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The DNA of Sales & Business Development

- Building a Competency Framework

Business Growth working paper series: 1

Business Growth
At Bissett School of Business we believe that growth is at the heart of
individuals, teams, organizations and economies.
Growth, to us, isn’t just about getting bigger or becoming better at what
we currently do; it’s about being smarter.
Smart growth (as we like to call it) views growth as encompassing the
entire business continuum; from start-up to scale-up and succession.
We are passionate about uncovering and supporting the development
of new insights into growth.
We would love for you to join us on this growth journey!

Simon Raby, Assistant Professor - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Julia Smith, Research Assistant

The authors would like to thank the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for its support,
and specifically Douglas MacDonald and Ray DePaul for their constructive feedback on earlier
versions of this report.

About this research

This research is based on academic and industry literature available in the public domain on sales
and business development. The views and perspectives are of the authors only, not of the
institutions they work for.

W: www.mtroyal.ca/businessgrowth
T: (403) 440-6840

Cover image: Amazing Photos (http://photo.elsoar.com/)

Copyright @ 2018 Simon Raby
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the authors

Abstract / Pre-word

The primary aim of this review is to inform the development of post secondary education

curricula in sales and business development. Market-based research investigations by the

Calgary-based Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University have highlighted the need

for businesses to build capacity, and for graduates and business professionals to be educated in

the fundamentals of sales and business development. While Canada currently has dozens of

Business Schools, we have witnessed a slow embracing of sales and business development in

the curricula. Despite the terms of ‘sales’ and ‘business development’ being used frequently within

organizations, a close appraisal of the literature reveals a lack of consensus on how they are


We propose that research on sales and business development has progressed down

parallel tracks that continue to rarely cross. Equally, business development remains a relatively

nascent field. The aim of this review is to dedicate scholarly attention to sales and business

development disciplines, to examine how these disciplines have emerged over time, and the skills

and functions that individuals perform when working in these fields. The outcome of this review is

the development of a competency-based framework for sales and business development that

offers further clarity on these fields and how they interact, helping to inform curricula development

and future research enquiry.

Professor Simon Raby Julia Smith

Principle Investigator Research Assistant

Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Social Innovation Area | Bissett School of Business

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 1
1.1 Why Study Sales and Business Development? 1
1.2 The Canadian Landscape of Sales and Business Development 2
1.3 Aims and Objectives 4

2. Defining Sales 5
2.1 The Changing Nature of Sales: Towards Professionalization 5
2.2 Skills of a Salesperson 7
2.3 Proposed Competency Models for Salespeople 11
2.4 Functions of a Salesperson: Customer Value Creation 14
2.5 Core Facets of 21st Century Salespeople 19

3. Defining Business Development 20

3.1 Skills of Business Developers 21
3.2 Functions of Business Developers: Promoting Organizational Growth 22
3.3 Core Facets of 21st Century Business Developers 25

4. Contrasting Sales and Business Development 26

4.1 Size 26
4.2 Skills 26
4.3 Functions 29

5. Conclusion: Towards a Competency-Based Framework for Sales and Business

Development Professionals 30

6. Gaps and Future Research Directions 32

A. Glossary 34
B. References 36
C. Appendix 42

Figure-1: How Business Development Relates to Sales and Marketing Functions 3
Figure-2: The Evolution of Sales: Towards Professionalization 5
Figure-3: Traditional Hierarchical Organizational Structure of a Sales Function 15
Figure-4: Uncoiling the DNA of Sales and Business Development Professionals:
Towards a Competency-Based Framework 31
Table-1: Summary table of literature on business development 24
Table-2: Comparing and Contrasting Sales and Business Development 27
Table-3: Comparing Sales Across Sectors 28
Table-4: Canadian Universities Offering Sales or Business Development 42
Table-5: Canadian Schools offering a Certified Sales Professional Program 43

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

1. Introduction

In industry and academia alike, confusion and dissention cloud the definitions and

functions of sales and business development. Numerous practitioners and academics have

offered their perspectives on each, revealing their overlapping nature and, also their

distinctiveness. Within this review we reach a definition of ‘sales’ as an agent of customer value

creation and ‘business development’ as a means to promote organizational growth. While these

definitions may appear neat and distinct these fields are very much entangled and there persists

a lack of global consensus on how they are distinguished.

1.1 Why Study Sales and Business Development?

Prior to commencing this research paper, a focus group with business leaders1 identified

sales and business development as key pain points for business growth and development. These

findings have since been supported by a large-scale provincial survey on the growth of Small and

Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) 2 . When asked, leaders of SMEs reported ‘business

development’ as the key growth promoter, with ‘insufficient sales and marketing’ highly rated as

the fourth most impactful growth inhibitor3. These findings highlight the need for graduates and

business professionals to be skilled in sales and business development. However, these are skills

development activities that are presently not widely serviced by post secondary education (PSE)


1 Held with 12 Calgary-based entrepreneurs and sales professionals, selected for their deep domain
experience, and centered on understanding the skills that graduates of Entrepreneurship, Marketing and
Social Innovation should have.
2 The findings reported here were obtained from a larger multidisciplinary research model focused on
investigating what drives the growth of SMEs in Alberta, Canada. For more information navigate to:
3 These results were obtained from a sample of 396 SMEs collected asking “In order of importance, please
list the key factors that have supported your growth over the past 3 years” and “What are the key factors
that are likely to [promote / inhibit] organizational growth?”

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

The rationale for using research on the growth of SMEs to inform teaching and research

is fourfold. First, SMEs are central drivers of the Canadian economic engine. 99.7% of

organizations are “small” (between 1 and 99 employees) and SMEs employ 91.2% of the private

sector workforce in Alberta (Statistics Canada, 2017). Aside to their sheer number, SMEs play an

essential role in innovation, value generation and job creation. Between 2005 and 2015 SMEs

created 87.5% of jobs in Alberta (Statistics Canada, 2017), and smaller organizations are seen

as important change makers and disruptors of the status quo. Second, given the pervasiveness

of SMEs, it follows that graduates of Business Schools and Universities, along with the broader

working population, are highly likely to find themselves working for an SME during their career.

This is no bad thing, with the informality of smaller firm work environments reported to offer

employees enriching employment experiences through, for example, heightened levels of

autonomy and role flexibility (Raby, 2013). Third, SMEs are experiencing growth challenges

attributed to deficient sales and business development. Recent studies by the Alberta Treasury

Branch (ATB), the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Ernst and Young identify sales as a top

area of concern for Albertan entrepreneurs (ATB, 2016; Calgary Chamber, 2014; EY, 2014).

Fourth, we have witnessed a global coming of age of entrepreneurship, as a practice and a

mindset (Neck et al., 2017). The promise of learning entrepreneurial skills, of which sales and

business development are a part, is that they can catalyze help to the growth of all organizations

– small and large.

1.2 The Canadian Landscape of Sales and Business Development

While Canada has dozens of Business Schools, programs specifically targeting sales and

business development are limited. Canadian PSE institutions offer a narrow range of

programming that tends to target ‘professional selling’ skills. Some programs offer a combination

of sales and marketing, rather than focusing on sales alone (for a list of these programs, please

see Appendix). The majority of Canadian PSE institutions deliver sales training as a separate

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

certificate or diploma rather than integrated to an undergraduate program, unlike areas such as

marketing, accounting, and finance that are often offered as minors and majors/concentrations.

