Sometimes when I write sales blogs, my LinkedIn community comments about how their clients are “friends” and how they forge “lifelong partnerships of trust” which allow their (most likely limited) success. Their clients truly “like” them. That is lovely, but that is not sales — that is business development.
The easily understood difference between sales and business development is this:
Sales professionals can sell or market literally anything that can be sold.
Business development professionals rely on a curated network of personal relationships that usually buy a specific product category that they lean on for their entire career.
I was once like the man in the above photo - practicing business development. I would take clients to ball games, dinners, and golf outings. I would tell them how much I enjoyed their stories and shower bountiful admiration onto them about how they performed their jobs. I was pandering and it worked, BUT it took a very long time to get there.
I started this type of relationship sales style when I was 23 years old and by the time I was 26 I had a multi-million dollar book of business. I was “their guy” and my clients followed me as I moved from job to job. This was really great for me and not so great for the companies I worked for. Why? Because I left and took most, if not all, of those relationships (and revenue) with me. My contribution to the company, as a business development representative, was only to be considered successful in a short term context.
Being a sales professional means being a numbers guy and selling your soul to metrics and percentages. You know those people who joke they could "sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves?" Or maybe a "snow cone to an Eskimo?" It’s easier said than done and most often said by quasi-successful business development reps.
Real sales professionals can literally sell anything. They can sell across services, industries, verticals, age demographics, etc. There is no boundary to these sales professionals and in most cases these people are as rare as white tigers. You most likely do not know one of these people, but if you do and they work at your company, DO NOT LET THEM GO. Ever seen the movie 300? These are the Spartan warriors amongst an army of simple Greeks. They are completely unstoppable.
Sales vs Business Development:
In my experience, BDR’s with a book of business are tough to hire, expensive, come with baggage, and often leave with everything.
Want to build a sustainable business? Start with a sustainable, fundamentals driven sales process no matter how much time it takes, because the real return-on-investment (ROI) of capital deployed to sales is building a self-sustaining machine that operates in perpetuity.
If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with those numbers or conversely you cannot wait for results: hire a business development representative with an existing book of business to increase the top of your funnel volume, but know that it’s very likely a band aid on a larger issue.