As a young man I felt an intense scorn and pity for “business terminology.” Indeed it’s easy to laugh at attempts to “synergize”, to “circle back”, and so on. The english language is full and rich and deep – how could you restrict most of your waking life to only using such an ugly and shallow subset?
A few answers explain the ecological value of this situation.
First, every in-group has its own jargon, and speaking the jargon fluently is about proving you belong. So regular English just won’t do. The simplicity of business-speak is partially about a latent anti-intellectualism or at least anti-credentialism; more positively, a democratic spirit which makes business success accessible to almost everyone. You don’t need to have gone to a top school, etc. Silicon Valley has its own jargon which unfortunately doesn’t reflect this: get ready to talk about your “priors”.
Second, the novelty of these terms, the fact that they aren’t part of idiomatic English, is itself valuable. Because most people who need this haven’t been to business school, these should make you pause, realize you don’t understand, and seek the meaning. Imagine if business terms, like in mathematics, used simple english words like “group” or “function” or “ring”. Rampant miscommunication would run wild.
Similarly, the language here is shallow, not resonant with overtones of meaning. These are a distraction. Business is serious and focused. You do not want someone to misunderstand, to have a connotation different from what you meant.
So, with newfound respect for this world, I’ll attempt a few short definitions though I’m still working on developing my own understanding.
“Business development” is an activity. It mostly needs to be distinguished from “sales”, though it’s not usually a binary distinction. Sales is straightforward, though not easy. You have a product or service, and you are attempting to get someone to buy it. The sales end of the spectrum is characterized by a stable product offering, a knowledge of who wants to buy it, what value it provides, and an ongoing routinized process.
Biz dev, on the other hand, is more fluid. You are matching a less-well-understood set of capabilities and needs on both sides. These are usually one-off deals, which all look different from each other. This would usually be described as a “partnership” or a “joint initiative” or similar.
So at its essence, you find companies that have capabilities and needs that look more-or-less aligned to your own. Then you talk to them and work out a creative new solution that makes both of you money.