BizDev vs. Sales? … Sales Rules

As I looked at my own Career direction during the chaos of 2009, I got the chance to talk to a lot of really good people in a variety of pursuits. One thread that ran through those discussions were observations that I traded with a number of these people on the subject of Sales & BizDev. What are the differences between them and where are they similar?

In analysis of the two, Sales vs. Business Development, one is clearly a subset of the other. There can be no question. Though from my observations, the perception put forth might lead one to think otherwise, which is baffling to me.

BizDev seems to hold some kind of “positioning” above Sales that it does not deserve, nor should really have ever had. That many Sales pros I know of have been passed over [or not even considered] for a number of BizDev positions I am aware of, is almost laughable. [So is the amount of lost revenue most of these same firms did not afford themselves of, with such an ill-conceived selection process.]

In fact, it has been my experience that BizDev is indeed perceived as more “noble” somehow, more superior in its requirements. This is perpetuated either by people for whom I must question their rationality…or their misguided rationale. Let’s call it that last one & continue.

As we’ll see below, even as BizDev can in some ways be seen as more ‘refined’ in its approach [or is the word ‘soft’ here instead?], you cannot get to that level of being refined, without a solid understanding of…and background in…the Sales process. Not gonna happen~!

Yes, this is absolutely a biased position I hold here, so no argument follows along those lines from me. If you hold a different opinion, then share it in the ‘Comments’ section below, please.

The points below are the key separators in my view between the two. Since much less is written in distinguishing the BizDev angle, that is where most of where I’ll concentrate on below. Here are some skills/attributes of each:


  • Ability to uncover new potential people/companies that are likely candidates to buy your product.
  • > That ability alone includes interest, diligence, personability & adaptability.
  • Ability to manage multiple aspects of a “project” [leading to your sale], involving multiple personalities [in most cases.]
  • > That ability encompasses management skills, project leadership and sales closing skills.
  • In large Major/National account sales, ability to forge ongoing, continuous & visible relationships across many parts of each company.
  • > This last ability is the most direct correlation perhaps with BizDev, as it mandates interpersonal skills and the ability to develop & maintain very key, high-level relationships on a long-term basis. [Or, in BizDev parlance, “Partnership-Forging.”]
  • BizDev

  • BizDev positions tend to have a goal of Partnership, Integration, Recurring Revenues; i.e. ‘House Accounts’.
  • The sales cycle tends to be long[er], but usually ongoing once put into place.
  • While the sales cycle is often longer, the agreement effected is also often longer, with frequent, ongoing involement & resources dedicated by both sides.

    My having said all of that, let’s now take a look at some actual copy contained in some actual Job ads posted on the web, for BizDev positions. Here are a few:

  • “…As the DIRECTOR, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT you will focus on creating long-term, strategic auto buying partnerships with organizations that fit….[xyz’s] model…”
  • “Reporting to the President, the Director of Sales & Business Development will sell in the company’s current market channel and develop business in several untapped segments which the [xyz] company has recently penetrated…with ‘value creation.’…
  • “Identify the leading media…services companies that will bring additional value to [xyz] publishers and advertisers engage with those companies, helping them understand the [xyz firm’s] opportunity and guide them through the agreement and integration process.”

  • Funny; as I read those items above, pretty much every single attribute they are looking for, are ones that an accomplished Sales pro working with Major/National-level B2B clients, possesses in spades. So, with that being the case, where do any possible differences lie?

  • BizDev can in many cases, be seen as a ‘softer’ sell [AND sales approach AND sales cycle], as the pursuit tends to be effectively to cultivate ‘house accounts.’
  • Notice the words used fairly often in the ads above, which are ‘partnership’, ‘strategic’, and ‘integration’…
  • This then implies more of a ‘relationship’ sale, than a ‘transaction’ sale.
  • OK…so what Sales pro that works with a client base with firms like Cisco, Exxon, GE, Chevron or dozens of others, doesn’t know how to do this? Can you sell millions of dollars a year without a serious relationship-building skillset? Hardly.

  • In closing, perhaps it is that BizDev is intended to have more of an “Internal” angle to it, that focus on working with mutual partners on an ongoing basis. And that Sales has a constant, “External” focus on growth from new customers, and separate new transactions.

    I say the difference is negligible for the accomplished, I say that Sales people have the skill sets to perform in both positions…and that the reverse may not be true. I also would like to hear from those with thoughts to share, or perspective to add here. Add to the dialogue below!


    ~ by MindOnMediaSales on April 23, 2010.

    6 Responses to “BizDev vs. Sales? … Sales Rules”

    1. And this comes now, from Mashable on the American Express OPEN Forum: 8 Tips in the BizDev Process -

    2. great article

    3. From a gentleman named Shaival Shah, here is an excellent Blog post over on Posterous from around 6 months after this was written, on the differences of Sell-Side vs. Buy-Side BizDev, and makes for excellent reading.

    4. When I view your RSS feed it gives me a bunch of weird text, is the malfunction on my end?

    5. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
      I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

      Thumbs up, and keep it going!


    6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ken Nicholas. Ken Nicholas said: 75th MoM[S] Blog Post! BizDev vs. Sales?…Sales Rules: […]

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