Are you in sales or business development?

Let’s start by differentiating sales and business development; sales is what you do today and business development is what you will be doing tomorrow.

We’ve heard the story that “people buy from people” and “the product sells itself” but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.

The most successful sales people have a sales process, initially it will be a conscious system but over time it will become a subconscious or unconscious system where they don’t even realise they are doing it. Ask them how they do it and they won’t actually know, or if they do then they are keeping it to themselves because knowledge is power and while they are bringing in the sales then you are unlikely to question bad habits.

Bad habits do creep in, except you don’t have a sales process so how can you measure performance against a process you don’t have?

How do you know if you are on track to achieve targets and meet expectations if you don’t have a sales process? Sure, throw enough mud around and some will stick, maybe you will hit your targets but without a process you will find out at the end of the year and wouldn’t you prefer to know now rather than waiting six months?

I’m not going into the details of sales processes in this article, it’s far too complex and will be unique to your business. I will though ask you to think about your sales processes and how you manage your sales pipeline.

Instead, we will look at business development as there is much ambiguity on what this means. A quick google search will take you to hundreds of sites, each with its own definition.

I am going to refer to the definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary which is “the activity of pursuing strategic opportunities for a particular business or organisation, for example by cultivating partnerships or other commercial relationships, or identifying new markets for its products or services.”

You will note in the above sentence that business development is not business strategy, business development is taking your business strategy to your market place.

So you could call it operational strategy, getting into the detail of how to implement your business strategy.

For example, Tesla’s business strategy was “to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”. Next they had to figure out the operational strategy in order to develop the business.

In its simplest form, business development is reaching new markets, new customers and forming new relationships. Of course, there’s an element of sales, and marketing, but business development is not one or the other of these.

Business development requires support from within the whole business, for example:

  • Research
    • Who are our customers
    • What else can we do for our customers
    • New applications
    • New markets
    • New sales channels
  • Analysis
    • Value Proposition
    • What additional solutions or services can we offer
    • Prioritising actions
  • Product development
    • What new opportunities are available with small adjustments to our existing product range
    • Is the product over-engineered for its existing market and could cost reductions be designed in to be more competitive for another market
    • Does the market require a more robust product
    • New innovation
  • Market development
    • What similar markets exist where we are currently not active
    • What new relationships should be formed to gain entry
  • Finance
    • Investment to progress ideas
    • Investment to streamline efficiencies
  • Marketing
    • Defining the marketing strategy with the marketing team
  • Sales
    • Working with the sales teams to understand challenges
    • Working with sales teams to explore opportunities
  • Customer service and after sales
    • Building on existing success
    • Preparing for new products, applications, markets
    • Stock requirements for projected growth

This is not an exhaustive list and it will be unique to your business however, it demonstrates the importance of collaboration, team work and focus. Business development is not short term/huge gains, it will take time.

Identifying new opportunities doesn’t happen overnight and neither do new relationships however, you will need to look outside your comfort box if you want to really grow your business.

Robert Isaacson
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Robert Isaacson

Business Mechanisms Coaching & Consulting was created by Robert and Sarah-Louise Isaacson to bring together their expertise, knowledge and skills under one umbrella to ‘minimise business risk – maximise business potential’. Robert completed his MBA (Master of Business Administration) in 2021 whilst employed as a director of a UK SME. Robert’s expertise is focused on strategy, business development, sales and finance including risk management. He has been in sales for 30+ years.