Company leaders and their business development teams are in an unenviable position. Based on The Artemis Partnership’s recent survey, most are expecting opportunities for new projects to return to near pre-pandemic levels. But they also expect the value of each new opportunity to be significantly lower.
Simply put, to match their pre-pandemic revenue targets and keep up with competitors, they are now forced to win more pursuits.
That makes sense. And it could be doable for companies that are willing to change how they pursue new business.
You’d think that most companies in this position would be eager to make those changes, even if they require some investment. But that’s not what we’re finding.
Too many companies we speak with, or read about, have not changed how they pursue new business. Nor have they changed how they invest in new business (other than to decrease investment – which defeats the purpose).
Feast or Folly
We think it’s clear. Some companies can thrive during an economic downturn, at least as measured by new business win rates and revenue growth. Many – perhaps most – won’t. The difference is this: The companies that thrive will make smart changes, supported by smart investments. The companies that don’t succeed in business development will be the ones that won’t make the necessary adjustments.
In our survey, one of the interesting findings was that most respondents who are responsible for business development told us they don’t expect to see improvements in their win rates between now and the next year or so. At least they realize that if they don’t make changes, they won’t see better outcomes.
The Harvard Business Review (HBR) offered compelling observations and strong recommendations in this article published in early September. The closing quote from H.G. Wells neatly summed it up: “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” In a financial and health crisis as we’re now experiencing, companies and their new business teams that adapt can succeed. It’s especially true when their competitors are choosing not to address business development challenges.
So, let’s say you’re one of the enlightened. You want to make the necessary changes to win more new business, supported by reasonable investment. (And, per the HBR article, that doesn’t mean spending more than you did before. But more likely reallocating your spend from another budget item to your business development line.)
Where do you start?
Artemis has five suggestions for launching an improved business development program:
Remove your blind spots. Do you really know why you win? Why you lose? In fact, do you really know what your current clients and prospects think of you? Every client-centric organization cares about this, and everyone still has significant blind spots which can make improvement really hard. Make the investment to know what they are.
Take a more strategic approach. There will be a temptation during these tough times to pursue every opportunity that comes your way. Although understandable,not all will be winnable. And not all of the winnable will be worth winning. With some smart thinking, you can pitch less, pitch the right ones and win more.
Start early. Winning more often means getting in front of the RFP. Start building your relationships with strategic targets now, even if an RFP isn’t on the horizon. Think about the resources you will need as well and start building that team. By the time the RFP drops, you want to be considered in the top two contenders.
It’s all about trust. Your credentials mean less than you think. Artemis research tells us that decision-makers during this pandemic are putting a much higher premium on the trustworthiness of the pursuit team. Know what you must do to demonstrate that you’re trustworthy.
Be present. A decision-maker at a billion-dollar institution told me this very recently when I asked about their perception of a company who was pursuing their business. “They can’t just show up once a year when an RFP is about to be issued and expect that we’re going to think highly of them.” Strategic business development – and higher win rates – require the long game. Establish relationships early and nurture them deeply and frequently.
You can adapt all of these changes, or just one. Either way, we can help.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas