You Cant Be All Things to All People - Truths of Business Development

Posted by Megan Miller on December 17, 2018


Have you ever watched one of those wildlife shows where they show a lioness single-handedly trying to take down an elephant? Or a snake trying to eat an alligator that ends up killing it from the inside? For both of these predators, the elephant or the alligator surely would have made for a great meal, but at what cost? The lioness shouldn’t have attempted to take down the elephant on her own, and the snake should have known the limits of what it could handle once it caught the alligator.

Now take that image and apply it to your business development strategy. If you’re like most small businesses, you’ve certainly attempted this more than once. We focus on that huge target that is too tempting to pass up, or that project that we have no experience in, but it seems so easy, and it is right in front of us ready for the taking. We spend so much energy chasing it when the odds of getting it are quite slim. If you do win the project, can you really deliver it as well? What could you have won if the same energy and effort was invested in other pursuits?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the top three types of projects your firm delivers best?
  • How much of your focus is dedicated to those top three?
  • Do you still spend time finding work for number nine on your list?
  • What if your number nine is someone else’s top priority?

In a conversation with a client, they were telling me about the large variety of projects they took part in. They had a hand in every type of project you can imagine, from golf course design and hotel remodels, to work with churches and not-for-profits.

I asked them, “Out of all of these different projects, which ones are your teams most passionate about? Which ones do you deliver the best and which ones are you most known for?” They couldn’t answer.

So then I asked:  “Of all of these different projects, which type is the most profitable for your firm?” Again, they couldn’t answer, so we decided to dive a little deeper to find out.

Look at your past projects by type, industries, and profitability and look for patterns. For example, a firm may look at their projects and realize they are losing all of their profits on golf course projects, but still had five of them in the proposal phase. The most profitable projects might be hotels, specifically one hotel chain. So why not focus their efforts on winning more work from that hotel chain?

If you focus on everything, you specialize in nothing. In our Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study, we find time and again that the high performing firms are those that can tell you immediately where their best and most profitable work comes from. These firms put strategic business development plans in place that focus on opportunities with the highest probability and highest past success so they can win more projects.

So, if you can’t already, find out how to answer these key questions:

  • Where does the majority of your work come from?
  • Which types of projects are best for your firm?
  • What industries do you currently work in?
  • Which industries are most profitable for your business?
  • Of the types of projects your firm wants more of, how many are currently in your pipeline?
  • How can you find and win more of those types of projects?

With a firm-wide CRM, or client relationship management system, you can answer these questions with the click of a button for smarter and faster decision making. You can have visibility into your pipeline strength across the firm, across different types of projects and markets, and ultimately identify which types of projects to pursue. This powerful information allows you to invest in pursuits where you have the best chance of being successful.

Leave the elephant and the alligator for someone else to hunt, and focus on hunting what you hunt best.


If you missed the first blog in this business development series, be sure to take a look at the 5 Basic Truths of Successful Business Development.

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

To learn more about Deltek's CRM solution, visit Deltek's CRM page.