Back to Basics: Understand the Full Cycle of Business Development to Get More Contracts

My 7-year-old daughter, when working on a puzzle, knows to glance at the whole picture first, before starting to assemble the pieces. So, her process is to study the picture, and then find a corner piece to which she then starts adding pieces.

We, as adults, sometimes forget to take a step back and look at the whole picture first when we solve our own puzzles: how to grow our company, how to get a contract, or how to bring in revenue. This is why an important tip for winning government contracts is to step back and take a few minutes to ponder the full life-cycle of business development. This way we can be better at putting the pieces together.

The several steps below shows a typical business development life-cycle for a government contracting company.

Step 1: Strategic business development planning is the corner piece of the puzzle. It is necessary because it becomes your beacon when you start looking at a universe of opportunities. Businesses often fall into a trap of working without a plan, or writing the plan once, and then leaving it to collect virtual (and physical) dust while they are engaged in the routine day-to-day operations. The trick here is to stick to the plan that you keep up to date, and avoid jumping at every opportunity that may have nothing to do with the plan but seems attractive at the moment.

Step 2: Market research is the next step. It goes hand-in-hand with your strategic business development plan and makes the whole planning process somewhat iterative. In order for you to plan, you need to know which vertical markets you are going to go into, and who are your ideal customers. This leads you to more detailed research, which then feeds your planning process.

Step 3: Pipeline development is the natural outcome of your market research. Now that you know which agencies and which areas you are going to explore, you will need to zoom in further and develop a list of opportunities that you are then going to narrow down further and further as you learn more about them. These opportunities will be in the near term with a request for proposal coming out in 1-6 months, the mid-term – with an opportunity expected to open up in the next 6 months to 1 year, and long term – 1-5 years out. Some of the large and important opportunities may then make it into your strategic plan – and you may start calling them strategic bids or must-win opportunities. Marketing to the federal government is related to the overall effort of attracting customers to your company, and creating awareness of your brand and offers.

Step 4: Opportunity identification narrows down the list to the select few pursuits that you decide to dedicate a significant effort to pursue. Each of these individual opportunities then enters the capture phase.

Step 5: Capture management. Capture (yes, it’s what it’s called in the professional business development circles) often is the longest step in the business development life-cycle. It has to do with positioning yourself pre-proposal for a specific opportunity. A proposal usually has a short deadline, whereas capture may take years. It doesn’t necessarily mean years of someone doing it full time. It means years of deliberate activities all leading you up to the victory. For example, I once ran a capture effort for 2.5 years for a billion dollar plus pursuit, but only spent $50,000 on my time and the time of an entire team of specialists during the first two years. It was not until the last 6 months of the capture effort that we had to focus a lot and start spending more money.

Step 6: Proposal management. Proposal management (or proposal preparation) is essentially just that: managing the development of a winning proposal document to deliver it by the deadline. It is an iterative process that usually involves multiple contributors and a set of reviews to check quality and progress. Here are some of the most important characteristics of a winning proposal, majority of which stem from a well-run capture effort:

– Matching the solution with the customer’s wishes and vision through a solid capture effort.
– Great process that gets you to the deadline without undue stress and allows you sufficient time to polish your document.
– Targeted features and benefits, with a clear value proposition.

Step 7: BD during implementation. The reason contract delivery is part of the business development life cycle is simple: once you have a government contract, the ground is ripe for adding scope (what is called “an up-sell” in sales).

Your people who work on the project with the customer are your eyes and ears if you train them correctly in the capture process. They can find out about the need for additional work, and inform your business developer. Your business developer will pay a visit to the government representative, learning more about the requirements. They can then use this information to submit a white paper or an unsolicited proposal. This may result in adding scope to your existing contract.

Your staff on the ground can also tell your business developers about other requirements they may be hearing about that may not yield themselves to adding scope. These are new additions to your pipeline – but these additions are infinitely more valuable than others because you get to hear about them early, they are from an existing customer that bought from you before and therefore trusts you more, and you already have a relationship.

During implementation, you also generate past performance track record that you can leverage in your next proposal. On the other hand, if you don’t do well, then you get to tarnish your record with the government very quickly – and this record proliferates from this customer to other government agencies through various past performance databases. It is important that once you have won a contract, you do a great job. Do whatever it takes to deliver and please your customer.

So, now you have the big picture, and know how all the pieces of the business development puzzle are supposed to fit together.

Property Investing – Am I Buying for Profit or Prestige?

All of us have emotional preconceptions and assumptions. They are reinforced and fine tuned by our experiences of life, be they traumatic, disciplined or consistent. Our brains are designed so that the emotional patterning centers mature while we are still in utero, whereas our rational centers begin to mature at about 4 years old and finish maturing through adolescence to early adulthood. Non- rational emotional patterning is therefore a design feature!!

