I recently attended a conference where a participant asked the speaker if business development was the new fancy word for sales. The speaker concurred, highlighting indeed the misconception many have regarding the two terminologies.

Although, business development and sales have many similarities and are geared towards growing a business, they also have many differences. Understanding those differences help in identifying qualified individuals to fill up the relevant positions and manage expectations.

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Business development refers to the activities designed to build your existing market and help you reach new market. Sales, on the other hand, is simply closing a business. While a business development manager (BDM) identifies customers, builds a relationship with them, prepares relevant materials, establishes partnership and generally creates the right product/service-market fit, the sales rep's (SR) roles are to close the business and maintain the relationship to ensure repurchase and referral. While a BDM collects information regarding the market and develops strategies to expand a company and increases its revenues, the SR focuses on the distribution of the product/service to sell. In certain companies, the BDM is also responsible for the pricing of the goods or services offered, while the SR is more concerned about the availability of those goods and services.

Many BDMs are excellent in marketing activities but terrible at selling. The opposite is also true. Some sales people are great at convincing and selling but terrible at prospecting and qualifying. Both roles are, however, necessary to build and grow a business. Even though many companies, especially smaller ones, tend to combine both roles. It is imperative, as the company grows to clearly separate both roles to expand and grow exponentially.