We work with a number of different clients in business development, covering various public sector programs in Medicaid, Medicare, and TRICARE. I cannot emphasize this enough: if you make it up as you go along – ad hoc business development – your results will be less than satisfactory. Not only will you not win very often, but you will have many really tired and frustrated people who are confused about your strategy and objectives.
First, you need to have a comprehensive system for developing opportunities, by phase. What opportunities do you track? What criteria do you use to select those things you will pursue, and those you will ignore? Once you have identified a particular opportunity, how do you lay the necessary foundation to maximize your chances of winning the contract? When the RFP is released, how do you ensure that you turn in the best possible technical proposal, at a winning price?
Second, you need to design the overall business development system, by function. How do you organize your team for business development? What people participate in business development for your organization? What are the required skills and qualifications? What are their roles and responsibilities? Who’s accountable for delivering the goods? What processes do you use for business development? You can design processes aligned with the phases. But each process needs to have steps, decision points, review and correction elements, measurements, reporting, and accountabilities. What tools do you use to support business development? Organizations might consider everything from customer relationship management (or CRM) systems to improve their sales management processes, to use of web-based subscription services to track legislative and contract activity, to proposal database systems to store core information.
OK – so you have a process – you have process phases, instructions, people, systems, and so on. Now what?
You have to be disciplined in using – and improving – the system.
- Qualify the opportunities – based on your criteria.
- Develop the opportunities – once you have chosen something, build the necessary relationships and infrastructure.
- Create the proposal – do sterling work to sell your solution to the customer.
- Do the ongoing background work needed to be ready for the next opportunity.
To the extent that you use the system, and fix it where it’s broken, you will obtain better results. If your organization just makes it up every time, amnesia sets in. You repeat past mistakes and forget how to perform those things that worked before.
Use reports and metrics from business development to evaluate the system, and improve it.
And – don’t support work that tries to operate outside the system. This is the manager who decides, despite the fact that opportunity X was cancelled, chooses to try to secretly prepare a proposal. (Yes, it happens – far too often.)