Is firing your BD team really the right answer?

If the members of your business development team are in a constant state of churn, then there might be bigger problems than who you hire for BD.

It is time for the annual ritual.  The business development people have not won a $200 million program during the last six months so it is time to clean house.

But business development (BD) is not a person.  BD is a function; a function that should operate across an entire company and not in one department. 

I have seen numerous companies in our business turnover their entire BD team every 2 years without fail.  At some point you would think that top management would observe this constant churn and ask some basic questions.

Is our lack of consistent BD success because of poor marketing sophistication, old metrics, rewards that actually serve as disincentives? Are there serious disconnects between BD and operations, a lack of business development infrastructure, having a no-value-creation web site, or other?

While executives today know that the good times in this business are over, their company’s structure, metrics, rewards, collateral and internal engagement with BD is still designed from the old days, the days of a bull market.

Recently I have read job postings for companies to hire a new BD person to add to their BD team.  The job requirements include being a BD person with 10-15 years’ experience calling on a specific agency and capture management responsibilities and ability to manage the proposal process and market research expertise and ability to develop and implement strategy for a particular market segment and other duties as assigned.

You get the picture.  I do not believe this person will be successful.  But that is okay, the company can just replace them.

Today, we are in a bear market.  No news here.  Except top management in today’s companies built their reputations during the bull markets of the 1980s and 1990s.

They will quickly concede that times are tough but have not shifted their companies’ market reality to actually being in a bear market.  Marketing, such as it is after non-stop cost-cutting over the years, business development as a function and its integration with operations, team-based selling instead of job-based selling, no real vision, social media engagement, a meaningful web site, and actually demonstrating thought leadership have not been considered.

These capabilities and more must be part of a company’s plan to be competitive going forward.  Constant cost-cutting is not a growth strategy.  The constant churn in BD people is not a solution; it is an indicator that the firm has much deeper problems.    

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