Closing the deal? Know your customer.

Winning strategies | How to build your business development team

For more business development resources, click here.

To contact Bill Scheessele, e-mail bill.scheessele@mbdi.com.

One of the significant outcomes of a successful business
development process is client intelligence. This information
comes in two forms: research intelligence gathered
on an opportunity, client or request for proposals
and personnel intelligence about individuals who experience
problems, allocate funds and make purchasing decisions.

Both of these types of
intelligence are assets
given their relationship
to revenue growth.
Although there is
much information on
how to develop intelligence
around a technical,
business or financial opportunity, there
is little data on how to gather intelligence
about the individuals involved in a business
development relationship.

A good business development process
continually develops and validates intelligence
about personnel.

An effective business development professional
focuses on relationships, making
every effort to understand the prospect
and their problems.

Departments and agencies don't buy.
People buy.

Consequently, business development
relationships focus on people and the
resulting human relationships. To get the
business, it isn't how much the prospect or
client knows about you, but how much you
know about them.

In government contracting, business
development depends on who knows
whom, who knows what and who has individual
relationships with key decisionmakers.
Intelligence gleaned from individuals
is an asset and should be treated as
such.

Here are the keys to intelligence as an
asset.
  • People engaged with a prospect or client
    must be trained to think and appreciate
    intelligence as a valuable asset.
  • They need to seek and collect
    intelligence.
  • They should understand how to validate
    the information.
  • They need to know what intelligence to
    store and how to
    store it for individual
    and collective
    use.

As with any asset,
intelligence can
become vulnerable
when made available
to all. Any time this
data is accessed, if
mismanaged, its value can be diminished.
Policy and procedures should govern who
owns, manages, monitors and validates this
valuable information.

Individuals working at agencies move
and change positions. But, if properly managed,
the intelligence you have gathered
can follow them to their new assignments.
Strong business development relationships
are based on trust and, as such, enduring.
When a foundation of trust is established,
individuals feel comfortable sharing information,
knowing that the exchange is valued
and respected.

By investing in a business development
team through salaries and expenses, a company
is paying for the intelligence it collects.
This data must be captured and secured in a
customer relationship management application
so that the information can be shared.

A question we like to ask is: "If one of
your business development folks died during
the night, how long would it take you to
pick up where he left off?"

Companies in which client contacts and
the resulting intelligence are viewed as an
asset often respond with a short answer
about the need to review stored and shared
information.

Other firms respond with the comment
that everyone follows a process, and they'll
need to find and digest the former employee's
client e-mail messages. Unfortunately,
that's time consuming.

No one wants the job of
contacting the client to
find out where things
stand.

It is always in the
company's best interest
to protect the connections
forged by employees
and the proprietary
information discussed. Employees leave
companies every day and will take all of
your business development intelligence with
them, if you let them.

The bottom line is that the strength of
your intelligence along with the resulting
relationships documented in your customer
relationship management program can only
positively affect your revenue growth
efforts.

Bill Scheessele (bill.scheessele@mbdi.com) is
chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a
business development professional services firm.

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