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By Nick Wakeman

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22 lessons from the BD trenches

Sometimes, a title says it all. In a new white paper from Centurion Research Solutions, the company covers business development horror stories and the lessons they teach.

But the main title is what first caught my eye: Tales from the Crypt. I always like when a little humor is injected into a serious topic.

The white paper has 22 lessons from the trenches of business development, and it’s a wonder there aren’t more; after all, today’s federal acquisition process is very complex.

Centurion’s business development expert, Michael Lisagor, has collected a series of BD stories, and each has a moral, from the simple and straightforward, such as “Check references” and “Get it in writing,” to the more challenging and complex, like “Institute a formal bid decision process” and “Establish reasonable budgets.”

Lisagor tells several stories that center on teaming relationships, something that is of great interest to Washington Technology, as our Insider Reports this year are exploring that topic. Our second report should be out in a few weeks.

In his white paper, Lisagor describes one small business that learned a painful lesson about knowing which companies have a reputation for treating their subcontractors fairly, especially on professional services contracts. When the small business' contract at the prime moved to another part of the company, the small business saw its opportunities shrink.

The lesson is that it is very important to get your company’s technical role and work percentage clearly defined in writing in a teaming agreement. The work percentage should reflect a specific percentage or number of staff as opposed to vague goals.

Companies should also avoid hasty teaming arrangements, according to Lisagor, with inexperienced teaming partners. It is a good practice to request a credit report on a potential small business prime contractor to assess whether they will be deemed financially credible in the eyes of the client and have the ability to pay their bills after contract award.

Lesson 18 was very interesting to me because it deals with the hiring and development of BD professionals. Lisagor lays out eight questions to ask when interviewing a candidate such as:

  • Describe a standard BD process including key roles.
  • Give a specific example of how you successfully identified, qualified and then supported a bid through contract award.
  • What factors do you believe should drive a bid versus no bid decision?

One of the points behind Lisagor’s questions is that too many companies keep poor BD performers beyond their shelf life. He also warns that some BD professionals do well in large companies, while others are better suited for smaller companies, so matching the person to the corporate culture is critical.

The other thing I like about this white paper is that the 22 lessons are more than just individual pieces; they fit together to offer a great insight into the business development process and the critical skills and capabilities needed for a successful BD operation.

We all like to avoid nightmares, but this report is a keeper in today's market.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 27, 2013 at 8:11 AM


Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 randy United States

Having seasoned BD folks is more critical than ever in this market. I like your point about teaming arrangements, Nick. They are trickier than ever to negotiate and they are difficult to enforce. Its critical to do business only with companies you really trust...that's what will glue the relationship together over the long haul.

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