There are currently no Canadian PSE institutions that offer a concentration in business

development, though it may be covered as a component of other programs. This may be due to

the assumed close relationship between business development and sales and marketing

(particularly the latter). One may argue that business development and marketing have similar

aims, being to grow and develop the consumer base through increased awareness and expanding

into new markets (Dumont, 2014). For a visual perspective of where business development falls

on the spectrum between sales and marketing, see Figure-1.

Figure-1: Positioning Business Development on the Sales and Marketing Spectrum

Source: Dumont, 2014

The lack of sales training in PSE was recently covered in the Globe and Mail, asserting

the slow embracing of sales education to be a consequence of negative perceptions of the field,

despite the belief that teaching sales is critical to encourage the growth of Canadian companies

(Montagner, 2016). While the United States might be considered ahead of Canada in teaching

sales and business development, less than a quarter of nearly 500 American business schools

offer a sales curriculum at the undergraduate level, while only a handful offer a graduate-level

sales curriculum or MBA sales concentration (Fogel, Hoffmeister, Rocco, & Strunk, 2012). Despite

this, a positive trend is being experienced in the number of sales courses offered at American

business schools (Fogel et al., 2012).

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

The current limited availability of formal sales training and its demonstrated importance

for companies indicates that there is much work to be accomplished in the fields of sales and

business development in North American PSE institutions. The limited availability of research and

program development in sales and business development in the PSE sector may explain

partnership arrangements that institutions have brokered with the Canadian Professional Sales

Association (CPSA). The CPSA offers a Professional Sales Certificate, seen as a stepping-stone

toward the Certified Sales Professional designation (CPSA, n.d.). To receive the certificate

participants must complete six courses from one of its 26 partner institutions (for a list of these

partners, please see Appendix). Partner institutions are predominantly based in Ontario, with

three institutions offering Professional Sales Certificate in Alberta (Grand Prairie Regional

College, NAIT and SAIT). The six courses must align with the competencies outlined in CPSA

framework, which we will later explore in detail.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

The primary aim of this review is to inform the development of PSE curricula in sales and

business development. Our driving research question is: what are the essential skills required by

those working in sales and business development roles? To achieve this, the review first seeks

to understand how the fields of sales and business development differ, ascertaining the degree

of definitional clarity achieved to date. The fields of sales and business development are then

compared and contrasted through the lenses of skills and functions of sales and business

development professionals. This allows for the development of a competency-based framework

for sales and business development, offering further clarity on these fields while identifying gaps

in the literature and future research directions. For the reader’s reference, a glossary is included

at the end of the review, with words in boldface where they appear in the text.

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

2. Defining Sales

The concept of sales is related to serving a customer or for a consumer-focused purpose

(e.g., CPSA, 2014). A salesperson aims to build relationships (both long-term and short-term)

with a current or prospective customer or consumer (e.g., Klein, 2016; Ingram et al., 2015), to add

value to their business through a product and/or service offer (e.g., Ingram et al., 2015), and to

help drive business growth through selling. ‘Value’ here is defined in the literature as increases in

profitability. Put simply, salespeople are responsible for interacting with the customers and

consumers of their organization’s products and services and making sales in order to add value

to both the customer’s business and help drive the growth of their own organization.

To understand more about sales we need to explore the way in which the field of sales

has developed over time, an evolution we have depicted in Figure-2.

Figure-2: The Evolution of Sales: Towards Professionalization

'Professional' sales
•Increasing distance/use of technology
•Salesperson and customer as 'partners'
•Truth and relationship building
New •Certfied/trained
world •Offer insights
•Focus on creating value for customer/consumer
'Hard' sales
Old •Predominance of face-to-face
world •Use of pressure tactics
•Deception and manipulation
•Sell solutions
•Focus on closing sale

2.1 The Changing Nature of Sales: Towards Professionalization

Understanding what constitutes a good salesperson has evolved over time to the current

concept of the ‘sales professional’ (Ingram, Avila, Schwepker, Williams, & Shannahan, 2015;

Martini & James, 2012). In decades past, ‘hard’ sales tactics were encouraged, whereas today

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

‘soft’ tactics and professional selling are preferred (e.g., Ingram et al., 2015; Martini & James,

2012; Mcclaren, 2013). Hard sales tactics are oriented toward closing the sale without regard for

the preferences of the customer and can include deception and aggressive language to convince

the customer to close the sale (Ingram et al., 2015). In contrast, professional selling is more

aligned with soft sales tactics. Sales representatives adopting this more professional approach

tend to be truthful and straightforward with the customer, rather than trying to manipulate them to

close the sale (Ingram et al., 2015).

Using the term ‘professional sales’ can also refer to the notion of sales as a profession in

which individuals seek out training (such as an MBA or professional sales courses) and

certification (through bodies such as the Canadian Professional Sales Association) (Martini &

James, 2012). Loe and Inks (2014) echoed this definition when designing a course on

professional selling, defining ‘professional sales’ as positions that require a University degree.

Professional selling has also been referred to as a ‘relationship building process’ whereby the

salesperson aims to foster a strong relationship with the current or prospective customer (Tyler &

Hair, 2007). Taken together, professional sales refers both to the increasing trend towards

certification and formal training and the professional nature of the sales process, where the

customer and salesperson are partners in the sales process.

Organizations have historically placed a greater emphasis on sales representatives ‘in the

field’, an approach that has declined as the use of technology has increasingly replaced face-to-

face interaction with customers (Martin, 2013; Martini & James, 2012). In the past, salespeople

have also relied on ritualized and symbolic behaviours to guide the sales process. For instance,

presenting a pen in a specific way to the customer when asking them to sign a document (Martini

& James, 2012). This trend is much less popular now, with more freedom in how the sales process

is conducted so long as its goals (e.g., value creation, making the sale) are achieved.

The way customers and consumers make purchasing decisions has also evolved over

time. Today’s customers have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips, thanks in part to the

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

popularization of the Internet, along with the ease of accessing information and the testimonials

of others beyond their immediate network (Adamson, Dixon, & Toman, 2013; Martini & James,

2012). As a result, ‘solution sales’, where the seller proffers a solution to a specific need, are less

popular in today’s sales environment (Adamson et al., 2012, 2013; Martini & James, 2012).

Instead, customers are now engaging in what can be termed ‘insight selling’, where salespeople

aim to generate alternative solutions and additional insights to add incremental value to the

customer beyond their originally desired solution (Adamson et al., 2013; Sisakhti, 2015). This is

echoed in the types of behaviours in which salespeople engage. Where ritual behaviours and

sales force automation were the prescribed norm, now salespeople need to be adaptable and

quick on their feet, such that there is no one right way to close a sale (e.g., Martini & James,

2012). Today’s savvy customers also require more effort from the salesperson, who must be well-

informed, resilient, exercise grace under pressure (Fang, Palmatier, & Evans, 2004; Franke &

Park, 2006; Locander et al., 2014; Park & Holloway, 2003; Verbeke, Dietz, & Berwaal, 2011) and

utilize social media and technology (Lambert, Plan, Reid, & Fleming, 2014; Lassk et al., 2012;

Moore, Raymond, & Hopkins, 2015; Nadeau, 2015; Rocco, 2016; Salopek, 2009).

