Bill Scheessele

COMMENTARY

Your next BD hire might already be working for you

With winners announced, the prospect of having to compete with Amazon for high technology talent in the Washington, D.C., area has many government contracting leaders seriously concerned. The business development organization is not immune from this technology talent grab either.

However, even before factoring in HQ2, according to recent media reports the competition for recruiting and retaining the right people has never been tougher.

Standing Up a Business Development Organization …

Whether advancing revenue through acquisition or organic growth, the test for many organizations is to grow, be acquired or be gone. Identifying and standing up a BD organization is a significant challenge and the buck stops with the individual charged with executing the operational and tactical revenue growth plans.

Most organizations rely on organic growth for a significant portion of their revenue. Our experience indicates that identifying the most capable individuals to build your customer engagement and business development team, and advance revenue growth, is both an art and a science.

It’s just going to get tougher now.

Looking Outside …

It’s no wonder that identifying talent outside the organization is considered so difficult. It’s risky business. Whether you’re using internal resources or contracting with an outside search consultant, you’re probably not the only firm looking for the same characteristics in a hire given distinct requirements. The talent pool is particularly thin when sourcing specific professionals in government contracting … even without Amazon.

When hiring from outside the company, one of the most vexing problems we’ve discovered is that even seasoned BD leaders occasionally have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction when evaluating potential hires. It’s often more tempting to take a candidate at face value.

It’s hard to get beyond the “BS” factor when hiring this type of talent. Without a sourcing process which includes the skills to look for and questions to ask, you’re at the mercy of a candidate that talks the talk but can’t walk the walk.

Most BD managers are looking for a quick fix, someone who can impact their short-term revenue numbers. For this reason, managers can be desperate to believe almost anything they hear in a candidate’s interview for a BD position. It’s this mindset that makes them particularly vulnerable to being sold.

So, how do you ensure that the right people are on board?Why not take a look within your organization for business development talent.

Looking for Volunteers?

Many company leaders believe that everyone who is in contact with a customer is in business development. This means everyone should be attentive to intelligence, feedback, concerns or possible areas to increase revenue. Consequently, everyone who has customer contact should be offered the opportunity to participate in education and professional development training.

Learning the thinking, process and discipline of the BD role allows individuals to volunteer or de-volunteer for the BD team. Everyone can develop listening skills, and it’s amazing the information that’s available within an organization once the customer views you as part of their team. Often the intel gathered by embedded contractors surpasses information gathered by the external BD team during routine visits to clients.

Staffing your organization with the right customer engagement professionals can be a major challenge for most companies … and Amazon will make this pursuit tougher. There are specific skill sets to consider, a corporate culture to fit and possibly technical knowledge and experience to require. Someone once shared that acquiring a new BD professional for their team was like finding an ivory needle in a haystack!

Looking Inside …

One answer to this talent war is to identify the hidden gems in your own organization. Your best new hire may already be in your firm waiting to be discovered. From our experience, some of the most successful BD professionals previously never held a BD title. They arrive in their positions from within the ranks of program managers, project managers and other personnel who are responsible for ensuring your customers’ challenges and problems get resolved.

They have regular contact with customers and are successful in identifying issues and positioning themselves with influencers. As such, they may already be serving unofficially in a “farming” role and “growing” add-on business for your organization. 

These seasoned professionals share your corporate culture and core values. They possess a verifiable track record with your company. Many are capable of transitioning smoothly from an operational role to an official business development, customer engagement role. And, they already know your business.

What you’re looking for are specific differentiators which separate the stars from the rest of the pack. These include criteria like possessing people skills, understanding basic psychology and being able to ask questions and gather intelligence.

In the customer engagement role, an information getter is better than an information giver. There’s a significant difference in the thinking and process of giving vs. getting intelligence, and this talent should be leveraged to drive desired organic growth.

It’s a learned skill, so providing the education and professional development focused upon the appropriate thinking, process and information gathering skills can elevate the success rate of almost anyone challenged with a revenue growth role.

By providing mentorship and patience, these apprentices can be groomed and prepared for full-time embedded BD roles as “farmers” or “hunters” for new business. Both roles utilize the same basic thinking and process, with the main difference between them being the type of opportunity and challenge being pursued.

Winning the Talent War …

The key to sourcing BD talent, wherever it may originate, is to seek out individuals who are problem-solvers, people oriented, possess business thinking and are externally focused on the customer. Specifically, these individuals concentrate on the customer and the market, rather than themselves and their own need to reach revenue targets. Believe it or not, we’ve discovered that extroverted engineers, scientists and other outgoing technical professionals make great BD people … info getters, rather than info givers.

 

Want to explore additional resources on this subject? Then check out some Education & Professional Development training resources here.

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