The 5 Basic Truths of Successful Business Development

Posted by Megan Miller on December 10, 2018

people around table shaking hands

With the year quickly coming to a close, most of us are starting to plan for the new year. One of the biggest areas A&E firms are focusing on is business development performance and strategy. After attending a number of conferences, talking to our clients, and looking closely at this year’s 39th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study results, we’ve compiled the most essential business development truths.

This blog post kicks off a series that will dive deeper into the 5 Basic Truths of Successful Business Development. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to see how you can empower your teams and turn these themes into action.

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Before we jump in, let’s set the foundation. In the 39th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study, we saw that overall win rates are on the rise, which is great news, but still leaves room for improvement given that only 46% of firms have a formal business development process.

How can you become a high performing firm with business development leading the way? Start by benchmarking your firm against others with Deltek Clarity to see how your firm compares, take these five truths to heart and begin building a formal process so you can hit the ground running in the coming year.

Truth #1: You Can’t Be All Things to All People

This concept is so simple, but something that A&E firms struggle with every single day. Know what you are best at, and focus your efforts on that specific area. Too often, firms take the mentality of, “Let’s throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” While this can certainly win you some business, it wastes a lot of time and effort pursuing projects that you have a slim chance of winning. Teams need to work smarter and spend less time on fewer, more fruitful opportunities. 

Ask your teams’ one simple question: what are the top three types of projects my firm does well? Then you can invest your limited business development time in the right place – the top 3.

Truth #2: Make Every Marketing Dollar Count

What if you could tell exactly how much business you are driving from every marketing dollar that you spend? Believe it or not, it’s not just a pipe dream. Top A&E firms know that to be successful, they have to be smart about where they are spending their money.  How your firm invests money in marketing should be given consideration and scrutiny as your financial investments.

Ask yourself – Why do we attend or sponsor this event? Is this event driving business?

If you track your marketing tactics in your CRM system, and track opportunities that were generated from each tactic, you can track pipeline value and win rates and easily say “We won these five projects for $1 million as a result of that $50,000 event. We need to sign up for that again next year!” Visibility into where you are spending your money is key and will help your firm make smarter decisions that grow your pipeline and grow your firm.

Truth #3: Honor the Go/No Go Process

One of the hardest things for a business development professional to do is walk away from an opportunity. But, be honest with yourself. How many times have you chased a project you knew you couldn’t win? No matter what the number is, it’s too many times. But, how can you avoid doing it the next time?

Many firms have built checklists to evaluate and score the probability of winning a project and measure profitability up front. Building this into your CRM system helps provide visibility into every project pursuit, showing what the risks are and the likelihood of winning to make sure every opportunity you pursue is worth pursuing. But, you have to truly honor the outcome.


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Truth #4: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

We have all heard the old saying, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s easy to say, but hard to institutionalize.  Do you have all of your work tied up in one client? Or a handful of clients?

If the housing collapse of the early 2000s taught us anything, it was that a client can stop a project or walk away at any time. There is no such thing as a safe project or safe client. And after that, we all learned our lesson and manage our client portfolio and projects to find risk, adjust and diversify our portfolio, and live happily ever after, right?

Truth #5: It’s Never Too Early to Cultivate the Next Generation of Hunters

The skills required to become a great business development professional for a firm are not learned in engineering or architecture classes. They are learned from experience with the clients, industry and actually watching it happen (just like hunting). So, who are the apprentices within your firm that are learning from your great hunters and will carry on the tradition to build your firm in the future? 

You often hear about succession planning and career development planning, but business development is so often forgotten in this process or no one has time to do it. With the shortage of qualified talent, your firm has to start building and investing in tomorrow’s hunters today to increase the future success of your firm.

What can you take away from this? First things first – benchmark your firm’s current metrics against the 39th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study to identify where your challenges are. Then, take a critical look at your business development process, and ask yourself which of these truths have not yet been incorporated or are contributing to your numbers? Finally, put together a plan to start implementing change and put your firm on the path to becoming a high performing firm!

To learn more about Deltek’s CRM solution, visit our CRM page

For the latest in-depth look into A&E industry averages for business development, download the 39th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study.


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