Bill Scheessele


Can you separate the shapers, fakers and order-takers?

After reorganizing and streamling their business development organizations, government contractors are now starting to rebuild their teams for revenue growth. Few positions have the success of a company weighing on them like BD organizations. As primary revenue generators, an extensive investment is often required for a new BD hire.
Once the hiring decision is made, an even more substantial and long-term investment of time and finances is required to allow the individual to develop relationships and begin qualifying and shaping opportunities. It’s no wonder hiring teams often feel as if  they are searching for an ivory needle in a haystack.

There are two key areas your hiring team must focus on when reviewing candidates’ BD experience. The first is the primary business development focus and the second is how the candidates’ experience aligns with the available role.
Understanding the candidates’ primary focus is vital. Typically, this falls into two areas. They were either focused on finding and qualifying new strategic opportunities (hunting) or were responsible for expanding existing organic opportunities (farming).

Understanding how they perform in the role is equally critical and often much harder to determine. Business development personnel will fit into one of the three categories.

Early shapers are revenue makers. In the current economy, it is a given that more competitors will chase fewer opportunities. One client recently indicated that some years ago, his company was only one of six offering a specific product to government buyers. Now he counts over 300 competitors. To narrow this playing field, you need shapers who proactively engage with clients and ethically work to help them solve problems and shape solutions.

Shaping is not a new concept and has been the focus of the best business development professionals for years. However, very few individuals have taken the time to learn how to "shape” the opportunity early in the opportunity identification and qualification phase of the process, and consistently do it well. Shapers gather and validate relevant human intelligence early and work with their prospects to shape short, medium and long-term opportunities.

Beware of the fakers. These individuals have attractive resumes full of related experience, suggesting potential opportunities. But begin asking tough questions and you quickly discover that they show a lot of activity in the prospecting area, but never close the deal. Fakers are often hard to detect until an organization has already invested too much budget, time and opportunity resources.

These individuals are good at finding the next "great" opportunity. They tend to "drink their own bathwater", spin data, and really believe it. What you discover later is they seldom engage with prospects to develop any high value intelligence. They know everything about the opportunity, but have had limited or no substantive interfacing with the prospect.

Depending on their role, order-takers can be positive assets to an organization or tremendous liabilities. Good, revenue-generating order-takers are great resources on the back-end of an early shaping process. They proactively expand current projects through the harvesting of additional revenue. Farmers pay the overhead, but it’s a challenge to show how their work product can sustain revenue growth in this new industry environment.

Reactive order-takers can be a disaster. They prefer to stay in the office by the phone, waiting for clients to call, often busying themselves with administrative reporting tasks to avoid actively engaging customers.

As you recruit your team, know the role’s focus and then ensure you know how to separate the fakers from the shapers and proactive order-takers. Knowing how to parse resumes to find the diamond in the rough is not an easy task. If you find yourself consistently disappointed by the candidates you have selected by relying on gut instinct alone—it might be time to get outside help. Otherwise, you’ll continue struggling to create diamonds by putting coal under pressure.

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

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 John Barlow Washington, DC

Shapers, as described herein, sound like they skate closely to the line of ethics and statutory and regulatory purgatory. Wouldn't u just like to write that SOW for the govie, just like in the old days? I know, one way around that is to hire a consultant. As for order takers, they are primarily what drives a work stream with a GSA schedule or other task order mechanism in place. Of course they can't hang around the office, but they do not need the big picture. They need to be quick, point-and-shoot requirements gatherers and concise proposal writers and alert pricers. Order takers who are good garner more actual revenue than the other two types. The first type are rare birds who are often retired Feds or mil officers who think they have the knack of getting business because they know their old buds. Things work less that way than they used to.

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