2.2 Skills of a Salesperson

While a quick Internet search will turn up a wealth of information on what industry

professionals deem the critical skillset for a sales professional, this information pool narrows when

searching for academic references. In particular, there is a shortage of research on how to assess

these skills in a methodologically rigorous manner (Martini & James, 2012). This paucity in

academic research is the product of a vicious cycle: funding for sales research is scarce as it

does not currently enjoy a reputable status in universities, nor are there many prestigious journals

with a sales focus, which limits the ability for universities to conduct research and offer courses

on the topic, meaning that it is difficult to recruit faculty members who are capable and interested

in teaching sales, which restricts the opportunities for students to pursue graduate training in

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

sales, which then means that there are not many individuals with qualifications to teach sales

(Fogel et al., 2012).

As a result, this review draws on industry as well as academic sources to include a variety

of viewpoints, as well as empirically-based recommendations. This section will next provide an

overview of the skills that have been identified as important for success as a salesperson and will

then delve into various competency models that have been proposed by academics and industry

to bring these skills together. In brief, the successful salesperson will possess strong interpersonal

skills, such as empathy, collaboration and teamwork, the capacity to foster long-term

relationships, strong active listening and communication abilities, leadership, and service

motivation (e.g., Aggarwal, Castleberry, Ridnour, & Shepherd, 2005; Klein, 2016; Ingram et al.,

2015; Sellars, 1992).

The ability to be an effective communicator has been identified as key for the modern

sales force (Klein, 2016; Ingram et al., 2015; Martini & James, 2012; Salomonson, Åberg, &

Allwood, 2012; Sellars, 1992). Specifically, research has identified the abilities to be attentive,

perceptive, and responsive as vital to customer-perceived value creation in a business-to-

business context (Salomonson et al., 2012). This perspective is aligned with the frequency with

which active listening appears in industry reports and the extant literature. If customers perceive

the salesperson as actively listening to their concerns, they are more likely to have positive

feelings, such as trust and satisfaction, toward that salesperson (Aggarwal et al., 2005; Ramsey

& Sohi, 1997). The importance of active listening in the sales process is echoed in both industry

reports and academic literature, highlighting it as an important skill for present-day salespeople

(Klein, 2016; Ingram et al., 2015; Comer & Drollinger, 1999; Drollinger & Comer, 2013; Martini &

James, 2012; Pryor, Malshe, & Paradise, 2013; Ramsey & Sohi, 1997; Roman, 2014; Sellars,

1992; Swan & Oliver, 1991). In addition to active listening, salespeople must be effective at

communicating knowledge. This includes having strong public speaking and presentation skills,

such that the salesperson can deliver product knowledge in an engaging manner and can adapt

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

the material to that particular customer (“CPSA Sales Institute Key Competencies in Sales”, n.d.;

Ingram et al., 2015; Keller, N., Martini, 1999; Martini & James, 2012; Sellars, 1992). This is also

echoed in the finding that individuals who neither dominate the conversation, nor allow the

customer to dominate the conversation (i.e. those who are in the middle of the extraversion

spectrum, termed ‘ambiverts’ by researchers) display the strongest performance, suggesting that

a combination of interpersonal skills and active listening is beneficial for performance (Grant,


Service orientation, defined as an individual’s orientation toward delivering a valuable

service to a customer (Sellars, 1992) has been linked to improved sales success (Greenberg &

Greenberg, 1990; Roman, 2014), and is becoming increasingly important as salespeople take on

service roles (Lassk et al., 2012). Past research (e.g., Karamillo & Grissafe, 2009) and a recent

review (Singh & Koshy, 2010) have proffered that a service orientation may be most useful in

long-term customer relationships. This service orientation also points to the importance of building

trust (Ingram et al., 2015; Lassk et al., 2012; Martini & James, 2012). Salesperson trustworthiness

has been conceptualized as involving credibility, compatibility, and expertise (Woods et al, 2008),

indicating these are also qualities of the ideal salesperson.

Communication, active listening and adopting a service orientation are interpersonal skills

that indicate a trend towards hiring salespeople with high emotional intelligence (Adamson et al.,

2013), with emotional intelligence being linked with increased sales performance (Kidwell,

Hardesty, Murthu, & Sheng, 2011). Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s accuracy in

recognizing one’s own emotions and those of others, and their ability to respond appropriately

(Salovey & Mayer, 1990). It is aligned with the ability to adapt one’s selling strategy to the

personality of the prospect or customer, which may support the selling process (Ingram et al.,

2015; Martini & James, 2012; Sellars, 1992). Furthermore, emotional and social intelligence

(defined with an equivalent definition to emotional intelligence, above) has predicted sales

leadership performance, defined as the success of divisional executives in recruiting financial

The DNA of Sales and Business Development

consultants, in that higher emotional and social intelligence predicts performance over and above

other personality measures and general cognitive ability (Boyatzis, Good, & Massa, 2012).

Similarly, adaptability has consistently been identified as important for salesperson performance,

allowing for salespeople to not be too rigid in their actions, ensuring flexibility in dealing with the

customer to meet the needs of that particular customer or business (Fang, Palmatier & Evans,

2004; Franke & Park, 2006; Locander et al., 2014; Kidwell, Hardesty, Murtha, & Sheng, 2010;

Park & Holloway, 2003; Verbeke, Dietz, & Berwaal, 2011). Past research has also identified

adaptability as predictive of sales leaders’ performance (Boyatzis et al., 2012), demonstrating its

value at all levels of the organizational hierarchy in sales.

However, success in sales is not contingent on interpersonal skills alone. To succeed in

the current sales climate, salespeople must also possess high cognitive ability (Adamson et al.,

2013). Specifically, salespeople must have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills

(Adamson et al., 2013; Ingram et al., 2015). This level of cognitive ability is crucial to be successful

in the current trend toward insight selling, which might give salespeople greater flexibility in how

they conduct the sales process but places greater reliance on their judgment (Adamson et al.,

2013). Similarly, salesperson intuition, defined as using one’s knowledge and emotions to guide

decision-making (Locander, Mulki, & Weinberg, 2014) has been linked to increased adaptability

and performance (Locander et al., 2014). Yet it is not enough to be highly intelligent, either:

research has found that while high cognitive ability and high social competency produce the

highest sales performance, sales performance plummets in those with high cognitive ability and

low social competence (Verbeke, Belschak, Bakker, & Dietz, 2008). This suggests that

salespeople must both be intelligent and socially adept to be most successful.

In addition to the above skillset, salespeople also require a broad base of knowledge to

be successful, including knowledge of the product and company resources, knowledge about the

industry and competitors, and understanding of business costs (Ingram et al., 2015; Klein, 2016).

Salespeople liaise with current and prospective customers and will measure their performance by

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the volume of sales they successfully close (The Canadian Professional Sales Association, 2014).

Technology is also becoming ever more critical, necessitating salespeople to have technological

knowledge to leverage the tools in their firm’s processes throughout the sales process (Ingram et

al., 2015; Martini & James, 2012; Lambert et al., 2014; Lassk et al., 2012; Nadeau, 2015; Rocco,

2016; Salopek, 2009). Salespeople are also increasingly using social media in the sales process

to communicate with prospects and with customers, given the ubiquity of social media in today’s

world (Lassk et al., 2012; Moore, Raymond, & Hopkins, 2015; Nadeau, 2015; Salopek, 2009).

2.3 Proposed Competency Models for Salespeople

The following section provides an overview of various competency models that have been

proposed for salespeople. Of the competency models available, the following are included in this

review as they are either informed by peer-reviewed academic research or emanate from well-

known industry sources. As some of them originate from industry sources, the frameworks vary

in the extent to which they are examined using empirical data, but are nonetheless included here

as they represent industry viewpoints on salesperson competencies.

