Business Development and Sales: just two different ways to refer to the same activity of getting your product into your client’s hands, right? Actually, the two are vastly different business functions in any organisation.
While business development focuses on finding growth opportunities for the organisation, sales focuses on convincing customers to purchase your organisation’s product. You can think of it as two steps of the same process. A business development professional typically finds the market and customers that are suitable for your company to pitch its product to, before a salesperson comes in to seal the deal, which generates revenue.
While companies like to lump both business functions together in one team especially when starting out, the skillsets required of each business function are actually very different.
Members of a business development team need to have business intelligence skills: they need to understand the market and consumers’ buying patterns, as well as have strong prospecting abilities. A successful BD professional is able to think long term and foresee which industries will become sunrise or sunset industries.
Superb communication skills are also a must-have for anyone working in business development. You need to be able to story tell and promote the brand, to pave the way for sales to work their magic. Relationship-building skills are also a necessity. This is because the business development manager is often the first point of contact with a potential customer, and therefore needs to be able to get them excited about your offerings. An excellent salesperson should also possess superior communication skills, but where a BD professional focuses on storytelling, a good salesperson must be able to persuade clients effectively. A salesperson should also be able to cultivate and deepen relationships, as they’ll be building more long-term relationships with customers.
For sales, it goes without saying that you’ll need to have excellent product knowledge. You should know your company’s products at the back of your hand, and be able to showcase relevant use-cases for the client. An often understated skill that is important in sales is account management. In other words, a good salesperson must be able to take into account factors such as the customer’s purchasing power before pitching the product to them.
For business development, usually it’s a case of starting out at a junior role, before progressing to the managerial level. Due to the skill sets required of business development, such as business intelligence and prospecting skills, a person working in BD could also take on various strategic roles.
If you start off in sales, you would likely stay in the sales pipeline throughout your career. This is because the skills required of a good salesperson, such as product knowledge, are niche and take time to train. However, some of these skills are also transferable. As a salesperson would have extensive knowledge of the partner’s needs, they can also work in merchandising positions in the retail industry.
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VP, Wholesale, SEA & ANZ