How to define the role of BD at the small business contractor

Business development has changed post-COVID, which means small businesses in particular must find to thrive in a hybrid environment of in-person and virtual BD.

I recently provided a two-hour market overview for a small contractor at their annual management offsite meeting. My session covered a lot of ground, including the roles of capture and business development. When we got to that point of the discussion, we threw in sales.

When they first posed the question about how I define BD, I jokingly said, “The person who costs $300,000 per year and has a big budget for a lot of meals…”

They laughed politely and indicated they had gone down that path, possible more than once, with tepid results.

Then we took a deeper dive.

Prior to COVID, BD had a reputation for lots of breakfasts and lunches, many events, classic networking. During COVID, that activity went away, driving BD and sales to LinkedIn, online meetings and webinars, and to that old device, the telephone.

Many venues were created for various job functions, including BD - venues like the IDEATION group (part of Government Marketing University) and the Capitol Business Development Association, both of which meet online, though CBDA now hosts live events as well.

With the effects of the pandemic diminishing, we now have a hybrid situation.

The role of BD for smaller contractors is vital, but it is defined differently for each contractor. Perhaps a more direct question is what do you need to do to win more business?

There are always variables, but it should include-

  • Who are your current clients and is there more work to be found there?
  • What are your core capabilities and where else can they be deployed?
  • How are you currently finding opportunities and what percentage of them come to fruition?
  • Is there funding for the opportunity?
  • What tools (BGov, GovTribe, GovWin, etc) are you using?
  • Does your client’s on-site personnel have a mechanism to share what they hear? And are they trained to listen for opportunities?
  • Do you have a “best practices” library to determine how you won or lost certain bids?
  • Who evaluates the opportunities as they come to light?
  • Are you getting in early enough to influence the opportunity?
  • Do you know the right people in the agency you are targeting?
  • Do you have an internal mechanism for sharing all the ideas?

These are but a few of the questions we discussed.

So the resolution on BD?

It varies for small contractors, where BD has to wear many hats, because everyone wears many hats until you reach a certain size, a certain bandwidth.

Time is the limiting factor, as each person has a finite amount of time to focus on priorities and achieve results. By asking the right questions, you can align the organization to identify and pursue the must win opportunities and utilize BD effectively.

Limited resources requires many small contractors to have a BD role that includes sales and capture, and sometimes, taking out the trash.

And that BD person may also be the CEO.

Mark Amtower is a GovCon consultant, speaker, podcast/radio host, contributor to WashTech and author. His new book, Government Marketing Best Practices 2.0 is available at Amazon.