Customer-Focused Selling. This is a five-component framework for Customer-Focused

Selling (Martini, 1999). These components are: ‘Open’, which involves establishing trust and

credibility with the customer; ‘Investigate’, which involves identifying the customer’s needs;

‘Present’, which involves the salesperson explaining how their company’s products or services

can achieve those needs; ‘Confirm’, which involves working through potential concerns and

problems and closing the deal; and ‘Position’, which involves angling to set up a long-term

relationship that will extend past the end of that particular deal (Martini, 1999; Martini & James,


Association for Talent Development. Another is the competency model proposed by

the Association for Talent Development (Association for Talent Development, n.d.; Sisahkti,

2015). It is included here as it emerged from a research effort that involved interviewing fifty sales

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professionals and was thus conceived through consulting industry experts. It includes four broad

facets: collaboration, insight, solution, and effectiveness (Sisahkti, 2015). Collaboration includes

the ability to work collaboratively with others; insight involves the ability to understand customers

and to use this understanding and their business and industry knowledge during the sales

process; solution involves their problem solving, negotiating ability, and ability to get a

commitment from customers; and effectiveness, which includes ethical decision making,

professionalism, the ability to work with people of various backgrounds, and ability to adapt

(Sisahkti, 2015).

Competency model for entry-level business-to-business salespeople. This model is

included as it provides a data-driven, peer-reviewed competency model specific to salespeople.

The competency model was developed through reviewing literature on professional selling and

consulting forty individuals who represented the following four roles: sales professors, sales

trainers, sales managers, and salespeople (Lambert, Plank, Reid & Fleming, 2014). This led to a

ten-competency model geared towards entry-level business-to-business salespeople. These

competencies are: knowledge of the sales process, ability to continuously increase the sales

process’s efficiency, knowledge of technology, willingness and ability to keep learning about sales

and business, interpersonal skills for relationship building, effective communication skills,

customer service skills, product knowledge, and administrative abilities (Lambert, Plank, Reid, &

Fleming, 2014).

Competency model for sales managers. Similar to the model presented above, this

model originated in a peer-reviewed journal in the human resources literature. Busch (2013)

consulted front-line sales managers and chief sales officers from both business-to-business and

business-to-consumer firms. A business-to-consumer firm is one that deals directly with the end

users of its products; an example of such a company would be Amazon, which has both B2C and

B2B functions. From this effort, Busch (2013) identified competencies for individuals at the next

level: sales managers. These include: coaching employees, motivating and managing

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performance, engaging in personal development, maintaining relationships, and managing the

sales process to assist employees (Busch, 2013). While these competencies for sales managers

are similar to those identified for salespeople, they do display a greater emphasis on leadership


Canadian Professional Sales Association. This model is included as it represents the

competencies that are designated as important by a Canadian certification body. Although the

methodology is unclear, the stated competencies are those that inform the professional sales

programs and exams offered in partnership with the Canadian Professional Sales Association

(CPSA), and are thus important to consider when building a curriculum for Canadian students.

In Canada, the CPSA developed a list of the key competencies in sales in collaboration

with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) (CPSA, n.d.). These are: account

management, which is the ability to identify how to add value for the customer and to execute a

plan for the customer; business acumen; communication; consultative selling process,

knowledge management; value creation; local area/regional marketing, which is the ability to

tailor marketing messaging to a specific audience; product and technical knowledge; relationship

building; technology; sales administration, which involves to the ability to organize and maintain

the sales process; self-development, which refers to the ability to self-manage and engage in

professional development activities; strategic sales planning, which involves the ability to

strategize and set goals; and time and territory management, which is the ability to maintain and

organize sales activities for different areas (CPSA, n.d.). These competencies are similar to those

listed by HRSG (HRSG, 2017), which describes itself as a ‘competency-based talent

management’ organization: their list also includes account management, consultative selling,

value creation, business and product knowledge, strategizing, and time and territory

management, and also include marketing and operations competencies.

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2.4 Functions of a Salesperson: Customer Value Creation

In essence, the responsibility of a salesperson is to make sales: to sell the product or

service to a customer and to create value in the process (e.g., Blocker, Cannon, Panagopoulos,

& Sager, 2012; Klein, 2016). Individual salespeople however do not exist in a vacuum, they

interact with the wider organizational system. This system includes other employees, processes

and structures and is not universal, it differs across organizations. Given this, it is important to

also explore the way in sales functions can be structured and the effect this has on the

competences of the salesperson.

Organizational structure of sales. Within sales, there are different levels of

responsibility. Broadly, in a traditional structure, these are the sales representative, the sales

manager, and the sales executive, such as the chief sales officer and the sales directors (though

this may vary from organization to organization). Sales representatives interact with prospects

and with customers throughout the sales process to build relationships and close sales (e.g.,

Klein, 2016) sales managers lead a team of sales representatives, coach the representatives

through the process, and create and implement policies (e.g., Cron & DeCarlo, 2009; Busch,

2013); and senior leadership.

The organizational structure of sales may also differ from organization to organization.

Examples for small organizations and large organizations are outlined below.

Small organization. In a small organization, the organizational structure may be more

‘flat’, meaning that employees are seen as equal, rather than classified into a hierarchy, that there

are not many levels of management, and frontline salespeople interact with customers and top

management alike (Business Dictionary, n.d.).

Large organization. In a larger organization, a sample structure could take a hierarchical

form and consist of various levels. For instance, the sales representative or associate, which is

the entry-level salesperson; the team leader, who oversees a team of salespeople and are

responsible for motivating and managing the frontline salespeople; the branch manager, who is

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responsible for supervising groups of salespeople and recruiting, compensating, and training

employees; the regional manager, who is responsible for overseeing a sales territory, monitoring

goal progression, and executing the strategic vision of the company; and the executive level

manager, who may bear the title of director of sales or vice president of sales, and is responsible

for creating a strategy and vision, implementing initiatives, and overseeing and monitoring goal

progression of regional managers (Ingram, n.d.).

An example of the hierarchical structure of an organization as pertains to sales is depicted


Figure-3: Traditional Hierarchical Organizational Structure of a Sales Function


VP of Sales/Sales Director

Sales Manager(s)

Front-line Sales Professionals

Business-to-business (B2B) and Business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. Generally,

companies have one of two business models: B2B, or business-to-business, or B2C, meaning

business-to-consumer. While both models rely on a strategic sales process and on effective

marketing for their success (CPSA, 2016), they nonetheless diverge on a number of

characteristics. Differences exist in the decision-making process, the number of stakeholders

involved, the nature of the business relationship, the number of prospects, and the extent of

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product knowledge (Cohn, 2015). In B2B companies, employees are dealing with other

businesses, meaning that the decision process can be more time-consuming as it also involves

more stakeholders to consult along the way. The relationships tend to be more long-term in B2B

firms (Cohn, 2015; CPSA, 2016), which is consistent with the emphasis on relationship

management seen in this review. In B2C firms, consumers may purchase a product or service

once and not require the company’s services again. However, the pool of individual consumers

is far larger than that of relevant companies, meaning that the number of prospects for B2C firms

is greater than that for B2B firms (Cohn, 2015). Finally, consumers have different priorities than

companies: consumers tend to be more focused on the benefit of the product to themselves,

whereas companies must possess comprehensive product knowledge to sell and market the

product or service to other companies (Cohn, 2015).

