There is a misconception that sales and business development are the same, or at least interchangeable. This is partly due to the fact that job titles have shifted from salesperson to business development representative, in an effort to avoid any negative connotations that come with working in sales. However, the reality is that the two are very different.
The main function of sales is to sell directly to the end customer. And it’s about capacity, which is why you will see that sales teams can be pretty large in numbers. A true sales professional can sell almost anything, across services, industries and demographics. Furthermore, the best salespeople are masters of metrics and percentages. And the best salespeople who can do all of the above, and have soft skills are pretty rare.
In contrast, the function of business development is brand placement, market expansion, new user acquisition and brand awareness. All of this falls under marketing. Sales and business development do share soft skills, like negotiation, which are necessary in business development, but the similarity ends there. Regardless of the company, business development holds the same structure.
Why is there a difference between sales and business development? One reason is the constantly evolving consumer behavior. These days it is increasingly difficult to reach buyers. Consumers are always getting bombarded with advertisements and offers in their social media fields. So companies need a specialized team for lead gathering, and another to close the lead. It also makes business sense to have multiple touch points for a single lead, and your best sales people shouldn’t be spending their time researching and scouring for leads. This is where the business development team comes in, and together the two teams can maximize sales and closing efficiency.
Let’s look at some reasons you should separate business development from sales in your company. An important reason is that it creates domain expertise in your organization. The people executing business development or sales functions every day, leading to clear goals, are going to build their expertise quickly, far more than those people who switch tasks. This means your company will have a pool of talent that perhaps your competitors don’t. When you allow members of your team to focus solely on either prospecting or closing, they’ll develop a level of expertise at their role that’s otherwise very difficult to achieve. Creating an environment that accelerates the development of expertise is priceless in terms of organizational benefits—you’ll be able to generate more leads and close more of them.
Following on from the above, it’s worth highlighting that your team will experience productivity gains at the individual level too. While multitasking appears efficient on the surface, cognitive studies have shown that the act of consciously switching from one act to another can leave people mentally exhausted. Plus the quality of work declines the more you multitask. Eliminating multiple for individuals allows the team to work on fewer tasks, empowering them to execute single tasks within focused blocks of time, letting them excel at what they do and becoming more productive in the long run.