I can honestly say that I have worked with some exceptional people with these titles in many guises over the years – and some not so exceptional! It does strike me however that over the last decade (I am now showing my age) these roles have begun to merge and neither role guarantees a particularly strong skill set in either area, as you might have anticipated some time ago.
Let’s look at this – it is expected that a quality sales professional will be tenacious, competitive, driven, self-motivated and able to close a deal. It is however also essential that most if not all of these qualities exist in a quality BD professional.
Whilst we know there are similar traits and responsibilities between these business professionals I am confident that the reason we have seen an increase in the number of BD roles and a blurring of the lines between sales and BD is simply because of the negativity associated with the term ‘sales’ in comparison to that of the softer and more approachable sounding ‘Business Development’.
There are a million and one differing descriptions for sales and BD roles, most of which completely contradict the other. For me it is straight forward, if you are looking for a definitive description – a sales professional has an opportunity identified and the focus is on converting the deal compared to that of a business developer who has a more strategic role. The BD role should be looking at the company’s potential business and establishing new relationships to generate new opportunities which are then turned in to sales opportunities.
We have all had to become more hybrid in our approach to business and learn new things out with our expected day to day roles. Whilst this does mean that we run the risk of losing specialists it also means that our potential to learn, grow and develop is in our own hands!
All of that said, you must ensure you have clarity on what your business needs are in line with your company strategy (if you don’t have a strategy, job titles are the least of your concerns). Once you have that certainty communicate this to your potential recruits and target the most appropriate person, not the most appropriate job title.