What separates a standard sales approach from business development is the level of interaction with the product or service. How many salespeople can take a part in the creation or development of what they sell?
For the stereotypical used-car salesman who upcharges for standard features, the sleazy salesman only knows as much about his product as he needs to charge the highest price. Even some service industries are this way. Restaurant wait staffs, for instance, are primarily salespeople, and a server who doesn’t know much about food or providing atmosphere can ruin any dining experience.
Some companies have pared down the role of salespeople so that they’ve become responsible for drumming up clients for something they aren’t actively engaged in creating or improving. They add value to the organization only by meeting their quotas.
Business development, however, uses relationship building to ensure that prospects become long-term clients – not one-offs. To do this, the business developer needs to have a more robust understanding of her product or service to show that he is invested in the company and can make educated recommendations in the best interest of the client.
A lot of my prospects use a business development approach, as opposed to straight sales. Some might assume that business development is more important in professional services industries, but I’ve found that it can be just as successful in other industries, such as transportation and manufacturing. For example, a business developer working for a manufacturer will get down on the plant floor and see how the products are made, then go out and see how customers are using those products. He can then go back to the plant and talk to the engineers about what tweaks to the products would be most beneficial to customers.
In my experience, these folks in business development have extensive knowledge of their products and industries. They have clear goals and they have some influence over the direction of their company, whether with hands-on involvement or in an advisory capacity. It’s the perfect blend of sales and expertise.
Do you think business development is the best sales approach? Let us know in the comments.