Business Development is not the same as Sales!

The first time I heard the phrase “business development” or to give it it’s common abbreviation “BD”, it was in the context of a conversation about increasing short-term sales for an organisation. Since then I have found that the two expressions are used interchangeably to the point that, in many people’s minds, they often mean the same thing.

However, I don’t believe that is true. There are fundamental differences between what takes place in sales and BD activities.

To me, sales is the tactical process of finding new leads, building relationships, developing proposals and eventually converting a proportion of them to won work. It probably also encompasses the follow on work related to Key Client Management and maintaining great client relationships.

Business Development, on the other hand, is a much wider field. Proper, structured BD work considers the overall business strategy for new work:

  • What do you do?
  • Who needs that?
  • How will you find and engage with them?

When working on a BD strategy (and strategy is the operative word) we have to dig deeply into each of these areas:

  • Not just what do you do in a generic sense, but what do you REALLY do? Why would the client pick you and no one else? This needs to be VERY specific and often involves hard decisions about what to stop doing too
  • Not a cursory assessment of who needs it, but a deep study of your ideal clients, their pain points and how you are the best team to solve them
  • Not just a basic action plan for ringing around clients, but a thorough consideration of how you need to engage with them. The effects of this on the shape of your business and the people in it (new hires, JVs, partnerships etc.)

Time wise, we need to look much further ahead than the next week, month or quarter. For a proper BD strategy we have to think about the way that our world is going to change in the next 5-10 years and how that will affect:

  • Our clients
  • Our team
  • The structure of our business

So perhaps we could summarise sales as the day to day, operational activity and BD as the wider strategic picture?

Of course you may not agree and that’s fine. But I honestly believe that all organisations need more than just a quarterly sales plan. Everyone needs a thorough BD strategy which takes a lot of thought and effort to develop. And then the discipline to review it regularly and live by it.

It’s always time well spent though as you develop that work winning plan to take your organisation confidently into the future.

If this all feels like a bit of a minefield (on top of everything else you have to do), then I’d be happy to have a chat about ways in which I can help you.

#positiveleadership #strategicthinking #businessdevelopment

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