Given the rise of B2C companies, some industry professionals have noted a ‘levelling of

the marketplace’, a trend called B2All (Francis, n.d.), where both customers and businesses are

treated equally. This shift is characterized by the desire for convenience and a fast sales process,

easy access to a wealth of information, the need for convenient and accessible online platforms,

and the importance of marketing (Francis, n.d.). This may continue to change the industry, as

B2B and B2C models continue to influence one another and level the playing field for consumers

and businesses (Francis, n.d.).

While online sales have contributed to a changing market, B2B sales still comprise a larger

market share than B2C sales, though the e-commerce market is growing (Affiliate Marketing

Association of Canada, n.d.). This suggests that while most salespeople will still function within

the B2B sphere, more and more will be called upon to work in a B2C capacity, meaning that they

will be required to interface directly with consumers. This means that salespeople need to be

capable of adapting their selling strategies for customers and act as brand ambassadors for the

product to ensure a positive experience for the customer (Francis, n.d.). This again highlights the

importance of adaptability and of a service orientation for today’s salespeople.

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Function of the salesforce. Researchers and industry personnel alike have identified the

function of the sales force as being increasingly customer service-oriented (e.g., Greenberg &

Greenberg, 1990; Lassk et al., 2012; Martini & James, 2010). This service orientation goes under

many names that underlie similar sales strategies. Personal selling involves strong interpersonal

interactions and open communication throughout the sales process (Ingram et al., 2015).

Customer-Focused Selling is a strategy where the salesperson prioritizes the customer’s needs

and must possess the ability to react quickly and appropriately to evolving situations (Martini &

James, 2012). Consultative selling occurs when the salesperson helps the customer prioritize

what they need and achieve those priorities (e.g., Hanan, 1986). Value-based selling refers to

the salesperson’s ability to understand the customer’s business model and collaborate with them

to increase their profitability (Terho, Haas, Eggert, & Ulaga, 2012). Adaptive selling is the

concept that there is no one road to selling and that the best practice is thus to adapt a strategy

to the needs of that specific customer; this has been linked to strong sales performance in past

research (Franke & Park, 2006; Román & Iacobucci, 2009; Kidwell et al., 2010; Weitz, Sujan, &

Sujan, 1986).

While these sales strategies have different labels, their underlying function is the same in

that they aim to cater to the needs of the customer, which is the main component of customer-

oriented selling (Martini & James, 2012; Schwepker, 2003). They bear resemblance to the

descriptions outlined above from industry professionals of the sales person as an ally of the

customer. This type of selling considers the salesperson as a partner to the customer (similar to

the concept of creating value for the customer described above), which requires the salesperson

to be able to quickly and accurately gauge a situation and the needs of the customer, respond

accordingly using their sales knowledge, and be actively involved in the decision process (Lassk

et al., 2012; Martini & James, 2012). In this selling strategy, salespeople aim to establish a long-

term relationship with the customer (e.g., Lassk et al, 2012; Schwepker, 2003). This means that

they are responsible for recognizing new business opportunities and methods of adding value to

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the customer (Adamson et al., 2013). The competency of ‘value creation’ was broken down by

the Canadian Professional Sales Association into: knowledge of the customer and the market,

creating value for each sales opportunity, communicating the proposed method and plan of value

creation to the customer, and using your organization’s resources to create value (“CPSA Institute

Key Competencies in Sales”, n.d.). The reader can note, however, that value creation in a sales

context essentially relates to the degree of business knowledge of both the industry and the

customer, which allows salespeople to identify and communicate ways to boost their customer’s


The role of the salesperson in creating value includes relationship management and

service activities such as identifying the customers’ needs, engaging in open communication,

building a shared understanding and a partnership, sharing resources, identifying relevant

stakeholders to the process, and identifying how relevant individuals define value (Haas, Snehota,

& Corsaro, 2012; Lassk et al., 2012). Cron, Bauldauf, Leigh and Grossenbacher (2014)

interviewed senior sales executives to gather their perceptions of the purpose of the sales force

and identified five main capabilities: acquiring new customers, building trust with customers,

attending to customers’ needs, building relationships with customers, and retaining customers

(Cron, Baldauf, Leigh, & Grossenbacher, 2014). The latter four capabilities show clear similarities

with the service orientation described above, in that there is an emphasis on building and

maintaining long-term relationships that will ultimately deliver value creation. The responsibility of

acquiring new customers falls under the scope of business development in other contexts,

showing once again how the distinction between sales and business development is blurred.

To be successful in the 21st century workforce, this review reveals that salespeople must

possess interpersonal skills, business and technology acumen, and flexibility. Additionally, their

overarching functions are to build relationships with their customers and to identify ways to add

value to the customer’s business and to their own business through driving profit from closing


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2.5 Core Facets of 21st Century Salespeople

While the above competency frameworks, skillsets and functions employ different

terminology, they allude to six core facets:

1. Interpersonal and relationship-building skills: including the ability to empathise and build

trusting customer/consumer relationships, individually and across social networks;

2. Communication skills: including the abilities to actively listen and to present

product/service knowledge into the sales process;

3. Adaptability: remaining flexible in sales conversations, and harnessing insights to add

value to customers/consumers;

4. Cognitive ability: critically reflecting on sales situations and interactions and problem


5. Product, company and industry knowledge; including knowledge of the product/service,

the way in which sales is structured in the company, and the orientation of the

product/company in the industry; and,

6. Sales domain knowledge: including sales roles, the sales process, selling techniques, key

account management, and the application of technology.

Theses core facets can thus be identified within this review as the key skillset for 21st century


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Section 3. Defining Business Development

There is currently no one definition of ‘business development’. Researchers have noted

that business development units are more and more common in organizations (Davis & Sun,

2006; Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014; Kind & zu Knzyphausen-Aufseb, 2007), while acknowledging that

the body of literature on business development is nascent (Davis and Sun, 2006; Eidhoff & Poelzl,

2014; Keil et al, 2008; Kind and zu Knyphausen-Aufseß, 2007). In the literature that does exist,

the broad function of business development is to seek out new business (Achtenhagen et al.,

2017; Janovics & Christiansen, 2003; Littunen & Virtanen, 2009). The functions of business

development as described by industry is also similar to the functions of ‘key account

management’, which we will explore further below. The above highlights a potential problem in

coming to a true understanding of what business development entails: different firms may label

the functions of business development by different names, and integrate a variety of duties and

responsibilities under their own definition of business development. Comparing ‘business

development’ to ‘sales’ is therefore problematic. This section draws on information from articles

on business development as well as strategic and key account management to identify the skills

and functions distinctive to business development when compared to sales.

Business development typically includes a sales function, but serves a broader purpose

within the organization. While industry sources have sometimes provided contradicting definitions

of business development (Pollack, 2012a), a common theme is that of creating value and

increasing growth (Cruz, 2017; Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014; Pollack, 2012a; CPSA, 2014). At a more

granular level, the specifics can differ from definition to definition. For instance, the Canadian

Professional Sales Association (2014) define the concept as composed of expanding the

customer base, building strong partnerships, and building value with the current customers.

Similarly, Pollack (2012a) defined business development as the creation of long-term value for an

organization from customers, markets, and relationships; where long-term value equates to what

a company requires to grow. A strong understanding of how these types of value may interact in

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different ways and different situations is also critical for effective business development (Pollack,

2012a; Silva, 2017). Eidhoff and Poelzl (2014) also identified important research areas on the

topic, namely the business’s long-term strategy, market alignment, corporate entrepreneurship,

product development, and innovation, suggesting that those areas can fall under the broader

definition of business development as well.

