The two terms “sales” and “business development” are often used synonymously or together by a large group of people. This may be because often people in the sales function are shifted to a business development role. That the term “sales” has a negative connotation attached to it, is obvious. Business Development Manager always sounds better than a Sales Manager. However, one must realize the difference between these two terms and use it when appropriate rather than interchangeably.
Business Development is a more Marketing function role than Sales. The idea of business development is to find the right market segment and match opportunities emerging from it to the products and services that the organization offers. Business development is about developing and expanding the business, in the literal sense of the term. The sales function of this role is majorly limited to opportunity qualification and negotiation. It includes more of brand placement, acquisitions and partnerships and market expansion.
Sales, on the other hand, includes revenue generation by selling the products and services directly to the customer. The link is that the business development function would generate the opportunities and create a channel to sell. While, the sales team would work on those opportunities to close them for revenue generation.
Now that this difference is clear, it also clarifies that the training for sales and business development is different.
Competencies to Focus on
Sales training is given with the purpose of maximizing sales success. The focus is on developing selling skills and understanding seller – buyer behavior. Competencies like negotiation skills, understanding needs, pitching, sales acumen, customer focus, strategic selling, prospecting, client relationship management, rapport building etc. needs to be developed along with adequate knowledge of products and services.
Business development training, on the other hand, is not restricted to the Sales professional only. It can be given to all leaders with the purpose of expanding the business and optimizing the potential of the market. Focus is on developing competencies like strategic thinking, conducting market analysis, customer focus, negotiation skills, networking, business acumen along with knowledge of organization’s products and services.
Now that the competencies have been differentiated for sales and business development training, let’s describe what approach can be taken for both the trainings to be effective.
We remember only 21% of information at the end of 31 days (as per Heman Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve) and surveys have proved that a lot of what is provided through training is lost. Earlier, training was restricted to one to two days only. Sales and business development professionals are left to retain and apply what they have learnt on their own. This is not an effective method. Now, with the growing needs of the learner, the demand is to use blended learning methodology. This methodology helps to reinforce what is learned through training.
Both sales and business development training must promote and focus on behavior change rather than just superficial change in knowledge. Training methodology should be clubbed with one-to-one coaching that focuses on individual strengths and challenges, personalized feedback to calibrate behaviors and specific action plans for application on the job.
Along with coaching, leader connect sessions are imperative. These sessions help to sustain the culture of sales and business development and helps the learners to learn from leaders who have “been there, done that”. Leader connect sessions use the technique of storytelling to convey learning around selling and business development skills. For instance, a lot of challenging situations that sales and business development professionals go through cannot be covered through classroom training and eLearning. Also, a coach cannot help in resolving those problems and advice on how to confront those challenging situations. That is when leader connect sessions help to learn the ropes.
Apart from a holistic approach combining different methodologies, motivation plays an important factor in sales performance and business development initiatives. Motivation is not just from compensation and incentives but also by rewarding various small behavioral changes observed in the professionals. A simple feedback that a seller was able to make a difference for the customer or that certain initiative helped the business to reach new heights or resolve certain business problems is sometimes, enough to motivate these professionals to keep applying what they have learnt.
To sum, when there is a requirement for sales and business development training, do not treat the two the same way. Although the larger methodology remains the same, the focus on competencies are different and that should drive the major learning experience.