Business development (BD) includes the more strategic, long-term activities that usually result in larger, longer-term opportunities.
For the purposes of this process overview, marketing is defined as the definition, research and promotion of a company’s brand, products and services. Sales are those tactical activities that involve near- to mid-term selling to federal, state and local agencies. While some companies differentiate between sales and BD staff, we won’t make that distinction.
It is probably worth noting that the many companies have employed a variety of BD organizational models ranging from centralized sales management at a corporate level to a more localized business unit sales control. It is not unusual for these same companies to re-organize BD every few years to reflect key staff changes, sudden company growth (or decline) or as an attempt to accelerate sales.
It is most important that your company organize BD in a manner that is consistent with corporate culture, minimizes communication barriers and maximizes the integration of the sales, operations, engineering and product management functions. The BD organization will not be effective if it has its own agenda. Instead, it should function as an integral part of the overall management team.
The sales or BD process used by many of the most successful companies is based on many years of trial and error.
Business Growth Strategies
Companies typically employ four different business growth strategies to achieve its business objectives. In order of low to high risk, these are:
- Capture follow-on business with existing services and solutions
- Cross-sell new services and solutions to existing clients
- Sell core services and solutions to new clients
- Sell new services and solutions to new clients
There are two types of opportunities: 1) follow-on business and 2) new business.
Follow-on business is any contract option, existing contract growth/contract modification or re-compete that adds additional funding to the contract. While adding additional labor hours or material within the funding scope of a contract is one of the company objectives, these contract actions should not be tracked as a BD activity, but rather operationally within the individual project. Bids of a significant size, of strategic importance or facing serious competition are required to conform to the formal process described in this guide.
New business is any new contract opportunity with an existing or new client or a new competitive task order opportunity on an existing contract. Companies try to maintain a balanced risk portfolio of high, medium and low probability opportunities in the new business pipeline.
BD Process Overview
A company’s BD process involves activities, phases and key decision points that:
- Ensure BD activities are well thought out and efficient
- Result in wise opportunity pursuit and bid decisions
- Solicit feedback to improve capture strategy and win probability
- Coordinate resources personnel (internal and external)
- Manage bid & proposal dollar expenditure
- Keep senior management current on the pursuit of each opportunity
- Measure progress against established business growth metrics
The ideal scenario is to apply this BD process as far in front of an anticipated request for proposal (RFP) as possible — typically 6-12 months before an RFP is released.
The major company BD phases and activities are defined in detail in the following sections and further illustrated in the following diagram:
The process consists of four distinct phases with three progress milestones called Step Reviews.
Lead Identification phase – culminates in Step 1: Decision to Qualify Review
- New opportunities are identified and entered into the CRM in the Identification phase.
- A decision is made whether to expend resources to qualify the lead or to drop it.
Lead Qualification phase – culminates in Step 2: Decision to Capture Review
- Information about the lead is gathered culminating in a decision whether to transfer the responsibility for lead to one of the business units.
Lead Capture phase – culminates in Step 3: Decision to Bid (or No Bid) Review
- A strategy to capture the lead is developed including a pricing approach and reviewed with management. Upon Request for Proposal, a decision is made whether to develop a proposal or no bid.
Proposal or Grant Development, Submittal & Follow-through phase – culminates in contract award
- A proposal is developed along with the associated price to win. Depending on the acquisition, an oral presentation may be required and/or a Best and Final Offer (BAFO).
Post-award Debrief and Transition to Contract Start-up phase
- Win or lose, a meeting with the client is requested to understand how company might improve its proposals. Lessons learned are documented.
The purpose of each of the three major step reviews is to systematically review the progress on a lead to achieve a win — the ultimate goal.
In order to meet the business development objective, many companies form a standing BD Council (BDC) consisting of some or all of the following individuals:
- Chair: Chief Business Development Officer
- General Managers (GM) of Business Units
- BD Leads
- Proposal Manager
- Capture Manager
- Pipeline & Research Lead
- Contracts Director
- Finance & Pricing Director
- HR Director
- Final decision authority usually rests with a designated executive
In some cases, such as quick turnaround task proposals, there isn’t sufficient time to follow all the ideal BD activities. Any variance from the regular business development process should require the approval of the BDC.
Roles and Responsibilities
The following individuals participate in the execution of the Company BD process:
Direction and oversight:
- CEO – establish overall strategic, service and target market direction
- President – lead strategic company business initiatives and SME support
- CFO – oversee price to win determination and proposal pricing activities
- COO – oversee operations and the pipeline review process
- CTO – lead, review, and direct the technical solution in support of the capture manager to ensure that the technical solution meets the RFP requirements, price to win parameters, and can be executed by the program manager
- CBDO – manage the BD process and directs the BD activities of the company
- BD VP, lead the company’s new business development activities
- GM – oversee business unit BD activities
- BD Leads (Account Managers) – cross sell capabilities to existing clients and capture follow-on, recompete and new business. Also, function as Opportunity Owner, Opportunity Lead and/or Capture Manager, where necessary
- BD Manager (BDM) – identify and qualify new business opportunities
- Opportunity Lead (OL) – any staff member who is assigned to be the opportunity owner – (this could, for instance, be a BD Manager, a Managing Director or a Project Manager)
- Capture Manager (CM) – any staff member who is assigned to perform the capture activities as described in this Guide (the Opportunity Lead, in many cases, might also be the CM). Also, defines scope and size of project and staffing needs prior to RFP release
- Subject Matter Expert (SME) – a staff member with outstanding qualifications in a service or market area
- Pipeline and Research Lead (PRL) – administer the sales pipeline using the lead tracking system, administer the RFP distribution and decision process, and perform market research
- Proposal Center Manager (PcM) – oversee the proposal activities of the State & Local or the Federal proposal staff including assignment of proposal center staff, balancing proposal resources and ensuring compliance with the BD Guide and Proposal Development Guide Proposal Writer – write proposal sections (a SME, technical or proposal center staff member with excellent writing and story telling skills)
- Proposal Manager (PrM) also called a Proposal Center Lead (PCL) – for a specific opportunity, lead the proposal activities described in this Guide and the Proposal Management Guide. Also, coordinate proposal development activities and develop proposal documentation
- Production Assistant (PA) – Coordinate the production (word processing, graphics, editing, proofreading, reproduction, printing, collation, and binding) services in support of proposal development
- Recruiting – identify external staff in support of new business initiatives
- Pricing – lead Price to Win and cost estimate development (with capture manager) and cost proposal preparation
- Contracts – review Requests for Proposal (RFPs), assesses impact of terms and conditions, assess conflicts of interest (OCI) with current contracts, prepare certifications and representations and negotiate with the Government and subcontractors or prime contractors
The following figure illustrates the natural hand-off between BD, capture management and proposal development as the process unfolds.
The decision-making authority and support role of key positions is summarized in the following table.