Key account management is an organizational strategy that focuses on ‘key’ customers;

those customers that are pivotal to the success of their business (Ryals, 2012; Woodburn &

Wilson, 2014). Key account management requires company executives be engaged with key

account stakeholders, making decisions on which accounts are ‘key’, selecting and training

managers for those accounts, and continuing to measure the success of the program to see its

success (Ryals, 2012). Key account management differs from sales practices in that it requires

and catalyzes an internal organizational change (Davies & Ryals, 2014; Ryals, 2012; Teuchert,

2016). Key account management is also referred to as ‘strategic account management’ or ‘key

strategic account management’; both of which involve building relationships with strategically

important customers to generate value for the businesses of those customers (e.g., Woodburn &

Wilson, 2014). As well as being key skills for salespeople, the business development literature

also identifies communication and trust to be linked to key account manager success (Sengupta

et al., 2000).

3.1 Skills of Business Developers

Given the descriptions of the responsibilities of business development outlined above, one

can see the business development professionals are responsible for a broader range of functions

than are sales professionals. This is because the responsibilities of a business developer typically

includes sales as well as maintaining relationships with suppliers and customers, marketing,

managing accounts, and knowledge of available products (Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014; Norris, 2014;

Pollack, 2012b, Seth, 2015). Thus, the skillset of a business developer should ideally include:

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relationship building, the ability to be innovative, industry knowledge, negotiation skills,

friendliness and politeness (particularly for professionalism in client relationships), sales skills,

and critical thinking (Newton, 2014). Practitioners have similarly identified analytical skills,

creativity, business knowledge and dedication as important for success, and suggested that

interdisciplinary teams with varying years of experience formed an effective recipe for team

composition to provide unique perspectives (Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014). These skills are similar to

those identified for key account managers, which include financial knowledge, consulting and

planning skills, and interpersonal skills (Ryals, 2012; Teuchert, 2016). Key account managers

must also possess strong negotiation skills (Coffre, 2012; Teuchert, 2016). They must also be

able to identify new opportunities and to act on those opportunities, to measure their effectiveness

of these practices, and to manage teams (Teuchert, 2016).

3.2 Functions of Business Developers: Promoting Organizational Growth

On the academic side, there is currently a paucity of research on business development

and a lack of consensus regarding its operational definition in the research that does exist. For

instance, Kind and Knyphausen-Aufseß (2007) identified the functions of business development

by interviewing employees at 15 small biotechnology firms, all of whom had a business developer

employed. This research uncovered three main functions: creating value and increasing revenue

potential; product development and developing strategies for commercializing products; and,

fostering relationships with relevant stakeholders.

In the context of micro-firms (those firms with less then 10 employees), business

development has similarly been identified as having three primary functions and three supporting

functions (Achtenhagen, Ekberg, & Melander, 2017). Those core activities consist of: seeking out

new opportunities, maintaining and expanding business knowledge, and marketing and closing

sales (Achtenhagen et al., 2017). The supporting activities include: acquiring financial resources,

talent management, and development of effective organizational hierarchies and processes

(Achtenhagen et al., 2017). These share similarities with the functions identified by Kind &

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Knyphausen-Aufseß (2007), but also display how different firms require different functions of their

business development employees and how there is no one global definition and job description

of a business developer.

Eidhoff and Poelzl (2014) also recognized the need for more academic research on

business development and, through a qualitative study of business-to-business companies,

uncovered practitioner views on its definition, the tasks of a business developer, the necessary

skills, and the methods used to carry out the work. Similarly to the work of Achtenhagen et al.

(2017) and Kind & Knyphausen-Aufseß (2007), they found that practitioners agreed that business

development generally serves to identify potential areas of growth, though the specific definitions,

functions, and skills varied from company to company. The most frequently mentioned tasks

included: identifying growth opportunities, mergers and acquisitions, creating and implementing

new business models, and assessing customer needs (Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014). On the job,

practitioners suggested that tools and methods to identify company value and net worth, SWOT

analyses, benchmarking, analysing portfolios and engaging in market research and analysis

were most useful (Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014).

Strategic key account managers have similar roles to key account managers. They must

also build long-term relationships with the stakeholders of the key accounts (similar to

salespeople) and engage in ongoing assessment of their relationship with customers and on the

performance of all key accounts, adding new key accounts when appropriate (Ryals, 2012).

Strategic account managers must also maintain open and frequent communication with their

customers and use this communication strategically to consider how to improve the process for

the customer and any potential issues they may encounter (Schultz, Evans, & Taylor, 2003). Their

role has also been separated into implementing activities and facilitating activities (McDonald &

Woodburn, 2007). Implementing activities include building an understanding of the customer’s

business and adding value to the customer’s business through meeting their needs, whereas

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facilitating activities include representing the customer’s needs within one’s own organization and

representing one’s organization when dealing with the customer (McDonald & Woodburn, 2007).

Business development as operationalized in the academic literature includes an emphasis

on creating value and increasing growth (outlined in Table-1). This shares similarities with

entrepreneurship, and reveals the importance of innovation, suggesting that both sales and

business development play key roles in building entrepreneurial capabilities. However, this

research also highlights discrepancies in the definition and functions of a business development

unit, and the variability between practitioner viewpoints on what business development entails.

Table-1: Summary Table of Literature on Business Development

Author Discipline Method Sample Results

Achtenhagen, Management Qualitative 30 chief Identified three core activities

Ekberg, & interviews executive to best use the firm’s
Melander officers of resources and three
micro-firms supporting activities to obtain
and arrange those resources

EIdhoff & Economics Qualitative Sixteen Assert that the key challenge
Poelzl interviews practitioners in BD is identification of new
from business- growth opportunities.
to-business Explored the tasks,
companies qualifications, competences,
and tools associated with BD
Kind & Zu Management Qualitative Employees at BD has three main functions:
Knyphausen- interviews 15 small creating value and increasing
Aufsess biotechnology revenue potential; product
firms development and developing
strategies for
commercializing; fostering
relationships with relevant
Schultz, Sales Mail Key account Communicating frequently
Evans, & surveys representatives and about strategy-related
Taylor containing from a Fortune issues are important for
quantitative 500 consumer strong customer relationships
self report goods
measures manufacturer

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3.3 Core Facets of 21st Century Business Developers

Reviewing the business development literature surfaces some important skills and functions of

business developers. While the core facets of 21st century sales people (outlined in section 2.5)

broadly hold true in the business development domain, we have identified five additional areas.

These areas emanate from the more strategic, comprehensive and internal roles that business

developers fulfil. It is likely that the combination of these responsibilities varies depending on the

structure of the company, and the industry within which the company competes.

1. Broader conversations: business developers become involved in conversations beyond

the customer/consumer because they can affect organizational change and development.

This means that business developers need to have adaptability for a broader range of

conversations (this builds on point 3 in section 25, p15);

2. Key account management: business developers need to identify, manage and develop

their key accounts effectively. This process may necessitate leadership and team

management skills if sales staff are targeted at the discrete products/markets.

3. Informing corporate strategy: business developers become involved in shaping

competitive strategy, enacting corporate entrepreneurship, investigating business model

innovations, and even making financial and portfolio decisions (e.g., mergers and


4. Influencing product and market development: following the strategic role that business

developers can play they can inform market strategy, customer portfolio development and

product/service innovations; and,

5. Organizational change and development: business developers need to understand how

to appraise data from across the firm, create cases for change and, if necessary, facilitate

strategic change.

