Business development and sales are two important aspects of the selling life cycle and while it can be easy to focus on one over the other neither should be neglected. This article will explain both aspects of the sales cycle and provide a clear distinction when it comes to business development vs. sales.


Sales refers to the short term need to close a sale, get an agreement signed, or ultimately do what needs to be done to sell whatever it is you are selling. Sales techniques and strategies are really based on what it takes to 'close the deal', which is crucial to any business. If you get customers in the door but cannot get them to buy a product, there is a problem with your sales strategy.

Sales strategies are focused on the individual buyer and what needs to be done for them to pull out their wallet, or click on the buy button when it comes to online selling. Companies typically set sales volume targets for a period (weeks, months, and quarters) and have strategies in place where the individuals responsible for actually selling can make those targets.

Business Development

Business development relates to the process of identifying and executing agreements with potential new customers. Taken further it can also refer to partnering with other companies to deliver product to customers or securing preferential supplier arrangements.

The focus of business development is really on new business and opportunities, as opposed to managing relationships with customers you are already selling to. It's really about new opportunities to develop and explore in terms of both new customers and also new ways of partnering with others to deliver to new customers. Business development is that first point of contact and relationships, after which customers are handed off to other aspects of the marketing and selling team in terms of responsibility.

When the stereo-typical image of a marketing executive schmoozing with clients and wining and dining buyers this is often a business development executive working on new relationships. Business development often involves a great deal of social interaction and working with new clients to woo them over. This type of sales interaction in many companies is reserved for the 'big fish' that represent a significant impact on the business if they become a customer, as understandably Sony doesn't take every prospective TV buyer out for dinner and a football game. Companies often tailor their business development time and funds to the target opportunities that are available and appropriate to their marketplace.

Business Development vs. Sales

Sales and business development are both important aspects of the overall selling process and each deserve attention in terms of planning. Business development can be crucial when it comes to winning over big new target customers, and to an extent 'selling' to them is part of the process. However, with existing customer bases it is still important to ensure that Sales management and planning is also given attention in the business. Ignoring either aspect of the selling process can result in missing opportunities or not capitalizing fully on those opportunities that do present themselves.