• Keith Rozelle


Sales is a Dirty Word, whilst Business Development paints a vista of beautiful sunshine, endless rainbows and zero targets. But is it that simple?

I went to a brilliant event during the week, called Cereal Networking – held at breakfast time (see what they did there!). The event was set up by my good friends Gurdas Singh and Omar Rashid and was attended by a number of SME business owners and Consultancies. A brief trawl of LinkedIn’s Jobs Portal suggests that, whilst jobs expressly described as sales roles pay more overall, they form only 1/3 of the overall roles on offer. The vast majority of the remainder being advertised as Business Development Management-type roles or, in some other instances, Business Development Director. To me, this last role suggests managing a team or an entire business sector.

So, What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?

I really like what Jamie Hughes had to say about this: Business Development is the Sunday name for Sales I love that description – the Sunday name. This suggests that Business Development and Sales are one and the same thing and somehow interchangeable. Certainly, Jamie believes they are, pretty much, the very same thing.

Dr. Manisha Patel of MES believes that Sales is just a small nugget of a Business Development Manager’s responsibilities, with BDM roles taking a longer term, strategic view. Steve Stirzaker meanwhile, at M6 Media says “It baffles me why companies and job hunters alike are so scared of the word ‘sales’!? As (sales) people, we’re constantly selling ourselves. In every LinkedIn post we create, for example, we’re selling ourselves to a prospective audience via our words or Value-Proposition.

Dave Culley concurs. “People are scared of the word ‘Sales’, people don’t like being ‘sold’ to and so Business Development is a softer term for the same thing. Personally, I like it. I don’t like to call myself a ‘salesman’ as I don’t sell to people; I help people to understand why they should buy from me, hence developing business.” Nicely put Dave!

So, What IS the Difference?

It could be argued that, as a salesperson, your job is simply to close sales – a series of tactical steps to help the organisation achieve its revenue goals – this financial year. Business Development, on the other hand, takes a slightly longer-term view, developing new products for new markets and creating new business partnerships for a more strategic approach. This lays the foundations to deliver next year’s number.

One of the reasons I love the world of Sales, though, is that performance is often perceived to be incredibly black and white – did the sales person make their target last month (?). This can easily equate to “Are they doing their job or not?” In reality, performance – or lack thereof – is often much more nuanced than that; we live in a world of greyscale, not black and white.

Performance of Sales People

Performance of Sales People is the sum of many factors. These can include equality of opportunity, Account-base, geographic territory, sector focus, organisational reputation and wellness of the salesperson themselves; these can all affect sales performance. It is the sales manager’s responsibility to remove these obstacles so that the salesperson can get on with the job of selling but that is a subject for another time.

At a recent CIPD event entitled Cultural Cornerstones, RavenRed Consultancy’s Jo Grady believes that performance is, in part, a reflection of organisational culture.

Pay as You Risk

In the end, whether you choose to pursue a Business Development role or a pure Sales role, I believe it comes down to your appetite for Risk. Sales, pure Sales, is one of the few organisational roles where top performers can earn more than almost any other employee, save for the CEO. This, though, has risks attached to it – the fallout from losing high-profile deals being one of them. Pure Business Development, on the other hand, probably has less risk involved but pays less.

Sales bring home the bacon and ensure everyone gets paid – at least this financial year. On the other hand, Business Development makes sure there’s actually going to be a next financial year.

It’s a balance but I wouldn’t swap Sales for any other role…even Business Development. Next Blog

OK, NEXT week I’ll write a Glossary of Sales Terms! Marvel-lous

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