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4. Contrasting Sales and Business Development

This review has sought to clarify the differences and similarities between sales and

business development, with the ultimate goal of helping to shape core curriculum in sales and

business development, along with informing future research and practice. A clear understanding

of the differences between sales and business development is useful for both research purposes

and industry professionals. Without this understanding, individuals may be susceptible to a lack

of role clarity as to their purpose in the organization, which could descend into disorganization,

weak product/market fit, and unpredictable revenue (Bech, 2015). Acknowledging the differences

between sales and business development will also help researchers identify appropriate

measures and methodology for studying these fields, which would ideally produce results that

practitioners can apply to their work without worrying about jargon conflating the variables

involved in each area.

To help differentiate between sales and business development, this review will now briefly

consider these fields across three key contextual factors: size, skills and functions. This analysis

is highlighted in Table-2. In Table-3, an overview is provided on how sales may differ by sector.

4.1 Size

Sales teams are often large and composed of individuals whose sole function is working

with customers and prospective customers to sell products and/or services, and who are

motivated by the idea of adding value to the customer and closing sales (Dumont, 2014).

Conversely, business development teams are often smaller and more streamlined; these

employees will work primarily with other employees and executives, rather than dealing directly

with the customer (Dumont, 2014).

4.2 Skills

The skills listed for sales and business development professionals bear many similarities,

in that both areas require professionalism, strong interpersonal and communication skills,

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flexibility, and business acumen. The difference here lies in the application of those skills, as

salespeople will apply them chiefly toward the sales process and prospective and current

customers, whereas business development professionals, though often engaging in sales

activities, will also be required to identify and target new growth opportunities and business


Table-2: Comparing and Contrasting Sales and Business Development

Sales Business Development

Size Typically large and composed of Typically smaller and more
individuals who will deal directly with streamlined
the customer

Skills Communication Communication

Interpersonal skills Interpersonal skills
Professionalism Professionalism
Flexibility Flexibility
Product & market acumen Business & industry acumen
Active listening Strategy and change

Functions Building relationships with current Identifying and targeting new growth
and prospective customers opportunities
Closing sales Developing and implementing new
business models

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Table-3: Comparing Sales Across Sectors4

Sector Sales Function Dynamic
Goods-producing sectors
Construction 233.8 Important skills in this domain likely include business
acumen and interpersonal skills to successfully attract and
retain customers. Many employees would also require
physical skills to execute the construction itself. Customer
service skills would be of utmost importance in this industry.
Forestry, 145.9 This industry is likely the most susceptible to economic
fishing, mines, fluctuations in Alberta (specifically oil and gas companies),
quarrying, oil meaning that adaptability and flexibility would be valuable
and gas assets for employees, as would financial knowledge to be
able to budget and weather challenging times.
Manufacturing 120.1 Employees in this sector are likely primarily executing B2B
functions, meaning that they require the skills outlined in this
review as well as technical manufacturing skills. Upper-level
employees would require product knowledge and competitor
knowledge to maintain a competitive edge.
Service-producing sector
Wholesale and 338.6 Employees in this industry would require the skills and
retail trade competencies outlined in this review to execute both B2B
and, increasingly, B2C functions.
Healthcare and 278.6 Employees in this industry would likely require highly
social specialized training and experience, in addition to
assistance interpersonal skills and business acumen (if running an
individual practice/business). Employees in this sector may
not need to market and seek out new customers to the extent
as some of the other industries, though relationship
management would be of crucial importance.
Professional, 178.4 Similarly to the above sector, employees in this industry
scientific, and would likely require advanced education and training. They
technical may also need business acumen and the ability to market
services their services to attract clientele.

4 The top three industries (in numbers employed) in each sector, available from Statistics Canada (2017)
“Employment by major industry group, seasonally adjusted, by province”. See: http://www.statcan.gc.ca

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4.3 Functions

Practitioners have identified the difference between business development and sales as

the former identifying a strong product-market alignment, and the latter as closing sales once that

alignment has been identified (Bech, 2015; Dumont, 2014). Salespeople will act as de facto

business consultants to the customer and be involved in the customer’s decision-making, as well

as continue to follow up with the customer after the sale (Ingram et al., 2015).

In academia, business development has been broadly defined as identifying ways for the

company to grow (Achtenhagen et al., 2017; Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014; Kind & Knyphausen-Aufseß,

2007). While the functions identified by practitioners can involve collaboration with sales units

(Eidhoff & Poelzl, 2014), the research on business development is consistent in that business

development units and employees engage in additional activities as well, whereas sales

professionals are focused on increasing sales revenue.

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5. Conclusion: Towards a Competency-Based Framework for Sales and Business

Development Professionals

The main purpose of this review was to inform the development of curricula in sales and

business development in the PSE sector. Our driving research question was: what are the

essential skills required by those working in sales and business development roles? In seeking

answers to this question we examined the fields of sales and business development and how

they differ. We then compared and contrasted these fields through the lenses of skills and

functions of sales and business development professionals. This led to the development of a

competency-based framework for sales and business development (depicted in Figure-4)

grounded in research and offering further clarity on these fields while identifying gaps in the

literature and future research directions.

Sales and business development share some overlapping functions, but are nonetheless

different areas and should be treated in organizations and academic research as such to reduce

confusion. Broadly speaking, the role of sales is to create value for the customer and for the

business through generating profit, and the role of business development is to create value

through identifying new growth opportunities. Employees in sales and business development

have different functions and responsibilities. Disentangling the definitions, skills and functions of

sales and business development was not a straightforward process and, as of yet, there are not

global definitions that show how they differentiate. That being said, this review has uncovered a

set of competencies that are beneficial for success in both areas, which we outline in Figure-4.

We believe this framework holds great potential to inform course development and

catalyze debate amongst educators and researchers in how best to equip students with the tools

they need to be a productive member of tomorrow’s sales force.

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Figure-4: Uncoiling the DNA of Sales and Business Development Professionals: Towards

Competency-Based Framework

Leadership & Teams | Key Account Management

Active listening skills | Public speaking skills

Strategic Thinking | Innovation | Change

Emotional and Social Competence

Sales domain Interpersonal &

Business Development
knowledge relationship building
Harnessing insights
Flexibility &
Product, company

& industry
knowledge Professionalism
Adeptness at using Critical thinking and
sales technology problem solving
Communication & Teamwork and
presentation skills collaboration

To develop new theory and influence future practice in sales and business development,

academics and industry professionals should work together to conduct both quantitative and

qualitative studies that help to more clearly define these fields, and to identify the skillsets required

for sales and business development professionals to succeed in the 21st century market.

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6. Gaps and Future Research Directions

While there are no shortage of industry voices providing input on the definitions of sales

and business development and their skills and functions are, there is comparatively less

empirically based research, particularly on business development. Sales and business

development would thus benefit from more academic studies, though the future of this research

faces challenges, due in part to a lack of funding for sales research and the absence of prestigious

sales-focused journals (Fogel et al., 2015). In particular, studies surrounding the skills necessary

for success as a business development professional would be beneficial for informing research

and for informing practice, as the findings could be applied towards training employees. Using

strong theoretical models and rationale to inform study design could further benefit academic and

practical understanding of sales and business development (Johnson, 2015; Johnson & Jaramillo,

2017; Rodriguez et al., 2014), with these theoretical models supported by qualitative research in

addition to the existing trend of quantitative research (Johnson, 2015).

