Bill Scheessele


A little behavioral psychology goes a long way in BD

Business Development is both art and science. It is the integration of both people and process. From our experience, much more emphasis is typically placed on BD capture processes, than on the people component.

Organizations in federal contracting put great emphasis on the sophistication of their internal capture processes. Many of these processes are quite detailed and focus on processing a range of acquired data and information. Unfortunately, processes are no more effective than the individuals utilizing them. This is particularly true in business development. Any BD process will work as long as you don’t have to deal with people.

It has been said that a company is a joy to run until you have to deal with employees and customers. Consequently, many organizations’ internal BD capture processes omit or are woefully light in a critical component, i.e., interfacing with the people directly involved in shaping and influencing purchasing decisions.

Their BD/capture process lacks a proven and documented external process of engaging individuals in a manner that fosters trust and respect with the purpose of mutual benefit. Also, a lot is left to chance if you consider the BD competency of individuals executing these processes.

Whether functioning in a full time BD major role or a part time BD minor roll, individuals will be severely handicapped without a working knowledge of behavioral psychology, or people knowledge, one of the 12 Core Competencies of Business Development. Frequently, BD personnel can lack one or more of the twelve critical competencies required for success in the role.

12 Core Competencies of Business Development

BD graphic

In BD, individuals must know and understand how to apply behavioral psychology externally with prospects/customers and internally within their organizations and personnel. An understanding of how and why people buy ideas, products and services is a critical component in qualifying and shaping opportunities. To do this effectively, a working knowledge of behavioral psychology is necessary to relate to others from their perspective, develop relationships of trust and respect, and foster the give and take in sharing of critical information.

As vital an understanding of behavioral psychology is in external and internal relationships, it is even more essential in evaluating an individual’s suitability for a BD position. Successfully functioning in a BD role is concerned more with the attitude or thinking required for developing business versus BD aptitude or processes utilized.

Applying knowledge of behavioral psychology is important in one’s own self-evaluation concerning barriers to BD thinking in order to execute comfortably in the role.  BD is not for everyone and certainly not for the faint of heart. Learning and mastering the 12 Core Competencies of Business Development, including the application of behavioral psychology, doesn’t make this tough job any easier. It just makes it more understandable. 

If business development success only involved having the best processes, most organizations would have figured it out by now.  However, winning business is more dependent upon the thinking of the individuals in the role rather than process alone.

To learn more about this subject, download our latest white paper: Should Your Key Personnel Major or Minor in BD.

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

Tue, Aug 11, 2015

Evident contradiction in this otherwise brilliant column: "Successfully functioning in a BD role is concerned more with the attitude or thinking required for developing business versus BD aptitude or processes utilized." This means that one should not bother hiring or renting a BD professional. Rather, find someone who is alert and energetic who really wants to focus on BD, rather than learn a BD method or craft. I couldn't have said it better. Many of the successful, large companies have rather tepid and lame BD departments who just turn the crank for others--from the deliver side or working as account executives--who know what clients want. Of course, the most of the contracting industry is sucking wind, margin wise. Talent is easily available.

Fri, Aug 7, 2015

Few companies make use of this academic framework. In govcon, the emphasis is on process steps, milestones, time, and budget. IOW, they project-ize BD and capture and business maintenance. Engineering of the process like this sometimes omits an understanding of the emotional side, e.g., the background-bred leanings of a government decision maker, or the predilections of a grizzled ole contracting officer, or the old college ties of a major competitor with the panel chairman. Yes, beyond the process, you gotta have a "feel" and use your intuition. But there is not a lot of challenging hocus locus in the way the government buys. It is just extremely s l o w and ponderous and built to make no one accountable. That is all ye need to know. A lot of the common sense dispensed over and over by market savants is a neutral value add. Certainly, don't pay anyone for this kind of know how

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