There is a fundamental difference when comparing business development vs sales. And while the two do go together, the terms are not interchangeable. The most common misconception that people have is that both of these words can be used to describe the same function.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, business development and sales do support each other, but it would be a mistake to assume that they are the same. You need to focus on both separately in order to grow your business.

Business Development vs Sales

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this topic and see just how business development differs from sales. To put it in simple words, business development deals with finding a segment of the market to which your product or service would appeal. Sales is the actual process of generating revenue from your product or service by pursuing leads in that segment of the market.

Business Development

Business development plays a vital role in the growth of your business since it deals with increasing competitiveness by expanding your products and services to focus on a larger or more niche segment of the market. It involves taking a more holistic view of your operations and the market to figure where gains can be made.

There's consensus among experts that business development generally relies on three core concepts which include the customers, markets, and relationships.

Business Development vs Sales
Business Development vs Sales

So if you'd like your business to grow beyond the state it's in right now, you'll want to focus on either one or ideally all of these concepts. Precisely what you end up focusing on also depends on the type of your business and the direction of its growth.

This isn't something that can be done in isolation, though, as it requires close collaboration with the teams that actually develop the products. The business development team can provide valuable insights that will help shape the features and functionality of your products and services.

Cohesion with the marketing team is also required so that the value proposition of the new products can be accurately communicated through the company's marketing efforts.


Sales is a different behemoth altogether. The entire sales operation of your company has to be focused on one thing only and that's to generate the most amount of revenue from the products and services offered.

This part of the business is extremely tactical in nature. It requires quick execution and a firm grasp of the market conditions. Deploying sales resources before there has been adequate work on the business development side is a big and costly mistake that's best avoided.

For example, if you're looking to expand your product into a new geographical market, chances are that the sales process that you use in a different market will be able to produce the exact same results there.

It's only once the business development work has been carried out to identify the gaps in the market and to generate leads from sales prospecting, can there be any chance of your sales resources actually doing a good enough job.

Business Development vs Sales - Where Do They Overlap?

There can often be an overlap between business development vs sales since both are business processes, much like research and development. They can also be described as the social engineering processes of a business as both require you to form an understanding about how potential customers might perceive your product.

Sales and business development are closely linked and therefore, do have an overlap. One can’t really thrive without the other. For example, there may be overlap when closing new clients, such a situation may present itself during the sales prospecting stage. So that would only require the sales team to perform the formalities for a client that's already in the bag.

The business developers on your staff may also do more than just lead generation, this expanded role may cover lead nurturing and sales support. Despite the apparent overlap, the best way to go about this is to have separate core areas of focus for the business developers and the sales people.

Business Development vs Sales
Business Development vs Sales

How Best to Bolster Your Business Development

  1. Pick the right sales software

    It's extremely essential for your sales team to have the right tools to perform their job. Unless they can’t contribute actionable data to a centralized system, it will become difficult to leverage their feedback for important decisions. The right sales software can help streamline operations and increase sales.

    Business developers rely on feedback from the sales people. They need to know what’s working and what’s not. If a product isn’t doing well, that feedback can help them make changes to new products. If the sales process isn’t converting potential clients as it should be, business developers can help make tweaks to increase conversions.

    That's why OnCourse is so highly regarded by businesses both big and small. It's a powerful sales software that automates dozens of steps in the sales process and also offers features like lead scoring and automated drip campaigns.

    The powerful tools OnCourse offers include account and opportunity management, reporting of metrics like open rates and reply tracking, integration with other core apps, drag and drop pipeline tracking, and more.  The integrated tracking tools create insightful reports that business developers can use to make informed decisions.Choose OnCourse if you don’t want your team to fly blind, you’ll be amazed to see how the right sales software can bolster business development.
  2. Keep an eye on the competition

    There’s no point in trying to expand your product or service to a new market or to introduce a new product without first knowing what your competition is doing. The business environment is highly competitive so even if you feel that nobody else has done what you’re about to do, it wouldn’t hurt to first be absolutely sure of where the competition stands.

    This doesn't mean that you only need to know the names of your competitors. You need to thoroughly evaluate what they're doing, how their product differs from yours and what sales processes they're using to convert leads into customers. This isn't a matter of just copying what they’re doing. All of this research should be used to make your product stand out from the crowd.
  3. Go the extra mile to maintain relationships

    Manta and BIA/Kelsey conducted a study which revealed that repeat customers tend to spend 67 percent more than new customers. Business owners also understand that the bulk of their revenue comes from repeat customers and not new customers. The cost of acquisition is also lowered for every sale which is great for increasing profitability margins.

    Your business development efforts should also focus on maintaining existing relationships with clients. It's essential to keep the existing customers engaged, listen to their questions and concerns, make them feel heard so that they feel happy with the level of service they're getting.

    If they feel good about doing business with you, chances are that they will continue to stick with your company even if a competitor approaches them.
  4. Strive to innovate how you network

    The job of a business developer is now much more complex than just cold calling the companies that buy products from your competitors. It just doesn't work that way anymore. You need to take a fresh and innovative approach to how you establish relationships with prospective clients.

    There's a reason why industry conferences and trade shows exist. They provide your business with the perfect opportunity to connect with customers that are there looking for precisely what you're trying to sell. Think out of the box for how you’ll present yourself at the trade show so that you stand out from the sea of competitors that are also there fighting for the same customers.

    Another great way to network with prospects is to provide them with consultations and assessments so that they can get a good idea of how your product is going to help them before they decide to commit to it. If they decide it’s not a good fit, that saves you time as well, since you won’t be spending all of that time nurturing a lead that’s not going to convert.
  5. Have an open line of communication with marketing

    Too often, business development activities may be carried out with tunnel vision, in that they're only looked at from the sales perspective. However, keeping an open line of communication with the marketing team and significantly increase the impact of these activities.

    After all, it’s the marketing team that’s responsible for effectively communicating how your product or service is better than the competition. Taking them onboard will allow you to look at your business development activities from their perspective as well, so you can decide which elements are going to play particularly well in marketing materials.

    Your business development resources can share their ideas with the marketing team directly so that all of the materials can be developed in sync with the overall vision. If they have feedback about content that they feel is missing from the materials, an open line of communication will plug these gaps quickly.