Rely on vision, planning and leadership

Winning strategies | How to build your business development team

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A proactive business development organization revolves
around vision, plans, leaders and teamwork. Senior executives
must have a vision for the company: where they
want to go, how they plan to get there and how long
they have to accomplish it. The strategic vision must always be documented
and rolled into a strategic plan. But even after the plan is documented
and communicated, active and passive resisters will abound.

Typically, business units will be satisfied
with their revenue growth and the status
quo. A control issue develops here about
where the strategic business
developers should
be located.

Lack of understanding
about strategic business
development is
likely the reason for the
conflict, or possibly a
fear of loss of influence
and control. This resistance should be
expected and must be managed.

The human element is always the most
critical component in creating a business
development organization. The best plans
and processes cannot make up for a lack of
skilled professionals. Conversely, educated
and capable business development professionals
might compensate for a lack of
plans and process.

The individual responsible for putting
together the organization must be a leader
? not merely a manager ? and have the
full support of senior management. The
line organization will defer to a leader but
not to a manager. The leader must be able
to execute business development on a
strategic level and lead by example in
addition to being able to select, mentor,
coach and develop other individuals.

Three types of leaders are successful in
establishing a business development operation:
the turnaround integrator, the builder
and the maintainer. An outstanding leader
can often perform two of those roles successfully,
but it's rare to find someone who
can handle all three effectively.

Staffing the business development team
is a significant challenge, and identifying
talent from outside the organization is difficult.
The ability to distinguish fact from fiction
is a skill most business development
managers don't possess, preferring instead
to take the candidate being interviewed at
face value. Because they are looking for
someone who can immediately influence
their short-term revenue numbers, most
managers are desperate to believe almost
anything they hear in an interview for a
business development position.

So how do you get the right people on

First of all, look inside the organization
for talent. Some of the most successful
business development professionals have
never held a business development title.
Undoubtedly there are individuals in the
company who have regular contact with
clients and are consistently successful in
identifying issues and positioning themselves
with influencers. Those individuals
are probably capable of transitioning
smoothly from an operational role to a
business development role.

The secret to discovering business development
talent, wherever it might originate,
is to seek individuals who possess the
inherent thinking of a problem-solver. They
are people-oriented, demonstrate business
thinking and have developed the ability to
focus externally ? that is, on the client and
the market ? rather than on themselves
and their needs.

Integrating a strategic business
development function
into an organization and identifying
leaders and internal
talent requires a change in
thinking ? in other words, a
change in culture. The culture,
thinking and behavior that
have carried an organization
to where it is today will seldom take it
where it needs to go tomorrow. Establishing
a strategic business development organization
is an ongoing process, not a onetime

Bill Scheessele ( is
chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a
business development professional services firm.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at or 704.553.0000.

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