Common Misconceptions About Business Development

I‘ve had a couple of clients over the years that had a business development department headed by a Vice President of BD. There are jobs posted on LinkedIn advertising jobs with that title.

I don’t believe value-building business development is a department or a standalone function.

I think it’s much more than either of them or even the combination of sales and marketing.

I ran across an article in Forbes dated 3/21/12 by Scott Pollack with the following definition.

Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

Developing your business should be an internal function long before sales and marketing are involved. It should also be a joint effort with shared responsibility and accountability.

The role of business development is not simply to grow revenue and market share, it’s to grow value for shareholders. A repeatable model that provides profitable growth year-over-year builds value. It is not built by roller coaster sales and profit performance.

I just published an eBook entitled “11Barriers to Repeatable Business Development”, which lists the most common impediments to development that I’ve seen in my experiences. Some of those barriers are related to the misconceptions below.

This three focus on sales and marketing effectiveness and where responsibility lies.

Strategic Direction

Marketing has to have a strategy and a message to communicate. Sales have to have something to sell that meets market needs and is priced competitively. Call it a vision, a road map, whatever; you need a clear direction for the organization, defining as a minimum:

  • What markets you’ll serve
  • What products or services you’ll provide them
  • A value proposition that your market understands
  • What you won’t do as well as what you’ll do in those markets
  • A strategy to compete
  • Key performance indicators to measure progress

Absent this strategy your marketing and sales staff are struggling to develop a message that resonates with your market and a selling proposition. Top management can’t just assign a number to the sales organization, and tell marketing to get the word out. Since an estimated 50% of small and mid-tier companies don’t do an annual strategy review, that’s exactly what happens in some cases.


You cannot grow sales year over year if you can’t execute. If you haven’t done the work to define, document and refine internal processes so that you can deliver quality every time, you are throwing up barriers to your sales operation. While execution may not seem to be a part of sales and marketing, and part of traditional business development, try and grow your business without it. This is also a senior staff responsibility. The message throughout the organization should be, “everybody sells”.


Both of the misconceptions above are the responsibility or the owner or CEO. You may have a Vice President of Marketing, or Sales or even Business Development, but the ultimate accountability rests with you. You pick the team and set the expectations, but you can’t simply delegate accountability to your staff. Regular review of sales and marketing performance must include more than sales numbers. Your strategic assumptions should be reviewed on a regular basis and revised as needed.


Martin Harshberger
Martin Harshberger
I’m a business development coach in the with 20 years’ experience as a mid-sized company CEO. I specialize in helping businesses grow and increase value for stakeholders. We focus on the development of a sustainable growth strategy that includes all key business functions. Repeatable business growth requires a clear organizational strategy with performance metrics, a defined marketing & sales strategy, and accountability for execution. We are a member of the Strategy Execution Alliance and a Certified HubSpot partner. We employ a holistic approach using analysis and planning tools coupled with a methodology to identify opportunities and threats, develop solutions and facilitate execution. Recognizing that most strategic and change initiatives fail, we offer tools and process to help you succeed. Having founded and grown two mid-tier companies over 20 and I’m the author of “Bottom Line Focus” how to take your business from surviving to thriving in 18 simple steps. Specialties: Business development, Business growth, Strategic Planning, strategy execution process, and tools. Marketing strategy development and execution, digital content marketing programs and tools.

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Good to read this. Just Sunday I was working on our marketing strategy. We want to leverage the traditional side of things but also the social networking side too. What I’m noticing is that a lot of businesses I talk to are now downplaying the importance of salesmanship. I think that’s an injustice to good sales people.