Need a role model? Look at today's small businesses.
Today's market demands entrepreneurship
- By Bill Scheessele
- Aug 10, 2011
To thrive in the new normal of the government contracting industry, you must make sure that every component of your business development organization is efficient and effective. This includes plans, processes, personnel, structure and leadership. What helped you win in the past may no longer work.
With government procurements taking much longer, it’s advisable to review your business development staff’s roles and responsibilities to determine whether they meet the demands of the current environment. Midsize and large firms should consider smaller, high-growth entrepreneurial companies as role models.
A client with extensive government service experience with large, midsize and small entrepreneurial organizations recently shared the following: “Restructuring your BD roles and responsibilities to mirror a small company BD model is one way to deal with the altered pace and volume of the procurement process.” He said he believes that lifting a page from the small company BD playbook might be the game-changing strategy many organizations need to consider in this turbulent environment.
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By the nature of their financial constraints, small firms’ focus on utilizing BD generalists rather than specialists. With a narrower technology focus, these organizations empower their BD generalists to handle front-end business development as well as other pursuit and proposal roles, rather than relying on dedicated capture-and-proposal specialists. An individual professional might simultaneously handle identification and qualification of an opportunity, serve on the pursuit team for another prospect, and be part of the proposal team responding to a request for proposals. Everyone is committed to the business development effort with a coordinator responsible for keeping everything moving forward.
The generalist vs. specialist debate has raged for years. However in the current environment, where organizations are looking to stay competitive with their rates, it has once again become a point of contention. There are positives and negatives to both structures. Tying up a talented business developer in the administrative details of internal acquisition processes and briefing cycles may not be the best use of their skills. On the other hand, it may also be difficult to justify the overhead costs of several teams of specialists on staff. Tasking a generalists to perform the “womb to tomb” acquisition responsibilities often proves to be more efficient, mainly due to the “client intimacy” that is inherent when one client-centric individual consistently interacts with the customer throughout the pursuit. One exception would be the use of a strategic strike team. However this structure is best suited for a sizable organization, one that has the resources to begin the process years before an RFP release.
The BD generalist model can only be effective if every individual on the team is well-educated in all aspects of his or her acquisition responsibilities. Their roles should be documented in the company’s business development process that includes opportunity identification and qualification, pursuit and proposal phases. They should also be trained in the use of a client engagement process that provides guidance on how to prepare for and interact with the client to gather or provide the intelligence necessary to shape and win opportunities. Empowering generalists in this manner requires an investment in training and professional development for each individual.
It’s our contention that winning business in this environment requires significant changes from the way you have done things in the past. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “The thinking that got us here is not the thinking that will get us where we need to be.”
If what you have always done continues to work for your organization even now, don’t make any changes. If not, you may want to review your model including roles and responsibilities, allocate funds for professional development, and ensure the training provided leads to effective behavioral change. While there is no guarantee, these adjustments should contribute to developing a robust pipeline and ultimately to increased revenue and margins for your company.
Bill Scheessele (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a business development professional services firm.