Essential Differences Between Sales vs. Business Development

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 27, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated July 27, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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In an organization, sales and business development are essential to ensure that it thrives and, most importantly, to maximize profits. It is easy to confuse both terms due to their relatability. However, even though they can be pretty similar, they are two different business concepts. In this article, we discuss the differences between sales vs. business development.

What is business development?

Business development refers to all the related activities that help with the expansion of a business and play a vital role in increasing a company's profit. Business development is also the re-evaluation and reconstruction of business ideas or goals to improve the overall efficiency. It involves appealing to potential customers interested in products that you have to offer as a company. The main purpose of business development is to surpass a set goal or increase revenue. A company's business development department performs specific functions. Some of these functions are:

  • Developing business strategies and plans

  • Negotiating with stakeholders

  • Forming solid and strategic relationships with clients

  • Joining respective business associations to gain a thorough knowledge of how the market works

  • Creating advertising teams to increase business popularity and inadvertently maximize profits

Related: Customer Service Skills: Definition and Examples

What is sales?

Sales is the process of generating revenue from transactions involving goods and services. Sales representatives aim at increasing the overall profits. They guide customers through the whole transaction process and build strong business relationships. Sales representatives play a crucial role in the business chain because they link the buyers and the service providers. Some of the important functions of sales representatives are:

  • Connecting the individual needs of customers to the required products or services.

  • Drafting up contracts with clients.

  • Devising new sales methods or ideas that will increase profits and revenue.

  • Advertising new products to customers.

  • Encouraging interested customers to follow up on their inquiries.

Related: 10 Sales Associate Skills and How To Improve Them

Sales vs. business development

Although business development and sales work together, they require different teams and functions. In a company or organization, business development usually precedes sales because it is the source of the company's growth. Business development can include plans that will even involve sales-related functions.

A company looking to harness untapped leads needs more sales professionals to build strong, lasting relationships with customers. A company that wants to generate more leads and extend its reach into newer markets needs more business development professionals.

Marketing vs. sales

The marketing process is another similar process that has distinct functions separate from sales and business development. Marketing is the process of formulating ideas that appeal to the consumer by using strategies such as search engine optimization and advertisement and getting the appropriate people to pass on these ideas. Marketing is a two-way process, with the marketer offering a particular service for a price that could be monetary or otherwise, and the consumers purchasing such services.

As opposed to marketing, sales involve reaching out directly to customers or potential clients to undergo certain transactions, which are usually profit-oriented. In other words, you are asking clients to invest in your business with their money. Sales and marketing are two different concepts in business although, they are closely interconnected.

The business development and sales process

Although business development and sales are two different departments, they work closely to achieve specific goals. They work with the marketing team to improve the success rate of the business. The business development, sales, and marketing teams often apply the following processes in their strategies:

1. Identifying value proposition

In conjunction with the sales and marketing team, the business development team is responsible for generating ideas to improve the business strategy. They identify issues that are key to the business and work out possible solutions. The issues can range from problems with the business process to customer-related problems.

2. Selecting the best marketing channels

Ideally, the marketing team is responsible for selecting the best and most effective marketing channels. However, in some cases, there can be collaborations with the business development team to identify the best way to improve distribution. At the end of the chain of distribution is the consumer. So, the business development and sales team collaborate to devise marketing strategies with the consumers' benefits in mind. The sales team is involved directly with the consumers, so they also handle the collection of feedback during the whole process.

3. Setting the lead generation process

The lead generation process in business involves attracting potential customers into a contact management system with the hope of assisting them throughout the transaction process. The focus here is convincing them of the quality of your product or service and converting them to actual customers. The business development and sales team work together to set up an effective lead generation process that will produce desirable results. The business development team is crucial to this process because they apply all the expert knowledge and insight they have gained from the industry.

4. Connecting with customers

The marketing team is mainly responsible for connecting with customers through advertising campaigns. Through social media, SEO optimization, online advertisement, and emails, the marketing team can connect with potential customers that might be interested in a certain product or service. The business development team facilitates customer connections through networking and cold emails and calls. By interacting with the business development team, the marketing team can increase the number of leads generated.

5. Following up leads

Since the sales representatives are the closest to the consumers, they are responsible for following up on leads. The sales team creates an effective lead generation system in conjunction with the business development team. However, it is the duty of the sales team to maintain business relationships with the leads that may turn out to be actual customers. Sales professionals rely on the marketing team to communicate the value proposition or implement important ideas in such a way that it will attract the interest of potential clients or customers. In other words, they lay the foundation for a successful sale.

6. Closing sales

The last step in the sales and business development process is closing sales. The sales team handles the closing of sales, where they make correspondence with the consumers. The main objective here is to create solid business relationships with such customers to increase the chances of subsequent patronage in the future.

Related: Business Development Skills: Definition and Examples

Sales and business development jobs

Sales and business development jobs are two different areas of a business that require different skill sets. If you are interested in applying for these jobs, here is information about roles and skills you can use to inform your decisions:

Business development jobs

Here are jobs you can pursue in business development, along with a sample job posting and essential skills for business development:

Job titles

Below is a list of job titles you can pursue in business development:

  • Business development representative

  • Business development outreach specialist

  • Sales development representative

Sample job posting

Here's an example of a job posting for a business development role:

Successful software company is searching for a business development representative expert. You will be responsible for researching new leads and areas for development that will maximize profit for the company. You will collaborate with other departments such as the marketing department or sales departments on certain tasks to produce specific desired results. After identifying key leads, it is your job to communicate such leads to other members in your department to improve upon such leads. After working on the leads, it is your job to pass them down to the sales team for direct implementation. Your job will also involve travelling to places and shows which the company will sponsor to learn new business development tactics.

Essential skills

Below is a list of abilities you can develop for a business development career:

  • Solid communication skills, both written and verbal, in French and English

  • Strong interpersonal skills

  • Creativity

  • Ability to work under pressure

  • Willingness to travel on short notice

  • Ability to be multitask

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Sales jobs

Below is a list of jobs, a sample job posting and essential skills for sales professionals:

Job titles

Here are job titles you can pursue in sales:

  • Sales representative

  • Account manager

  • Sales manager

Sample job posting

Below is an example of a sales job posting:

Successful clothing company seeks a sales representative who is exceptionally skilled in reaching potential customers, pitching services, and closing deals. You will have to be able to research into the needs of the customers and satisfy them. You will be responsible for developing a worthwhile experience for customers. You will conduct presentations and keep tabs on current and past clients. The company is seeking determined individuals who can build solid and lasting relationships with our customers and drive a loyal client base. The position offers an opportunity for personal and professional development through the following tasks:

  • Presenting, promoting, and sell products/services using solid arguments to existing and prospective customers

  • Performing cost-benefit and needs analysis of existing/potential customers to meet their needs

  • Visiting clients and potential clients to evaluate needs and promote products and services

  • Coordinating sales efforts with marketing programs

  • Answering client questions about products, prices, and availability

  • Maintaining client records

  • Perform administrative tasks surrounding various mandates

Essential skills

Below is a list of important skills for sales professionals:

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Creativity

  • Communication skills

  • Relationship-building skills

  • Negotiation skills


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