Many people think business development (BD) and sales are the same thing. The two areas are often confused. Both involve selling something and both salespersons and business developers are responsible for closing deals and meeting sales targets.
But that’s where the similarities end. As our Anna Mirowska says, “sales sell products, but BD sells relationships.”
The Role of a Business Developer
A business developer does, as Anna tells me, much more than selling a product. Being in BD is about building relationships and rapport with company clients. What sets BD apart from sales, she considers, is the importance, in the former, of the human aspect in the long run.
“Working in business development gives you a better opportunity to use more of your own skills when working. It also allows you to develop a more personalized approach into what you are trying to achieve.”
A people-person in business development
Anna is perfectly at home in business development. She boasts a unique background ‒ she is an alumnus of the General Management course at the Warsaw School of Economics and is currently en route to become a psychology graduate specialised in economic psychology, by way of the University of Warsaw.
“I really like people,” Anna explains. “I’ve always liked people, and I knew that I wanted to study something that involves communication with people, figure out how people look at the world, and try to implement their ideas and needs into something we can create.”
She likes three things in particular, about her job in business development: “One, I like the people ‒ no surprise there. Two, I like the idea of transferring peoples’ needs into business solutions, and three, I like that the work is never the same.”
Automating business development
But what happens if you take this human aspect, so dear to Anna, out of her profession?
In an industry that praises the power of artificial intelligence, the human nature of BD may seem like an outlier to some. After all, automation has encroached on just about every job, for better or for worse. So why would it be any different with business development?
According to Anna, there are some aspects of her job that should indeed be automated. For example, operational processes like putting information into databases. That would “make our lives easier and leave us with more time and more opportunities for building relationships with clients,” she explains.
What can’t be automated, instead ‒ at least in Anna’s opinion ‒ is the crux of BD: the personal factor. As you can imagine, a lot of communication occurs in the realm of BD. This communication takes place within a variety of contexts. Every action or decision is nuanced. You need to pick up on certain signals as well as understand the clients’ wishes and adapt to them. Computers aren’t quite competent at those things ‒ at least, not yet.
“Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I really think that you can never replace the human factor when maintaining relationships with clients. Computers especially can’t quite handle the nuanced aspects and contexts of conversations. That’s very important in BD.”
Of course, the future will bring more technological advancements within companies. Some of the stages of the buying process could be handled by bots, for example. One day we could even witness a deal being closed by AI. One could think a young professional like Anna should be worried!
To this scenario though, she answers with a great laugh. “Yes, I’m confident that I’ll keep working for a long time!”