Measure your business development skills

No doubt you’ve heard of the intelligence quotient. In competitive assessment and business development, we investigate the human intelligence quotient, or HIQ. This measures how much your company values first-person intelligence received from a source in an organization.

Human intelligence is critical to business development.

A client, a former intelligence officer now serving in a business development role, discovered that business development requires the same talents he used when he was working in intelligence.

Elicitation, which includes direct conversations with prospects and clients, is a critical aspect of his process. Being able to encourage individuals to talk about things he wants them to talk about is the key component of intelligence gathering.

Also, he’s convinced that collaboration with the rest of the business development organization is a force multiplier in gathering information necessary to qualify or disqualify an opportunity early.

This quick test can measure your human intelligence quotient. Answer “yes,” “no” or “don’t know.” Score 1 point for each “yes” and 0 for each “no” or “don’t know” response.

  1. Do you know the individuals you are talking with at the prospect agency and how they fit into the decision-making process?
  2. Are you not paying close attention to what is being said and giving answers little thought and quickly moving to the next question?
  3. Do you ask tough questions to gather real intelligence and not just data?
  4. Do you know what information is necessary to help with your stage or gate reviews?
  5. Do you have an intell-gathering process to support the qualification of opportunities?
  6. Do you have intell gatherers versus information providers on your team?
  7. Do you collaborate and share intell among your company’s sectors and groups?
  8. Does your organization value human intell as an asset?
  9. Can you measure the quantity and the quality of your intell?
  10. Do you know how to measure the value of subjective vs. objective intell? (i.e. “We need an XYZ that weighs 14 tons” vs. “We need an XYZ that’s effective.”)
  11. Is your operations team included early as part of your qualifying team?
  12. Do you know the information you need early on to disqualify an opportunity?
  13. Is your team forever gathering intell but never executing on it?
  14. Do you have a constant loop back to refine your intelligence?
  15. Does your team only hear what they want to hear?

A perfect 15. You have an excellent HIQ and are able to take advantage of intelligence collection to accurately and objectively qualify opportunities. This saves you money and empowers your business development team.

Ten to 14 points. You’re taking steps to value human intell and are making significant inroads in developing an objective opportunity qualification methodology.

Six to nine points. You are average but you are not efficiently tracking opportunities. You might be using a capture management process, collecting data and providing busy work for your team, but you’re not effective in qualifying opportunities. Don’t be surprised to discover your business development team is not actually talking to prospects but merely gathering information at industry days and trade shows.

Less than 5 points. You’re wasting resources and confusing the potential customer — if he or she even knows you exist.

At this point, you should consider a business development organization assessment to document planning, process and skill gaps and then evaluate your team’s education and professional development requirements. Raising your score can guarantee positive revenue results.

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.

Reader Comments

Sun, May 31, 2009 Mike

Building on the previous, add question 15: Does your team only hear what they want to hear? I'm assuming these are questions where the correct answer is 'no.' If I'm incorrect (e.g. there's a good reason to not pay close attention to the answer and move quickly to the next question) I'd enjoy hearing further explanation of the point.

Fri, May 22, 2009 BD-person Arlington

Agree with David's observation - the questions need to be re-worded. Also, this article does not effectively address the need to assess your relationship with the buyer and influencers in the organization. Perhaps this is assumed to be a part of the intell gathering process. The survey should specifically address an organization's relationship with the agency.

Tue, May 12, 2009 David

A yes answer to two of the questions would appear to be a negative rather than a positive. ■Are you not paying close attention to what is being said and giving answers little thought and quickly moving to the next question? A yes answer here seems bad to me. ■Is your team forever gathering intell but never executing on it? It also seems that a yes to this would be negative.

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