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Do You Need A Business Development Manager, Or A Salesperson?

Do You Need A Business Development Manager, Or A Salesperson?

The decision to split business development and sales should be all about the customer experience you want to provide.

As long as you’re familiar with the mechanics of making a sandwich, you can understand the relationship between business development managers and salespeople.

The left-hand slice of bread represents your company. The right-hand slice of bread represents the market you’re trying to reach.

Business development is what you use to make the sandwich appetizing — it could be ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly or many other ingredients. By working closely with those on the product and marketing teams, a business development manager ensures that the sandwich will be irresistible and attract the hungriest eaters.

The salesperson builds upon what the business development manager has done and makes it clear why someone would want to eat this particular sandwich. They metaphorically bring the two slices of bread together — or more literally, they focus on closing the deal.

When small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) first start out, there may be one or a few people covering off both business development and sales at the same time. It might even be the founder or company owner.

Most entrepreneurs inherently understand that they’re going to need to hire more people as their company begins to grow. Sales is an obvious place to start, because it’s as well known as marketing. “Business development” can seem a little less obvious as a distinct function.

The CEO or senior leadership of the company might want to closely monitor business development activities and provide guidance along the way. However they also need to oversee many other areas, which means business development risks not getting the attention it deserves.

Whether you carve out a business development manager position or not will depend on where you are in your journey as a company, the competitive landscape you face and the kind of products and services you’re selling.

Ultimately, the decision to split business development and sales should be all about the customer experience you want to provide — one where you’re approaching customers in the most relevant and thoughtful manner possible.

1. Assess Your Level Of Leads

If you’re lucky to have one of those products or services that practically seems to sell itself, your priority should probably be on hiring enough reps to manage the demand and to keep all the orders well-organized as they flow in. This tends to be a pretty rare situation, though.

Usually it takes considerable effort to have enough people demonstrate an interest in your products and services, and that they are open to a conversation with a sales rep.

Business development managers can bring a rigour and level of detail to lead generation so that closing becomes much more fluid. They can work on making sure every product and service has a well-defined value proposition, that target prospects are clearly identified and that the right channels are used to generate leads.

A sales rep shouldn’t have to spend much of their time worrying about whether there’s good product-market fit between your offerings and the leads they wind up talking to, That’s a business development activity. If you’re not getting enough leads, or the right leads, hire a business development manager.

2. Study The State Of Your CRM

The most successful companies turn their CRM into the heart of their organization, where the data collected and analyzed there can help inform the most important decisions they make. If the data in the CRM isn’t the right calibre, though, or if there’s not enough to work with, everyone’s job is going to be that much harder.

When sales reps are also handling business development activities, it means there might be a lot of extra data they need to capture and collect. This includes all the data around qualifying leads, researching prospects and the initial outreach they might make.

Having a business development manager assigned to those tasks means they’ll be in a better position to add a much richer dataset to the CRM. This in turn can help the sales rep focus on capturing data about customer objections, budgets and the various contacts on a buying committee.

3. Revisit Your Goals And Metrics

Most sales reps are asked to reach a certain quota per quarter or even per month. If they’re not hitting it, consider the amount of time they might need to be spending on business development activities versus actually showing customers products, fine-tuning a proposal and closing. Maybe their workload is getting in the way.

A business development manager doesn’t usually have a quota because they’re not really focused on transactions. However they could be given goals around the volume of leads they generate, the quality of those leads or how they can use data more effectively to streamline the sales process for reps.

You should also think about the goals and metrics in other departments. Marketing teams, for instance, should be closely aligned with the sales team but there’s often a sense that reps feel too busy to get into the weeds of lead generation and qualification. A business development manager can be a way to bridge those functional divides.


One final thought: consider the skills and career goals of the team you have today. There might be some reps who are fantastic at closing a client once they get the opportunity to be in front of them (even if it’s via videoconference). They love talking about products and services when they feel confident about what they’re pitching.

That same rep might not love making cold calls or doing other forms of prospecting. They might have dreams of managing other reps one day.

Elsewhere, you might have someone who really likes making value props air-tight, who thinks endlessly about your ideal customer profile and who is a born researcher. A career path for this person, if they get to work in a defined business development role, might be to take on more of a technology or analytics role.

You need to have some level of business development and sales in every company. The moment you dedicate resources to each area might be when you start accelerating your path to growth.

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