Don't Try to Be All Things to All People: Secrets of Successful Business Development

Posted by Brian Lamee on January 28, 2015


ElephantThe other night I was watching some wildlife show and a lioness was trying to single-handedly take down an elephant. Now, I am sure she was really hungry and that elephant would be a great meal, but there was no way she could take that down on her own. Instead she should have focused her effort taking something down that she was good at hunting. Something smaller.

But, in business development, we find ourselves doing that all of the time. 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. We spent tons of energy chasing it when the odds of us getting it are slim. What could we have gotten if that effort was put somewhere else?

LionZebraLet me ask you a few questions:

  • If you had to rank the types of work your firm is best at, what would be the top three?
  • Do you focus on finding work for those top three?
  • Do you focus on finding work for number 9 on the list?
  • And, what if your number 9 is someone else's number 1?

A few years back I met with a firm and we were talking about the vast variety of projects they did. It was all over the board from golf course design and hotel remodels to work with churches and not-for-profits.

I asked them, "Of all of these various types of work, what are you the best at and most known for?" They didn't know.

I asked it another way, "Of all of these types of work, what makes the most money for the firm or is most profitable for the firm?" Again, they didn't know. So we decided to find out.

By simply looking at the past projects by type, industries and profitability, you can start to paint a picture. Come to find out, they always lost money on golf course work. So, why did they have five of them in proposal phase? They made the most money with hotels and one hotel chain in particular. So why wasn’t anyone trying to figure out how to get more work from them?

If you focus on everything, you focus on nothing. In our surveys like Clarity, we find over and over again, that those firms that know where their best and most profitable work comes from and focus on it become leaders in those project disciplines, win more work and command higher rates because of their expertise.

So, can you answer these questions today?

  • Where does most of your work comes from?
  • What types of projects are your best?
  • What industries do you work in?
  • What is most profitable?
  • How much of the type of work you want more of is in your pipeline?
  • How do you go find more of it?

With a firm-wide CRM, or client relationship management system, you can answer these questions quickly and easily so you can make smarter, faster decisions. You can look at your pipeline across the firm, sort by project type or market, select the right types of projects to pursue and assign tasks to your team to find more work.


Leave the elephant for someone else to waste time on. Hunt what you are best at.

To learn about the other 7 Business Development Secrets of the Most Successful AE Firms, check out the recording of our webcast with PSMJ.

To learn more about Deltek Vision CRM, click here.