In the GovCon market, even tireless BD efforts might not always lead to success. Could your team's unyielding consistency be both a strength and a surprising pitfall?
In the fiercely competitive government contracting market, your business development outcomes are crucial. Yet, despite your team's tireless efforts, are you finding that results are not improving? The explanation might be more straightforward than you think. Your team's consistency might shockingly be producing similar results.
In a recent study of the world's most successful individuals - athletes, business leaders, and special operators – consistency was found to be a common trait. In many years of working with BD professionals in the GovCon market, I agree that a critical element of long-term BD success is consistently applying customer engagement best practices. However, consistency is a double-edged sword. It can pave the way to better relationships, higher quality intelligence, and bid success. Consistency can also backfire when it amplifies outdated or undesired habits.
Here are some "bad habits" you may recognize:
- Self-Centric Approach: Many inadvertently prioritize their personal or organizational agenda rather than demonstrating empathy and focusing on their customer's agenda. This usually plays out by concentrating on qualifying an opportunity, being only interested in garnering the intelligence needed for an upcoming gate review, or asking loaded questions to find an angle to push a solution.
- Talking Too Much: Rather than allowing customers to vent or talk about their needs, BD personnel prefer doing capability briefings and talking about their organization and potential solutions, hoping the customer will self-identify areas of interest. Pushing, over-educating, selling, and overcoming objections are often high on a customer's list of dislikes.
- Not Really Listening: Often, instead of listening to the customer talk about their priorities and that matter most to them, we become engrossed in our own thinking, focusing on our next question, or champing at the bit, even interrupting them to provide a solution.
- Asking Leading or Too Many Questions Simultaneously: Often, when asking a question, we try to "lead the witness "with a long lead-in, or we string together a lot of qualifying statements to sound more intelligent. Or we ask multiple questions simultaneously to ensure we get the intel we seek. This often confuses the customers and, more often than not, results in a much shorter response than expected.
- Asking the Same Questions to Everyone: We tend to ask the same questions, tailored more towards moving an opportunity through our BD or Acquisition process than asking questions aligned with the customer's role and needs. This often results in missing the game-changing intelligence that produces the real discriminators come proposal time.
In my observation, many GovCon professionals sometimes execute some of the best practices. However, only the elite consistently apply all or most of them. Are you curious about how you and your team measure up? Consider taking the Human Intelligence Quotient assessment to gauge how your consistency aligns with the 'Elite.'
Doing more of the wrong things faster doesn't help either:
Most business development leaders drive their teams to increase activity by making more calls, and attending more meetings, shows, and networking events. Yet, this 'more is better' tactic often yields diminishing returns, leading to frustration, decreased motivation, or even burnout as team members work harder, consistently trying to do the things they have been told but still not achieving their organizational or personal goals.
The solution lies not in doing more but in enhancing the quality of engagements. The real needle mover in the GovCon market isn't doing the wrong things faster but fine-tuning engagement habits to do more of the right things consistently.
The challenge, however, is that many BD, Capture, or PMs, despite their engagement responsibilities, have never been appropriately trained in effective customer engagement. Often, they learn from more experienced colleagues or through the "school of hard knocks" without considering that many of the "hand-me-down tactics" no longer work in our virtual world.
How do you start this journey of improvement?
Improvement begins with acknowledging that your team's current practices may be the very thing limiting their success. Help them understand and learn engagement best practices. Then holding them accountable to consistently apply these skills is how they become good habits. It's these habits that enhance your results and success.
The key to long-term success in the GovCon market lies in consistently doing the right things when engaging customers and stakeholders. Help your team recognize improvement areas and understand the power of consistently engaging customers in a manner customers love.
BD success is less about increasing quantity or speed and more about consistently doing the right things to enhance relationships, improve intelligence quality, and, ultimately, drive results.
Nic Coppings has over 20 years of experience in Government markets and is Senior Partner at the Hi-Q Group. Nic is an expert in leveraging human intelligence to enhance BD and Capture Processes. Nic empowers executives and their teams to elevate customer and stakeholder engagement through innovative training programs. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn for exclusive industry insights.