Business development is a growing career path in both domestic and international industries. However, there is some confusion as to just what a business developer does. According to Scott Pollack, writing for Forbes magazine, business development consists of three main focal points: customers, markets and relationships.
Business development is about generating customers. This can mean finding new customers for a particular business or extracting more value from an existing customer base. While it may sound similar to a sales position, business development skills address higher-level needs. As one business developer for Proctor & Gamble puts it, “We don’t go store-to-store selling products to store managers. . . . We work directly with the senior management of Canada’s major retailers to build national plans.” So, rather than focusing on individual customers, business developers concentrate on large-scale customer generation.
Another area that business development skills focus on is markets. Companies do not pursue new markets without first researching them diligently. They may employ a market research firm to gather the data, but many companies employ in-house researchers as well. Kristie Lorette of Demand Media says “Most companies enter a new market because an opportunity has been identified — meaning there is a need in the market that is not currently being fulfilled.” Business development skills help researchers identify those markets and develop strategies to reach them.
According to Scott Pollack, “Business development requires not only having an expansive network to help you facilitate a deal, but also a deep understanding of how to build and maintain new relationships to leverage them when needed.” Therefore, business development skills focus not only on forming relationships but also on knowing when to leverage those relationships in the service of a company.
How Is Business Development Different Than Sales?
While “business development” may seem like just another new phrase for sales, there are some significant differences. The confusion is common because business developers and salespeople have similar roles, depending on the company. Compounding this confusion is the sales development position, which is responsible for “researching, prospecting, and qualifying leads before passing them off to the sales team to further develop and close” (Ye). Business development skills focus on creating relationships, while sales “is all about closing,” according to Leslie Ye, staff writer for HubSpot’s sales blog. Thus, business developers and salespeople work hand-in-hand to benefit a company.
While there is some overlap between business development and sales, they each ultimately fill different roles for a company. Working together, though, business developers and salespeople bring value to a company by creating and maintaining beneficial relationships.
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