This review has shown that jargon can be problematic in discussing and researching sales and

business development. Evidence is found of these terms being used synonymously, when in

reality they serve different functions. A range of alternative labels are also used to describe

business development in particular (e.g., key account management, strategic account

management). Both academia and industry alike would benefit from clearer definitions of sales

and business development, and a clearer conceptualization of how they overlap and how they

differ. Achieving clarity in conceptualization should also include delineating the functions and skills

associated with sales professionals and business development professionals.

The body of literature would also benefit from exploring the evolving roles of technology

and social media. Knowing how to effectively use technology has been identified as an important

skill for salespeople (e.g., Ingram et al., 2015; Martini & James, 2012; Rocco, 2016), indicating

that we should explore how individuals and organizations can leverage technology to optimize

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customer and organizational value (Rodriguez et al., 2014). Martini and James (2012) also

discuss how technology is closing the gap between marketing and sales, an intersection that

Johnson (2015) suggests further exploring, particularly from the customer’s perspective.

How best to train sales employees to adopt the skills necessary to perform their roles and

how best to evaluate the effectiveness of said training are also important research streams.

Martini and James (2012) provide suggestions in this area, and that further research would help

to optimize training effectiveness and the subsequent individual and organizational benefits (i.e.,

motivation and individual and firm performance).

Salesperson turnover has been identified as a particular area of concern (Johnson & Jaramillo,

2017; Martini & James, 2012; Rocco, 2016). Martini and James (2012) found that businesses

report a high rate of turnover and that it seems to be especially common among younger

employees. Supporting this, a report prepared by R. Rocco of the DePaul University Center for

Sales Leadership surveyed 127 firms and found that they reported an average of 26% annual

turnover in their salesforce, highlighting talent retention as a major concern. To explore this

further, Johnson and Jaramillo (2017) suggest an updated meta-analysis to modernize the

findings from Brown and Peterson’s 1993 meta-analysis. This could assist in boosting employees’

organizational commitment and satisfaction, leading to positive organizational outcomes.

While tremendous strides have been made in the body of research on sales and business

development, academia and industry would nonetheless still benefit from more research and

theory on business development and sales. This could assist in training and retaining employees

and have a myriad of individual benefits (i.e., motivation, job satisfaction) and organizational

benefits (i.e., increased performance, decreased turnover), thus making these areas worthwhile

for researchers to explore and practitioners to support.

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Glossary of Terms

Account Management: the ability to identify how to add value for the customer and to execute
a plan to add value for the customer’s business.
Active Listening: a communication strategy that involves an individual concentrating entirely on
what another is saying in order to wholly understand the other’s perspective and respond
Adaptive Selling: the concept that there is no one road to selling and that the best practice is to
adjust a strategy to the needs of that specific customer, often in real time.
Benchmarking: comparing business performance and processes to those of other industry
Business Acumen: maintaining a strong understanding of business practices, industry
standards, corporate and governmental policies, and financial practices.
Business Development: while a unanimous consensus on a definition is yet to be achieved,
definitions typically include the concepts of creating value and increasing growth for the business.
Business-to-business: a business model where businesses deal directly with one another to
sell goods and services.
Business-to-consumer: a business model where businesses deal directly with the end users of
their products.
Consultative Selling: a selling strategy where the salesperson acts as a consultant for the
customer, assisting them in identifying goals and needs and subsequently assisting them in
achieving those goals and satisfying their needs.
Customer-Focused Selling: a selling process framework proposed by Martini (2009), consisting
of five components: Open, Investigate, Present, Confirm, Position. Generally, this framework aims
to establish trust with the customer, identify the customer’s needs and how the company can meet
those needs, closing the deal, and laying the groundwork for a long-term relationship.
Emotional Intelligence: an individual’s competency in monitoring and recognizing their own
emotions and those of others, and ability to adapt responses using that information.
Knowledge Management: having a strong understanding of one’s own business and that of the
customer’s and having the abilities to critically analyze information and disseminate knowledge
as necessary.
Personal Selling: establishing trust with the customer to foster positive interpersonal interactions
and effective, open communication for the duration of the sales process.
Professional Selling: can refer to either the sales process where the salespeople have received
formal training or to a relationship-building process, where professionalism and customer service
are emphasized.
Relationship Management: building strong, long-term relationships with customers, ensuring
that the relationship adds value for the customer and the company and nurturing productive
interpersonal interactions and strong communication.

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Sales: the process of generating revenue and increasing profits for the company through building
relationships with customers to provide them with goods and/or services.
Sales Administration: the ability to organize and maintain the sales process.
Service Orientation: an individual’s inclination towards meeting the needs of their customer and
working collaboratively with the customer in the process.
Strategic Account Management/Key Account Management: an organizational strategy that
focuses on customers that are pivotal to the success of their business.
Strategic Sales Planning: goal-setting and prioritizing tasks for the sales process to optimize its
SWOT analysis: a business strategy that involves mapping out the ‘Strengths, Weaknesses,
Opportunities, Threats’ to the firm.
Value-Based Selling: building a strong understanding of the customer’s business to be able to
increase its profitability.
Value Creation: identifying how the customer defines ‘value’ to their business (for instance,
increased profits, long-term growth) and collaborating with the customer to offer a service or good
that will improve and increase the value in the customer’s business using the customer’s metric
of value.

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Appendix A: Canadian Universities Offering Sales or Business Development

Table-5: Canadian Universities Offering Sales or Business Development

Province Institution Area | level Course

Alberta Mount Royal University Continuing Education | Sales
Certificate Development
British British Columbia Institute of Marketing | Diploma Professional
Columbia Technology Sales Skills
British University of British Marketing | Diploma Sales &
Columbia Columbia Marketing
Saunder School of Business Management
Manitoba University of Manitoba Marketing | UG elective Sales
Asper School of Business Management
Ontario University of Toronto Business & Professional Sales & Sales
School of Continuing Studies | Certificate Management
Ontario Western University IVEY Marketing | Executive Sales
Education Management
Ontario McMaster University, Marketing | UG elective Sales
DeGrotte School of Business Management

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Appendix B: Canadian Schools offering a Certified Sales Professional Program5

Table-4: Canadian Schools offering a Certified Sales Professional Program

Province Colleges
Alberta (3) Grande Prairie Regional College (Grand Prairie)
Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (Edmonton)
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (Calgary)
British Columbia (1) Ashton College (Vancouver)
Manitoba (1) Red River College (Winnipeg)
Ontario (16) Algonquin College (Ottawa)
Brock University (St. Catherines)
Canadian Business College (Toronto)
Centennial College (Toronto)
Conestoga College (Kitchener)
Durham College (Oshawa)
Fanshawe (London)
George Brown College (Toronto)
Georgian College (Barrie)
Humber College (Toronto)
Loyalist College (Belleville)
Mohawk College (Hamilton)
Niagara College Canada (Niagara-on-the-Lake)
Seneca College (Toronto)
Sheridan College (Oakville)
St. Lawrence College (Kingston)
New Brunswick (1) New Brunswick Community College
Newfoundland & Labrador (2) College of the North Atlantic
Keyin College
Nova Scotia (1) Nova Scotia Community College

Provinces without a Certified Sales Professional Program: Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince

Edward Island, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon.

5Accessed from the CPSA: https://www.cpsa.com/learning-development/students/professional-sales-


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For further information:

W: www.mtroyal.ca/businessgrowth

T: (403) 440-6840

E: sraby@mtroyal.ca
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