Business Development Update

Want to win your next project before it even goes out to bid?  Relationship marketing puts you in the game earlier, and at a higher level.

My take on this market: There is work; and there is money to pay for it. You have four months to make friends.  

Companies have been putting off work for way too long. In particular, they have maintenance and upgrade projects that they really must do. More may follow.

Companies have tons of money. Historically huge piles of cash, tucked away for safety.

And there will be an incentive to buy. November elections may create a less hostile atmosphere for business. Higher tax rates in 2011 may create last minute spending in 2010.


Companies that have avoided spending money for a long time will likely start with smaller projects and build momentum. We know that, because that’s what everybody else is already doing. They’ll spend anything on automation if it reduces their costs. Especially their payroll.

Initially, projects will be awarded to friends and trusted associates. There is nothing sinister about that. Companies are sensitive about wasting money. And the guy letting the contract doesn’t need any screw ups that might cost him his job.

Net result: Buyers will guide business to those who will keep them safe.


From a Business Development point of view, I believe the key market dynamics are government intervention, globalism, and onshoring.

My read: Where governments get out of the way, access opens to powerful, fast growing international markets. The United States is, hands down, the world’s largest exporter of goods and services. Especially services.  (Like engineering!)  Communication technology makes geographic location nearly insignificant. Interestingly, this supports the onshoring crowd that’s trying to bring jobs back home.


Small businesses unaccustomed to Business Development strategies often get lost in the ROI of it all. “When will I get sales?” they ask.

We’ve touched on this before. It’s a lot like a transcontinental airline passenger worrying about a twenty minute delay for departure. Trust me. The flight is faster than the drive.

Oddly enough, most small engineering firms were created using Business Development principles. The firms’ founders stayed in touch with their friends in the industry. They only had so much time, so they took very good care of the few clients that they had. Over time, those clients offered up more and more work, and the company grew.

That’s when most engineering companies take a U-turn and add sales guys. Reps go out and try to find projects to bid on. Their idea, more or less, is “we know we’re good, and if we bid right, we should win the project.”

Where the big boys play, those reps have little chance.  Often, Sales Reps will find themselves bidding on packages that were issued by the customer and conceived by somebody else’s Business Development guy.

The core difference in strategies: Customers cultivated under a Business Development relationship truly want you to have their business. (You can’t do better than that!)

Customers secured by nothing more than bidding typically show less commitment, less communication, and less of a payoff.  Literally, that kind of work is harder to complete and the margins may be smaller.


Let’s be honest. When it comes to Business Development, the employer is looking to ride on the candidate’s existing credibility.  Used wisely, this can speed relationship building.  And relationships are at the core of all Business Development.

That’s why the employer, employee, and the target market need to be aligned.

To do it right, the employer wants a candidate who is a professional and cultural match for the business. In other words, the candidate has the same “feel” as the employer.  At the same time, the candidate must be deeply grounded in the target market. That’s what makes the business connection.

For the candidate, there has to be a plausible reason for joining the employer. Guess what: Making a buck isn’t it.

In relationship marketing, the candidate must want to introduce his trusting friends to the greatly improved services the new employer provides. In the world of Business Development, the candidate isn’t really representing his company to his friends. He is helping his friends in their search for a stronger supplier.

Think it out from both sides, and you should quickly home in on your perfect match.