Business development is a process that begins with nothing and ends (hopefully) with winning some new business. From my experience, I categorize the business development process into the following four stages:
- Stage 1: Figuring out what you want to chase (AKA Strategic Planning)
- Stage 2: Finding opportunities compatible with your goals (AKA Identification and Qualification)
- Stage 3: Developing, documenting, and pricing your solutions (AKA Capture and Proposal)
- Stage 4: Effectively transitioning the program to the execution team (AKA Win Management)
I refer to business development as a corporate function, and not as a position or role that is performed by a single person or group of persons. I know there are many other categorizations of business development but I believe in the process of keeping it simple and concise, which results in the four stages listed above.
Stage 1, Strategic Planning, refers to the process of getting ready to build business. It’s not only the identification of agencies and opportunities at the high level, but also creating and building the infrastructure necessary to pursue the business. Significant time is focused on the infrastructure building and narrowing of your target agencies, which I have found is the area most often overlooked.
Stage 2, Identification and Qualification, is the process of finding specific opportunities and investing the time and resources to determine whether they merit in-depth pursuit. Much of this is what would normally be performed by someone in the Business Development role or in a marketing and research capacity. I will discuss topics such as where to find opportunities how to assess whether there really open for competition, and how determine whether they are match for your company’s capabilities.
Stage 3, Capture and Proposal, is probably the area where the most effort is spent in pursuing an opportunity. I have combined the capture and proposal processes into one since these teams really must work together to deliver a successful bid. The Capture and Proposal team also include solutions developers, project management, contracts and legal, finance and accounting, and many other roles.
Stage 4, Win Management, is often one the most overlooked aspects of business development. During the three previous stages, you must keep in mind not only how to win the contract, but how you will perform the job and produce the profit margins that are expected by the company. Every capture strategy must include development of a “get well plan” that describes alternatives and strategies for building the program. We often hear the expression “bid to win, execute to make money.” This is the “execute to make money” part of the process.
The chart at the top of this article illustrate the resources applied at each stage. The actual resource levels will vary based on the opportunity, but the bottom line is that the type of resources required vary with each stage and the bulk of the effort will be during the Capture and Proposal stage. Therefore, it is wise to weed out undesirable opportunities early when the resources required are small.
I have created categories for each of my blogs to align with these four stages. I also have a set of general topics that address skills that are used throughout all four stages. These include items such as communications and writing skills, etiquette, and personal skills.
Finally, you will come across the concept of the Sales Funnel. As you will see in my article about the funnel, this is an artificial construct designed to make the business development process seem more “scientific”. The funnel does exist as a natural outcome of your process. Any pre-defined assumptions about the funnel are fictitious. If you want to build a funnel based on actual numbers from your company, that is fine. Just do not let others tell you what the numbers should be.