Bill Scheessele

OPINION

How to find the BD hunters in your organization

Whether growing revenue through acquisition or internal growth, the challenge of many business units is how to sustain that growth.
Identifying and developing business development personnel is a significant component of that challenge. Many business units rely exclusively on organic growth for a significant portion of their revenue. Experience has taught us that identifying capable individuals to develop new revenue is both an art and a science.

Many organizations include business development as an ancillary responsibility executed in tandem with program and/or capture management. Frequently these individuals have an experience base that makes them good candidates for a BD hunter role.
They possess the necessary competencies of leadership, management skills, technical knowledge, as well as client, program and funding knowledge. They are typically process oriented and understand the value of establishing goals and executing a plan.

Within this pool of individuals, you are looking for specific differentiators that separate potential BD hunters from the rest.

Criteria to consider is a natural curiosity, a comfortableness of engaging with people and a desire to learn and apply behavioral psychology. Another characteristic is an inherent instinct to ask questions and gather intelligence.

In the BD hunter role, the information gatherer is much more valuable than the information provider. There is a significant difference in the thinking and process required when you provide intel by making comments or statements versus gathering intel by being curious and asking questions. This is learned thinking, process and behavior.

Therefore, providing education and professional development along with mentorship and coaching is critical to elevate their thinking. With the right career opportunities, these individuals can be developed into proactive BD hunters.

Whether in a shepherd, farmer or hunter role, everyone in business development who has customer contact should understand the internal and external BD process and philosophy of the organization. This includes learning the thinking, discipline and skills necessary to support BD efforts.

Everyone in contact with the customer is in a BD role whether they understand it or not. They should always be attentive to any information, feedback, concerns or other information critical to increasing revenue within the customer. Everyone can be trained to enhance their active listening skills as well as their intel gathering skills to assist in business development.

From our experience, most successful BD hunters never previously held a BD title.  They grew into their position from the rank of program manager, division manager and other positions responsible for ensuring that the customers’ issues and problems are resolved.

Many of these individuals are already within your company and have regular contact with customers. They have a track record of being successful in identifying issues and positioning themselves as influencers. As such, they may already be serving in the unofficial BD hunter role.

These professionals already share your corporate culture and values. They are capable of transitioning smoothly from an operational role to a more defined business development role. They know your business and the client’s business.

By nature they focus on the client and other individuals rather than themselves and their own needs. Some of your best talent may already be within your organization waiting to be identified and developed.

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, strategy, planning and personnel services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their workshops at http://www.mbdi.com.

Reader Comments

Thu, Dec 4, 2014

With the author's spec for BD personnel, is this where those renting of leasing BD bodies (as recounted in a previous Washington Technology column) come in? I don't get it. Mr. Scheeselle says the hunters are already among us in large companies. No glib and slick dressers where I work. But there are plenty of good, if boring, dressers, who work 9-5. They are stealthy--like hunters--but their trickiness is applied to internal politics rather than the competitive market. Maybe I need to attend more PSC meetings to understand this.

Tue, Dec 2, 2014 Terence Fitzpatrick

Business development is a profession and like any profession you adhere to a lifelong learning experience to hone your craft. You do this because you enjoy the journey of discovery and embrace the mission of your customer. BD professionals recognize their power comes from daily effort of doing their homework on client needs and building a compelling business case by harnessing the collective wisdom of their internal SMEs within their company. The BD professionals work long hours at their craft as they see their role as creating “career growth” opportunities for the technical professional staff. That goal sets them apart from personnel who call themselves BD. That’s why they consistently identify areas that are not LPTA. That same mindset drives the BD professionals to guide their company's technical and PM professionals to enhance their skills with BD processes tailored to them. The author unfortunately leaves the impression the best meeting is to ask questions. You earn that right only after you have demonstrated to the audience that you did enough homework prep to prepare for the meeting. This learned behavior will result in robust answers to your questions.

Tue, Dec 2, 2014

Very slick and thoughtful commentary. Think of the BD people you have known. They probably share these characteristics: great dressers, glib, work normal hours (compared to those delivering services to clients), are hard to find when work is large, and try hard to keep the metrics really simple and the credit confined to a chosen few. Those people naturally stand out as hunters or hunter-killers at large firms. As pointed out, many come from the ranks of program mgrs, who rarely bring in jobs, but keep execution moving. One should not look for BD hunters in the ranks of technical experts, admin dweebs, or people who worked in certain quarters of McLean/Tysons.

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