When business development and marketing departments discover prospective leads, sales representatives can commence their work. Sales professionals may take the generated leads and route them through the sales funnel. Salespeople rely on the marketing team to explain the value proposition to prospective customers, setting the foundation for a successful sales transaction.

Related: What Is Inside Sales? (Plus Strategies and Advantages)

7. Closing sales

Ultimately, the sales team can guide and service customers throughout the remaining sales process. The sales professionals may pitch product benefits, conduct demonstrations, follow up with interested prospects, negotiate pricing packages and close the transaction when the prospect decides to make the purchase. At this stage, it's crucial that sales professionals build a strong rapport with the customers to establish brand loyalty.

8. Following up with customers

Following the sales transaction, sales professionals may stay in touch with customers to promote brand loyalty and attempt to convert new consumers into loyal repeat customers. The sales team can extend the organisation's gratitude and inform customers of new features or product offerings. This stage is essential to enhance the overall customer experience.

Frequently asked questions about sales vs. business development

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the two functions:

Is a business development manager a salesperson?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, a business development manager is not a salesperson. A business development manager focuses more on curating solutions that bridge the current market gap, as opposed to selling a product that is readily available. Typically, a business development manager has the following roles:

  • Creating growth strategies

  • Generating awareness of the prospective buyers

  • Identifying sales leads

  • Managing relationships with clients

  • Expanding client base

  • Possessing a comprehensive knowledge of the business value proposition

  • Drafting business proposals

  • Following up on new business opportunities such as new markets, customer base, potential partnerships, products and services

  • Conducting negotiations with multiple stakeholders

Read more: What Does a Business Development Manager Do? (With Salary)

Is business development a sales job?

Sales ensure that your firm operates in the short run, while business development ensures that your firm can survive in the long run. Technically, a business development job is different from a sales job. But oftentimes, a lot of companies rebrand the sales roles into business development roles. Be mindful to check the job description and scope to ensure that you're on the right track. A business development job entails identifying new leads, networking and discovering untapped niches, while a sales job entails connecting with leads, pitching products and closing sales.

Related: What Is Business Development and Is It Sales?

What are the skills needed for a business development role?

Listed below are some of the most essential skills for a business development role:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

  • Public speaking skills

  • Analytical skills

  • Research and critical thinking skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Organisation skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Teamwork skills

  • Time and project management skills

  • Reliability

Read more: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume

What are the skills needed for a sales role?

The following are some of the most critical soft skills for a sales professional:

  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills

  • Customer service skills

  • Sales skills

  • Negotiation skills

  • Relationship-building skills

  • Multitasking skills

  • Active listening skills

  • Persuasive skills

  • Empathy skills

  • Resilience

  • Teamwork skills

  • Flexibility

  • Work ethic

Related: Sales Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

Explore more articles