Having spoken to a lot of our clients recently one of the main concerns a lot of them have, given the current climate, is the ability to win new work.
Business Development is a critical role in a business at any time, but now more than ever, companies need to have a solid work winning game plan.
And when it comes down to who is responsible for bringing in work, in most cases you have two options; a Director who oversees delivery of the work and wins it, or to have a dedicated Business Development Director.
There are advantages to both avenues, and which one you decide to take really boils down to the type of business you are.
When is it a good idea to have a dedicated Business Development Director?
1. In markets where there are lots of different clients.
If you are operating in a market where there are just a handful of clients contacts to maintain relationships with, or you have a secured pipeline of work with one or two key clients to full capacity, then there is far less of a need for a dedicated Business Development Director.
But if your markets are bursting with many different potential clients and contacts within them, then having a focused BD expert will give you a much better standing. Take for example the rail sector. There could be 200+ contacts within Network Rail alone that you will need to regularly keep up to date with if you want to maximise your opportunities.
2. When sales pipelines are a lengthy and complex process.
In some markets the time it takes to identify opportunities through to actually securing the work can take 3+ years.
In this instance having someone who’s job is purely to oversee this process means that the necessary time and dedication can be spent working on the bid that is required to successfully win it.
If a Director is leading an operational business at the same time, often key account management aspects of major pursuits may be understandably overlooked or forgotten over the course of a couple of years.
3. If you are looking to break into new markets.
This is particularly relevant right now, where many companies are having to take stock of their core offering and look at how they may be able to diversify.
If you are hoping to break into unfamiliar sectors or offer new services, then it is undoubtedly better to have someone whose sole job is allocated to identifying these opportunities and liaising with clients to make sure that your value proposition is relevant to the clients’ needs.
Defining the role
If you decide that having a dedicated BD Director is the way to go for your business, it is important to properly define where their responsibility starts and stops. This person is going to be working closely with several different business functions, so having a vague job description and unclear lines of authority will cause frictions.
1. How involved are they when it comes to strategy?
A BD Director needs to follow a strategy that operational business units will actually be able to deliver. A BD Director also needs to be given license to develop ideas the company may not have previously considered. Getting this balance right is key in business development. It is important that other senior Directors are involved in developing the BD strategy for the business with the BD Director so that it is realistic, deliverable and profitable.
2. What is their remit on bids?
This needs to be determined from day one. Does the BD Director oversee the bid phase, meaning the bid team report into this role? Or will the Operations team take over the opportunity once it reaches the bid stage?
Either option can work providing it is clear, and whichever you chose will come down to how your business best operates. However, it is crucial to define this from the outset.
3. Working with other teams.
The Business Development Director will need to closely with operational colleagues who will manage the work they win on a day to day basis, and will need their input throughout the sales and bidding cycle.
It is important that they are able to develop strong relationships across the business, in order to maintain credibility with the client, and ensure what they promised can and will be delivered.
What are your options for hiring?
Having made the decision to hire a BD Director and clearly defined the role, you then have four main options to source your candidates.
Do you have anyone within operations or commercial functions who are capable of making the move into a business development role?
This person will need to be a self-starter, resilient, personable, with strong influencing skills. Someone who is comfortable going out and building new relationships and has a good understanding of commercial strategy – how the business makes money.
The advantages of looking internally are that the candidate will know the business well, understand what they are selling and have solid relationships internally within the company.
The disadvantages of this route are that there will be learning curve as they won’t have a depth of previous BD experience. Will they be able to get out externally and build new client relationships that lead to good business opportunities? As well as this it will be harder for them to break into new, unfamiliar markets and they may be more likely to stick to the current status quo.
2. Recruit from a competitor.
In this instance, the candidate will be an experienced BD professional, they will know the market you are in, and will have the right contacts at the clients you want to break into.
This is often the ideal option if you want to expand you current market.
However, you need to be aware of any non-compete clauses candidates may have and determine if these will conflict with your strategy. You also need to be able to offer the candidate a good reason to switch allegiance from your competitor.
3. Recruit from someone providing different services to the same market.
These candidates will have the BD experience and know the clients, however there will be a small learning curve when it comes to understanding the service proposition or product they are selling.
This is a great option if you are hoping to expand the services on offer.
4. Recruit from a client.
Recruiting from a client means that you get a candidate with a fantastic contact base within your target client. They will know exactly who to target and how.
However, you will need to ascertain at the interview stage (or preferably your executive search consultant can discuss before it gets to interview) if the candidate is willing and able to utilise this contact base.
Just because they have the contacts, doesn’t mean they are comfortable selling to them. Personality profiling and assessment can be a useful tool to ascertain if they have the right aptitude to go from gamekeeper to poacher.