Everyone who works on a project that could grow is in business development. Everyone who works on a project that will end but could be renewed is in business development. Everyone who interacts with the customer is in business development. Everyone who supports the customer is in business development. People who never see the client, but depend on their revenue are in business development. In short, everyone is in business development.
However, most people don't know it. And worse, even if they do, they don't know how to play their role in business development. Most people have a specialty, and most don't have business development in their titles. Most have education and experience in their specialty. Most don't have a clue about business development.
If your business is to fulfill its potential, you've got to raise their business development skill levels. Notice that I did not say that you should turn everyone into business developers. They have a specialty for a reason, and you need them to apply themselves to it. However, you also need them to understand how their role fits into the business development function, and how they can support it.
This is most critical for those who interact with the customer. Most professional services businesses rely on their project staff for business development. Most project staff see business development as a barely necessary evil. Business development is not something that they can figure out on their own and do consistently well. If you want them to consistently be able to support business development, you need to boost their skills.
Boosting someone's skills involves more than just sending them to a training class. You need to have an ongoing outreach and skills development program. It can be as simple as monthly brown-bag teleconferences. But on a regular basis, you need to help them learn how to:
- Identify an opportunity. What kind of problems can your business solve and how do you approach a customer about them? How can you develop business simply by helping your customer?
- Qualify a potential business opportunity. What information is required to verify that an opportunity is real? What information should be collected to improve competitive advantage?
- Help the customer through the procurement process. What can you do to help the customer with their own procurement process? What options can you provide the customer?
If all your staff do is identify business opportunities while helping their customers solve problems and can bring them to your attention, the battle is half-won. If they can also help gather customer and competitive insight that you can turn into a winning proposal, even better. And if they can help the customer through the procurement process, you will have the inside track.
But it's not enough to tell them that this is the goal. You have to help them understand how it is a natural extension of what they are already doing. It must go from something else that they have to do, to something that is part of their normal routine --- not another job to do, but a natural part of doing the job they already have.
This doesn't happen after taking a single class. It is something that must be practiced and become part of your corporate culture. It will not happen simply because you want it to happen. You must constantly reinforce it and help it grow by developing everyone's business development skills.
If you do nothing, you will get exactly that in return. If you get the message out once a year, you will get an equivalent return on investment. If you get the message out frequently, and back it up with the knowledge to help them understand clearly both the expectation and what to do about it, you will see your return on investment grow. Only when everyone who interacts with the customer plays an effective role in business development will you maximize your company's growth potential.