New Business Development and Sales are often considered to be the same, but they are not. They complement each other but require different skill sets. This blog is a generalisation and not especially directed at businesses that sell only products. In my case, I am writing this with a view of the industries I tend to support which are service industries. Whatever your business, your size or your organisational structure there is a need to acknowledge, know and accept that there is a real difference between the function of New Business & Relationship Development and Sales ( meaning the person responsible for sale, whether that be a Sales Director/Manager, Partner, Business Owner, or a member of Senior Management).
Bernie Brenner www.berniebrenner.com an expert in strategic business development and frequent speaker on business development to entrepreneurs and venture investors very simply explains:
“While BD helps accelerate sales, BD is not sales. In sales, there is a transaction—goods are exchanged for dollars. There is no transaction in a BD deal. In BD, you are not selling tangible products and services to another company. You are proposing a partnership in pursuit of bigger untapped opportunities.”
“The biggest difference between sales and BD is in the dynamics that exist around selling (which is focused for revenue growth today) versus BD (which is focused around growing your revenue through strategic relationships for tomorrow).”
To grow a business you need both, that is true (as well as other key areas such as Marketing). Business & Relationship Development Professionals want to create new business partnerships with decision makers that can lead to projects or business being won down the line and so will keep looking for and building new relationships over time. They are responsible for keeping the door open until the time is right for the person responsible for sales can step in.
Business Development is a process involving researching prospects for the potential “right fit” and clarifying the right point of contact, making contact and then nurturing the prospect, laying foundations for a relationship to development and ultimately setting up a face to face meeting at the right time. This process is normally conducted by engaging via telephone with the person you would usually deem the key decision maker, having a two-way business conversation whilst articulating the reason for the call, conveying the passion for your company’s business and having the skill and experience if necessary to manoeuvre around the organisation should there be other relevant or different people to speak to. There are soft sales skills needed but seldom are BD specialists responsible for the “close”. The role is to engage, warm up the prospect, develop a rapport that creates trust, identifies a need, if not now, down the line and generate sufficient interest to set up a face to face meeting. Never is the process bullish, nor should a prospect be pushed into a meeting. There always needs to be a mutual and clearly understood agenda for the meeting – even if that is just to be an introduction.
Reaching decision makers is hard and requires a lot of effort, patience and the right amount of tenacity before a connection is made. Leaving the closing to the Sales experts, Business Development takes on the time consuming and necessary day to day role of maintaining awareness and contact with the prospect over time and until it is right for a meeting to be secured. The reasons for not securing a meeting are numerous for example, identifying the right time in the prospects buying cycle is key; being patient with restructures, change in Senior Management or new strategies are also factors, the prospect being burdened with other, higher priority matters to attend to, or perhaps there are existing relationships that may have a tie-in time line and make meeting inappropriate…….and so the list goes on. None of these have any bearing on the talent of the Business & Relationship Development Professional but are simply every day scenarios in the world of commerce that we all move in.
Sales on the other hand is about moving from the initial meeting through to a business win and closing the deal or agreement. The people responsible for sales and winning business have targets and are usually primarily focussed on closing in order to reach their target. That person then takes responsibility for managing that new relationship to ensure continuity of business in the future and to aim for growth from that relationship. Closing is a skill all by itself.
So to quote Lincoln Murphy, a Customer Success Strategist & Growth Architect www.twitter.com/lincolnmurphy :
“Business Development = ABO (Always Be Opening) and Sales = ABC (Always Be Closing)”