Bill Scheessele


Build BD capacity by leveraging program managers

Business development leaders often ask the key question: “Who is responsible for growing revenue?” In order to answer that question, it is necessary to ask: who are the key players engaging with customers?

Business development is a team activity. Different individuals within organization are involved with opportunity identification and qualification, the capture phase and, ultimately, submitting a winning bid. Business development leads and program managers play distinctly different revenue generation roles. One way to explain this is to understand the difference between up-selling and cross-selling.

Up-selling usually involves taking existing products and services to new or existing clients. Cross-selling involves taking existing or new products and services to new clients. Up-selling is typically handled by a person designated as a “shepherd” or a “farmer”. Cross-selling requires additional skill and is best suited to individuals who possess a “hunter” or a “warrior” mentality.

At the same time, it is also important to understand the differences between qualification, capture and close. After all, qualifying an opportunity (or working capture) does not necessarily guarantee you will close the business.

Another way to understand the different revenue generation roles is to answer the question, “Is my BD focus ‘up and out’ or ‘down and in’”? Up and Out focus is primarily external to the organization, intel gathering from customers, opportunity identification, etc. Down and In is primarily focused on internal organization needs (e.g., staffing, internal reporting, etc.).

If you were to examine a job description for a program mnager responsible for growing revenue, you will notice they are usually more Down and In, focused primarily on ensuring the program is staffed correctly, within budget and achieving the deliverable milestones.

Their BD role is generally a secondary focus. For example, they may be accountable for retaining the contract (shepherding) or they might be tasked for growing revenue from the customer by up-selling (farming), which may involve introducing new products or services to the current customer.

Occasionally, they will support opportunity capture, usually as the subject matter expert who will manage the program after a successful bid. However, in the process of shepherding and farming additional business and up-selling, they have to understand how to close the business, which involves the facilitation of the decision-making process.

The hunter or warrior is Up and Out and focuses on opportunity identification and qualification. The business development lead in this role typically drives capture intel, but seldom has control of (or is involved in) the close of business. This can lead to a conflict of perspectives in how opportunities are evaluated and how individuals view the BD environment.

Program managers are often so Down and In focused that they avoid their Up and Out BD responsibilities. At best, the majority of program managers see themselves as shepherds tending to their current customers with little or no interest in assisting their organization achieve their revenue goals. In some circumstances, the program managers associate so closely with their customers that they refuse to engage in any business development activity with them at all.

It is all about an individual’s psychological perspective. People who see the environment from a position of abundance tend to be good at opportunity identification, gathering of intel and disqualifying opportunities early. Those who view it from a position of scarcity are less likely to be able to qualify well and drive decisions. They also avoid getting NOs early.

The business development lead and the program manager perform roles in the business acquisition process from a different perspective. Seldom can one person work across the whole continuum or function in both roles. For example, you can train the program manager to be a hunter or warrior and do the Up and Out focused opportunity identification and qualification. However, once that mindset is set, it is difficult for them to go back to their previous program management role.

Program Managers are vital intel gatherers and are often the first point of contact when a new problem arises with a customer. For this reason, program managers who are trained to ask the right questions and then channel the intell back to the organization are invaluable. When you consider that the ratio of program managers to business development leads is frequently five to one, it makes smart business sense to provide additional education and professional development to program managers. We frequently see program managers that are able to up-sell or have the ability to lead or actively support the BD team in cross-selling.

Once they have crossed the line into a primary BD role, they seldom go back. It’s also not unusual to find hunters or warriors who are excellent capture assets because they can work the internal BD process from end to end. By nature, the hunter who works Up and Out doesn’t tend to go back to the role of a program manager. It doesn’t make sense to use them as such because they will typically be unchallenged in the role.

In order to maximize the value of business development leads and program managers, it is necessary to understand an employee’s psychological mindset, their degree of flexibility, and where their interest lies. With this understanding, you can lead a collaborative team that can up-sell, cross-sell and close business.

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

Thu, Apr 24, 2014 Mel Ostrow

Author needs to re-examine ethics regs and common sense. Clients do not like to see current contractors overtly use their incumbent's advantages, e.g., being there. There are regs and laws about taking advantage of this position.

Mon, Apr 21, 2014 Marta Mijelovic National Capital Vicinity

This reminds me of an old--~35 years or so--Boston Consulting Group schtick that one can read about. It has been colorized and relabeled with clever terms, but am not sure it is original -- or that it works at all in our business. What large company, other than The One, engages in such mental gymnastics? Even the big guys in the last 3 years have been scrambling and abandoning expensive and unsuccessful strategies, trying to win whatever they can. No one thinks this way, and if they do, you would not know it from the results of, say the Top 20 firms in the last three years. Who is buying this idea and how successful are they? Evidence, please, sir.

Mon, Apr 21, 2014 Maurice L. Threatt

Great analogy of 'Business Development' (BD) perspectives, Awesome!

Sat, Apr 19, 2014 Jerome Mischbuccha Chi town

This a very brainy, even scholarly approach, but it is not clear whether it is right. In the more successful companies, the key to BD is that funds and time spent on marketing are 3x to 5x the resources spent on selling. Selling is easier, and you and train and manage selling, including proposals, far easier than the intelligence processing and positioning actions that take place in the marketing phase. The real key to successful BD is the creation and management of the strategy. Sure, you can teach people and posture using the colorful and familiar 2 x 2 matrix, but the real magic is know where you want to be by when and how profitable, in light of demand and competitive projections. The ole 2 x 2 matrix does not help you do that

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