Business Development vs Sales- What's the Difference?

business development vs sales whats the difference

Business Development vs Sales

Business development and sales are terms that are commonly used interchangeably when in actuality they are two different concepts altogether. Defining these two different concepts is essential to correctly perform both processes.

In fact, businesses may even hire the wrong employees for roles in business development and sales when a clear distinction is not made between the two. In the long term these incorrect hiring practices can cost a company potential customers and develop into major sales process problems.

Business development is generally defined as the process of using customers, markets, and relationships in order to cultivate long term organizational value. Alternatively, sales are commonly defined as a transaction between two or more parties during which money is exchanged for a product or service.

One way of viewing the two different concepts is that business development finds a place in the market for a product or service while sales attempt to gain market leadership through revenue production.

Various professionals represent the business development vs sales discussion as merely two halves of a whole, with the two processes depending on one another and working closely together.

Important distinctions between business development and sales that companies should be aware of include-


Business development reps are responsible for various lead generation activities. Business development representatives can spend a substantial amount of time researching potential customers and their specific needs in order to develop target markets and buyer personas.

Additionally, business development reps will prospect and qualify leads. Once qualified leads are established, the business development team will send leads to the sales team for further action.

After the sales team receives qualified leads from the business development team they can contact potential customers directly. The primary objective of the sales team is to close deals in an efficient and effective manner.


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Both business development and sales professionals need to have excellent communication skills in order to be successful. The sales process is not easily navigated and is only becoming more complicated as the global market expands.

Business development and sales professionals should also ideally be innovative. From identifying a new market that is untapped to using social media profiles to research potential customers, there are virtually endless possibilities for these professionals to perfect their respective sales process roles.


While a crossover in skills is not unsurprising between the two processes, certain variations make a noteworthy difference in sales process effectiveness and efficiency. Sales reps specialize in closing deals and gaining new business which is time-consuming in of itself.

Alternatively, development reps specialize in lead generation and explore new market opportunities. The amount of time and energy that each of these two different roles requires would make it immensely difficult, if not impossible, for them both to be optimally performed by the same person.


Sales teams are known for their strict quotas, which are largely considered one of the toughest parts of their roles. Quotas are often the most important KPIs that sales team representatives are evaluated on.

Alternatively, business development representatives do not have a defined quota that they need to reach. However, development reps are responsible for passing qualified leads to the sales team at a sufficient rate to keep the sales process running smoothly.

An explanation for why quotas are not put on business development reps is that the pressure of a quota does not benefit relationship development between potential customers and companies. Alternatively, once a new market is identified and potential customers are ready to pitch to, a quota is useful to motivate sales reps to close deals swiftly.


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Although sales professionals and business development professionals occupy two different roles, many people assume they have a lot of everyday cross over. However, the crossover potential between these two processes is much more limited than might be initially assumed.

In some businesses, lead generation responsibilities can demand the attention of the sales team especially for a small business that lacks the funding to retain business development reps. However, the two different processes should be ideally separate if budgeting and staffing permits.

Key Takeaways

  • Both business development and sales are important for sales process efficiency and effectiveness.
  • When hiring business development reps and sales reps it is important for companies to consider them as two roles that require separate skills, responsibilities, and specializations.