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Business Development

Business development training: the real scoop

I’ve seen a surge in interest for business development (BD) training in the past year or two since the economic rebound. I believe this surge results from two primary factors:

  • The financial reality that while most firms are still watching their overhead dollars like a hawk, there is more discretionary money available to fund training initiatives that were put on hold during the recession.
  • A reluctance by some firms to (re)hire full-time business developers. Many were let go during the downturn, and some firms have never filled this role. In their place, many firms have doubled down on building a firm-wide BD culture and bolstering their existing seller-doer culture.

In this issue of The Friedman File, I address the long-standing debate about the efficacy of BD training and provide advice on how firms can maximize their return-on-investment (ROI) from training initiatives.

Any discussion of BD training […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:22:07+00:00 September 2014|Business Development|

Value: the A/E/C industry’s biggest blind spot?

The Friedman File readers know the importance I place on asking clients and prospects probing questions — whether it’s to:

  • Learn more about their organization and role, their greatest challenges, and trends and drivers impacting their success
  • Determine how they define and measure value from a firm like yours
  • Identify who they view as your most potent competitors and why
  • Assess how you’re performing on a project
  • Better understand why you won or lost a recent project pursuit

In this issue, I want to focus on a key area — eliciting client feedback to enable your firm to assess the value you bring to the table. As a strategy consultant to the A/E/C industry, I see far too many firms struggle with determining and articulating their differentiators, benefits (not features!), and value. All too often, expensive off-sites are held where principals, marketing staff, and […]

You lost. Find out why!

In the business development realm, it can literally be the $1 million question: “Why did we lose this project?”

“We’ve been scoping the opportunity well in advance of the RFP, and we thought we were well positioned.”

“We knew the competition and thought we’d answered the questions, ‘Why us? What value do we confer?’

“We thought our presentation was solid.”

To learn more about why you lost, you attempt to gather feedback from your prospective client. And that’s where the wheels come off for the majority of A/E/C firms that don’t have a steady stream of sole-source work.

Anyone who’s conducted a loss debrief knows how difficult and inherently awkward they can be — for you and for the prospective client — if not done well.

Why Debrief After a Loss?

I’d like to think that firms attempt to conduct loss debriefs at every opportunity. However, this is not the […]

I’m losing clients and I don’t know why

In this December issue of The Friedman File, I’m thrilled to have guest columnist Shari Harley share her insights on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart — creating candid relationships with your clients.

Shari is the author of How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide for Building Business Relationships that Really Work and is founder and president of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace. 

We’ve all had clients we thought were satisfied, and yet the next month, they’re off our books and we don’t know why. Your clients are under no obligation to tell you why they replaced you. In fact, they have no incentive to give you feedback at all. It’s easier for clients to disappear than to tell you what they don’t like about your services.

It’s fine to get fired […]

By | 2017-07-12T14:32:22+00:00 December 2013|Business Development, Business Strategy|

Hiring the right business developer for your firm

My last The Friedman File, “Full-Time Sales Professionals: Caveat Emptor,” generated lots of response from readers. In fact, it had the highest number of opens in the four-year history of this newsletter. Mission accomplished: I struck a nerve!

Many readers shared their own firm’s struggles with holding seller-doers accountable for selling (many would rather just keep “doing”) and the complexity of measuring the efficacy and value of full-time business developers given today’s complicated, inter-connected sales process.

And so I bring the second in this two-part series. This issue tackles some of the most important questions your firm should ask and attempt to answer regarding hiring and compensating full-time business developers, with helpful insights from some CEOs and BD professionals who’ve been successful.

What should you look for — and avoid — in the hiring process?

Identifying and hiring key sales talent is a real challenge for most […]

By | 2017-07-12T14:34:42+00:00 June 2013|Business Development|

Full-time sales professionals: caveat emptor!

