Bill Scheessele

COMMENTARY

Tough times no time to stop training

Success is built on constant learning

Bill Scheessele (wmscheessele@mbdi.com) is chairman and CEO at MBDi, a business development professional services firm.

Certainly you’ve heard enough about change in government contracting.

The Obama administration’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget of $3.7 trillion dollars contains cuts aimed at trimming the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years. If enacted, half of all government agencies would see their funding reduced from fiscal 2010 levels, eliminating or reducing 200 federal programs for a projected savings of $33 billion in fiscal 2012. That includes putting $2 billion in IT spending on the chopping block, federal CIO Vivek Kundra said in a recent press call.

We all share the burden of dealing with this changed landscape, and it’s not easy. How can you continue to acquire business when your beliefs about winning business are no longer appropriate and your business development process no longer fits the new reality? In many ways, new business development recruits have an easier time. They have no preconceived notions, no history/experience and no headaches when what used to work well no longer does. They just need to learn the how-to formula for business acquisition in this industry from the ground up, what works now and for the future.

Veteran business development professionals face the double challenge of getting over past experience and, at the same time, reaching for their future via a culture change. However, many leaders with revenue growth responsibility are unaware of the key to changing the business development culture for their business units.

From experience, this requires transforming the ingrained attitudes, beliefs, values or mindset of business development personnel regarding how to win business and grow revenue. So converting your business unit’s culture means investing in a makeover of the collective mindset — transforming everyone’s thinking about the business acquisition role.

Suppose, as a vice president of business development, you’re training your team in a new business winning methodology. You’ve honestly assessed your processes and discovered you have extensive documentation on what to do and when but nothing on how to actually go about it. You realize what your team uses does not address a number of critical aspects. Your organization lacks customer intimacy, adequate opportunity identification and qualification steps, and a method for gathering validated human intelligence on pipeline prospects. Those missing links leave a lot to personal interpretation, which can vary from one individual to another. Your business development team is inefficient, ineffective and unproductive, and your revenue results show it.

As a consequence, business units like yours are experiencing little or no revenue growth and even shortfalls. Expenses are being cut, and organizations reorganized. Corporate layoffs will certainly continue because the proposed federal budget reveals a growing list of diminished prospects for 2012.

Your strategy for transforming the business development culture of your organization is threatened by cost-cutting. Your decision to champion this culture change and invest in training for your team is risky business.

One vice president client shared this insight: "Over the years, I’ve discovered that when you have a revenue shortfall, that’s not the time to cut back on training. On the contrary, training dollars usually need to be spent to fix the problem."

To train or not to train isn’t the question. The real issue is whether you decide to champion learning new ways of winning while leaving your competition to deal with a world that no longer exists.

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