Business development is not just about sales. Or is it?

We talk a lot about business development in the sales vernacular as though growing a business is the same as building a business. When in fact, business development should have a much wider influence on overall corporate strategy.

But, all that said, I still think that almost all business development activities should motivate sales.

Here is an example: All companies write checks in support of their favorite charities and causes. And this has very little to do with growing sales – it’s usually considered very worthy, but in the end, a tax write off. However, should that same company, engage its employees in an effort to help those organizations, it can then become a sales effort; and, at the same time, a business development tactic.

Let’s say your company routinely supports Habitat for Humanity – that organization enjoys your contribution immensely. But what would be more appreciated is if you gave your employees the time off to go help build a house for the needy. Plus, the employees would enjoy it for its comradeship and sense of accomplishment not found in most jobs.

Now, since all employees go to ball games, picnics, parties and other social events, you could expect them to talk about their experience with others outside the company. In other words, they would be spreading good brand cheer about your company. Or, selling the company! If this effort, (in the brand development lingo it is called Leading By Example), continues, and word spreads and the halo effect on the company and its brand is very valuable in recognition, benevolence and trust building.

There are times, when a business development strategy like above, can actually become a full-on business strategy. Look at Tom’s Shoes “One for One” policy of giving a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair sold. And, Tom’s employees help in the distribution of those shoes. The outcome has been worldwide recognition and an explosion in sales, and even greater distribution opportunities.

On a considerably smaller scale, a disaster restoration company in Northern California has a program called “Rebuilding Lives”, where each quarter the company adopts a family that has experienced a catastrophe in their uninsured home and then repairs the damage – all on weekends. The company also engages its suppliers and outside contractors so that no job is too big. And those same backyard-grilling employees tell their friends and acquaintances about the good work the company does and it eventually led to feature stories in the papers and even a local news program segment.

When a company leads by example as in these and other ways, the word spreads. And spreading the word means sales.