What's the Difference Between Sales and Business Development?

In many organizations, sales and business development tasks are assigned to the same group of people. They involve similar skills in communications and building relationships. Even so, the two represent very different kinds of work, each of which is important in sustaining and growing a company. Understanding which of these you are doing at different times can help you in your own professional development.

Sales Focus

If you work in sales, your focus should be on closing deals. You measure success in numbers: How many deals you finish, how much revenue you generate, and what commissions you earn. You look for breadth in your approach: The more clients or customers you can reach the better. The revenue you generate today helps your company grow.

You can achieve these results in different ways. Some build out their sales success by reaching a greater number of people; if you convert on a high raw number, you can hit your sales goals even with a relatively low conversion rate. For others, it is about finding the right customers and selling to a higher percentage. For many others, repeat sales drive their numbers year after year. Whichever way you adapt, hitting the right revenue numbers in the present means you have done well.

Business Development Aims for the Future

Business development, in contrast, is identifying, attracting and building new opportunities for your consistent, ongoing success. A slow sales week or month (or even year!) does not mean you have failed in your business development efforts. You work not for immediate numbers, but to establish relationships with the clients who will support your business over the long term.

Often, business development comes with a net immediate cost. This means you might devote time and money just getting to know a client. However, the sales professional in you might go crazy when you do not yield obvious dividends today, the long game can pay off. Taking time to create connections with the right clients or partners can lay the groundwork for sustained growth.

This is particularly true when you work in an organization that creates long-term sales or residual income. When you work in an industry that provides services over long periods of time, your business development efforts can generate sustained revenue for the organization.

Take the Long View

To treat sales or business development as the better of the two is to miss the point. Your goal should certainly be the sustained success that business development seeks, but without generating sales in the short term, you will never reach that point. You and your organization should look to create both immediate revenue and deeper client relationships. Learn to function in both capacities to maximize the value you can create and provide.

Partners of Nuvei benefit from experienced, dedicated Business Development Managers that can steer business in the right direction, for both the short- and long-term. Read more about our support tools dedicated to business development.
What's the Difference Between Sales and Business Development?

About the Author

Christine Poliquin, AVP, Partner Development Group

Christine started with Nuvei in sales in 2005 and has since held many roles, including sales, recruiting and relationship management. She combines her infectious personality, patience and meticulous planning skills to cultivate strategic partnerships and recruit top-notch talent.‍

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