Making the most of full-time business developers in A/E/C firms is a topic I’ve struggled with and debated for years, as have many of my clients. Like most marketing and business development (BD) topics, the answers aren’t black and white and one size does not fit all. This issue of The Friedman File is the first of a two-part series on sales professionals. It tackles some of the most important questions your firm should ask and attempt to answer — with helpful insights from a sampling of CEOs and BD professionals.

Why is this topic so sensitive and polarizing?

Let’s face it: sales people, regardless of their skills and the results they achieve, are often misunderstood by fellow staff and even the firm leaders who hire them. The reasons are sometimes complex:

  • Extroverted, glad-handing personalities working side-by-side with introverts
  • The occasional (or not) long lunches and day-long […]
By | 2017-07-18T15:23:12+00:00 April 2013|Business Development|

When “free food” isn’t free

Folks who’ve worked with me know I’m fond of using the term “free food” to refer to RFPs that you had no prior knowledge of, or a call from a partner firm asking you to team on a project opportunity that neither firm has tracked or is pre-positioned for.

Firms that are facing fierce competition and a dwindling backlog are regularly tempted by these “opportunities”. They’re tempted to prepare quals packages and proposals for prospective clients (and sometimes clients) even though their firm:

  • Was unaware of the project opportunity until the RFP hit the streets
  • Knew about the opportunity, but for whatever reason is not effectively pre-positioned
  • Knows that their chances of winning are slim, and in fact, the project may be wired for an incumbent or another firm

Of course, some firms don’t have to worry about this temptation because they’re magnets for sole-source […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:23:49+00:00 February 2013|Business Development, Business Strategy|

It’s client retention, stupid!

With a (self-reported) A/E/C industry repeat work average of 80-85%, it’s tempting to assume that most firms understand client retention. However, if these past few years have taught us anything, it’s that doing good work is necessary, but not sufficient for holding onto clients.

The time, energy and focus required to keep a desirable client coming back can be overwhelming. Yet the economics are indisputable. Consider the wasted pursuit costs of landing a new client when that client becomes dissatisfied and goes elsewhere. Depending on the client, the opportunity, travel, proposal and labor costs, the hours you’ve lost can easily run into thousands of dollars. And that’s not factoring in the difficult-to-measure intangibles, such as the impact that a dissatisfied client may have on your firm’s reputation.

One invaluable way to track what clients truly value and what their hot-button issues really are is client […]

By | 2017-07-18T15:25:21+00:00 July 2012|Business Development, Business Strategy|

Is there still life in the federal market?

I get this question a lot these days, from principals pondering whether their firm should enter the Federal Market for the first time, as well as those whose firms are already active. In this issue of The Friedman File, I’ve asked one of my business partners, Dave Alexander, Principal of Lincoln Strategies, LLC, to share his thoughts and advice. Dave knows this market better than anyone I know, and I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with him on several market research and planning engagements. Lincoln Strategies provides strategic, marketing, and management advice to firms interested in entering or expanding within government markets. His clients include A/E/C, management consulting, environmental, and scientific services firms, as well as manufacturers of high-tech equipment.
— Rich Friedman

By any standard, the Federal Market is huge. In the last federal fiscal year, the government spent almost $2.7 billion […]

By | 2017-07-12T14:42:48+00:00 May 2012|Business Development, Business Strategy|

Avoiding the appearance of ambulance-chasing

We’ve all done it. We’ve waited until the “alarm bells” signaling a drop-off in project backlog begin ringing to get on the phone/meet with past, current and prospective clients to drum up leads and work. And we’ve contacted a past or current client with whom we’ve been out of touch because we read or heard something that suggests they may have a near-term need.

Don’t get me wrong. If it’s a choice of reaching out or not reaching out, I’d opt for making the call. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.” You fill in the appropriate idiom.

But this “dialing for dollars” exercise has become problematic because:

  • With the softness in many markets (particularly commercial), more A/E/C business developers are having to do this.
  • Owners have less time and patience than ever to field these calls.
  • You’ve been out of […]
By | 2017-07-18T15:28:36+00:00 September 2011|Business Development|