Sales versus business development for law firms – understanding the difference

Sales versus business development: aren’t they two sides of the same coin? After all, selling is an essential part of growth. So, logically, it’s about growing (in other words developing) an organisation with a view to making it highly profitable.

True, sales and business development overlap – but the processes also have separate objectives. 

Read on to understand:

  • The key differences that separate the two processes
  • why sales versus business development is important
  • whether one is a better strategic option than the other
  • how the two effectively work together in tandem


Biz dev vs sales – how are the two different?

It’s easy to see how the two terms are confused. Sales is about locating viable leads – then taking the necessary steps to convert those opportunities into measurable revenue.

Contrastingly, business development is about generating growth for a business. This could involve encouraging and fostering new partnerships to access new markets and much more.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand the key differentiators.

#1 The effect of each on profit

When discussing business development versus sales it’s important to talk about profit. That’s because the latter involves looking at leads already generated to determine which are ripe for conversion. 

Meanwhile, business development focuses on developing partnerships which could precipitate future expansion and secure the firm’s future. Therefore one focuses on the now. The other is future-focused.

sales vs biz dev

#2 The past versus the present

It’s impossible to discuss sales vs business development without mentioning timelines. For example, your sales team will review historical leads and convert them in the present. It is, therefore, primarily concerned with the immediate.

But what about tomorrow? Well, that’s the business development team’s job. 

Their focus will therefore be on future-proofing your firm by:

  • developing new partnerships – perhaps by setting up a referral service with other national firms
  • Looks for new ways to sell your legal services – by finding new social channels or other avenues to generate revenue
  • Researching developments in your sector – enabling you to anticipate future challenges and meet them head-on

#3 What about your customers’ perception?

When considering business development versus sales it’s important to understand audience perception.

Product consideration

Your prospective customers are at one of three stages in the sales pipeline:

  1. Awareness – which means they are probably unfamiliar with your firm and looking for evidence you can solve their problem
  2. Comparing – having established what you do they are now weighing up the pros and cons of using your service versus competitors
  3. Budgeting – with the competition reduced to a small handful of companies the prospect is now comparing which is the cheapest

Solution development

Not all your services will hit the mark. That’s why it’s important to seek new solutions – or, equally, look for ways to improve existing offerings.

A key role of a firm’s business development team will therefore involve research and evaluation to maximise the possibility of future conversions.

benefits of sales vs biz dev

Biz development versus sales – are they the same or not?

Sales and business development are both concerned with revenue generation, thereby securing said firm’s future. But the former is about qualifying and converting leads in the present – while the latter lays a foundation for the future by (a) evaluating and improving existing products or services and (b) researching new partnerships, platforms, and sector trends to future-proof the business.

Is one better than the other? Sales and business development aren’t competitors. Rather, they’re collaborators with a vested interest in the same aim: to ensure business continuity and profitability. Both are concerned with selling – but from within separate timelines and using different strategies.

Need expert support with your lead gen and strategy?

Do you need help generating leads and laying a foundation for your law firm’s future? Then get in touch today to book a free consultation with a member of our team.

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