Most of us have some common preconceived ideas, historically these were things like the earth was flat, and we couldn’t fly. Now they are more likely to be about how we structure our lives.

Why do over 3 million people in Sydney need to get up and go to work at the same time, every day and cause massive traffic congestion? Why do we think this is normal? Is it normal? Does it work for us? Why do we keep doing it?

As well as commonly held patterns we all have a few family specific ones and, a number of which are unique to our experiences of life. Because they are a design feature, they are supposed to be there. Most people seem to presume not and try to weed them out or ignore them and hope they will go away.
However, a big property purchase looms. Our money is involved. For most people our emotional patterns will be triggered and we will react. The issue isn’t that we have a reaction, the issue is the reaction becomes our focus and we try to fix our upset. In the process we forget to focus on the property transaction!

Property transactions are very complex procedures with finance, legal, vendor and purchaser coordinating to a finite window. Much expertise and sensitive negotiation can be involved. There are few opportunities we participate in with a more immediate effect on our bank balance, cash flow and, for many, sense of self. This is not a good time to be distracted!!

What are the sorts of things that distract us?

We could look at many behaviours, however we get simpler pictures if we examine motive, sometimes conscious, sometimes hidden a little deeper. A client might be worried about how they are perceived. Property becomes a tool to prop up their perception of themselves through others thinking more highly of them. These are often people who love to drop property reports into general conversation. Hoping to snare some self esteem through others’ reactions.

These people buy for prestige rather than wealth creation. They want an address and landmark that their mother-in-law, social set and the boss approves of and almost envies. Glossy prestige marketing lures them to overpriced deals that fail to capitalize to expectations. They may go sour on the concept of gaining wealth through property and find some other way to prop us their image. However, did they ever really look at property with open eyes to examine the business of creating wealth?

Other clients are more concerned about doing it the right way. Hence every detail must be managed. They find professionals who do things their way and then collude with them about the rightness of the way they do things – a very circular way to complement yourself! Because of the level of detail required, due diligence takes on gargantuan proportions. Many deals are missed. Costs rise as professional are paid for their expertise.

In their frustration, they may find a guru, suspend disbelief and follow their advice. Often this is more in line with their perception of the gurus qualities than the particulars of the property acquisition. Did they ever really go to find property or were they looking for the right way and property was just a thing to do to find it?

These two examples sound extreme and yet are very common. Money is one of our great human experiences. It draws out of us unknown or unrealized assumptions about who we think we are in relation to money. Some of this is great and some of it is self limiting. To be in the business of wealth creation, wealth management, asset retention and cash flow management we need to be willing to make our property business the priority and give up a few of our emotionally patterned preconceived ideas. This is not a job for the faint hearted.

Do You Get Lured by Business Development Jobs?

Business development is one of the vital segments in almost every business, these days. It can be considered an extended form of sales, but isn’t just getting leads to the business, but also emphasizes the expansion of a business in other ways. It is a balanced combination of strategy, marketing, and sales. Those employed as business development executives are involved in getting leads, negotiating & closing the deals besides maintaining cordial relationships with the clients. They serve as the link between the corporate partners and the organization.

Business development executives are involved in identifying the potential target market, new business opportunities and the new business partnership that they can benefit with, in the near future. They work towards expanding the company’s client base and corporate relationships to ultimately add to the revenue.

Where do they work?

The need to hire these professionals is now being realised by almost every business and industry. Those seeking jobs in business development can get into real estate, infrastructure, IT, digital marketing, telecom, and other sectors too. Some of the leading companies they can aim to work with are HCL Technologies, Cognizant Technology Solutions, and many others.

Who can qualify?

For those, who master the combination of communication and influential skills and do not wish to get into direct sales, business development is a viable career choice. To get started, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration. However, those who hail from other fields too can be considered for this job role.

Generally, the professionals having gained considerable experience in corporate sales are considered apt for this position. The prior sales experience even helps a professional aim for considerably higher salary than a fresher.

Skills to take you ahead

Business acumen:

It is one of the major skills that help a profession qualify for this job role. An understanding of how the market works and what are the essentials to keep the audiences interested in the product serve as the major skills for these jobs.

Communication:

The business development executives are involved in dealing with the customers, business partners, and other associates and for this, communication remains a desired skill.

Analytical Skills:

To analyse a situation and bring out the best of opportunities is what these professionals are desired for. They work to get business leads and even maintain the professional relationships with the associates so to ensure their satisfaction with the association.

Networking:

If networking is something you are best at, you can contribute well to the business.

Average Pay Scale

If you have prior experience in sales, you can make well in this profile. On the other hand, if you get started as a business development executive with no prior experience, the pay scale may not be too alluring. As per a global research firm, a business development professional in India earns Rs 242,480 per year. Experience remains a major factor for pay hike in this job.