Five ways to take a whole-of-business approach to development – Part 2

Last week, we discussed about the nature of business development and why it is essential for your company in terms of creating value for your customers. In this second part, we will discuss the inherent challenges in business development and how to overcome them to ensure long-term success for your company.

Problems can arise when we treat business development as a function, and not an intention.

When we rely on salespeople to find new business, we ignore the people who interact with customers every day and who have access to insights and opportunities.

When we rely on proposal teams to write proposals, we ignore the knowledge of the people who deliver the service every day and who know it best. We are also letting those people abdicate from the need to sell what they do, as well as just “do” what they do.

And when we rely on our good track record as the incumbent supplier to see us through a contract renewal, we leave ourselves vulnerable to being picked off by competitors. Only 50 per cent of incumbent suppliers end up keeping the customers they have worked very hard to win and to serve. This isn’t because they are doing a bad job – most do quite a good job. It’s because they are still doing the same job, and this just doesn’t cut it with customers any more.

As an HR Director or practitioner, here are five ways that you can contribute to the long-term business development success of your business or organisation.

  1. Make sure that everyone’s job description contains at least one thing that requires them to contribute towards your company’s business development effort. Across your business, there are three categories of business development you want your people to deliver. Firstly, professionalism, meaning customers can be confident that your people know what they’re doing. Secondly, pipeline, meaning your team is opportunistically positioning themselves to help customers with new work when it arises. And finally, preferred supplier, meaning your business is strategically positioned to win the big contracts you really want to win. The primary owner of the professionalism category is your operations team. When it comes to the sales pipeline, it’s your line managers, who are in contact with customers at a more strategic level. And when you need to be seen as the “preferred supplier” – that responsibility rests squarely with your executive team.
  2. Invest in training and development that builds business development skills, confidence and knowledge across the organisation. People at every level need to be able to do at least three things: to identify the value they create for customers, to write persuasively on their area of knowledge for bids and tenders, and to contribute their best thinking to retaining existing business. More senior staff also need strategic pursuit and proposal leadership skills.
  3. Reward people for contributing their knowledge and time to important bids. Proposals have become a “five to nine” job for most people. Recognising that they have made a contribution towards important bids will go a long way towards preserving their goodwill for important pursuits and bid projects that require them to go above and beyond the requirements of their day job.
  4. Encourage strategic, cross-functional teams to work on value creation projects. This means giving them the time and space away from the rigours of their “day job” to do so.
  5. Convene customer-specific teams to develop customer re-engagement strategies. According to Bain & Company, a five per cent increase in customer retention yields profit increases of 25 per cent to 95 per cent. Businesses are often very good at developing innovation, best practice and continual improvement ideas that benefit themselves. Turning this process around to focus on your best customers will be a game-changer for your retention rates.

Robyn Haydon,, author of “Value: How to talk about what you do so customers want to buy it”

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