Business development

Nov 12, 2018

The process must be deliberate and multifaceted, but don’t forget the human touch. Be yourself and enjoy finding clients that reflect your values.

Recently, I had a conversation with a very busy, newly promoted division manager who asked my advice on how to “market” our company’s services to his clients at an upcoming Chamber of Commerce event.

It gave me the opportunity to think carefully about my response, because I don’t get asked this question on a daily basis. This question also forced me to re-focus on our overall business development “culture,” how we portray and brand ourselves internally and externally, and how we execute this strategy at all levels of our management structure.

I came up with the following points that may serve as foundation principles for others:

  • Teamwork/culture of support and cross marketing. Our BD team habitually holds regular internal team meetings and supports internal “wayfinding” processes for project experience and proposal advice; these functions are great internal cross-marketing tools. Internal BD “hot topics” are also regularly discussed and encouraged (design-build, GIS, new technologies, etc.).
  • Consistent internal communications/messages. Clearly defined chains of command, reporting structures, and targeted campaigns are coordinated with the corporate communications staff for consistency and “truth checking” of needs and support requirements. At our company, we ensure that every manager, PM, and BD person has prepared an “elevator speech,” that we are cognizant of everyone else’s core discipline, duties and responsibilities, and that we reinforce these roles (and BD prospects) throughout our corporate footprint.
  • Consistent external communications/messages. Our BD and senior management teams closely coordinate alliances with design-build contractors, architects, and other engineering firms. These “strategic teaming partnerships” are critical to the firm’s annual revenue growth, and coordination of effort is important to avoid duplication of effort and increase our win percentages.
  • Accountability and results reporting. Engineers, PMs, and executive staff are involved in the development, review, and buy-in to business plans and annual revenue projections for our firm, based on corporate “strategic plan” goals. Regional VPs and office directors encourage these “roll-up” projections and follow up with results on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. These projections are coordinated with the executive staff and incorporated into annual operations budgets. Our BD staff members set their own expectations every year, through the development of annual business development plans. BD plans are updated, revised, and results are tabulated every quarter and on an annual basis. Our CRM lead and proposal databases are updated on an “as-needed” basis and are part of the annual review process for BD staff.
  • Persistence/bird-dogging/reminders/timely follow-ups. We rely heavily on CRM to keep us all focused on our go/no-go processes and account management objectives. Suffice it to say, any company needs a centralized proposal and client management system to ensure a high-quality approach to and for clients and their objectives. CRM also plays a substantial role in following up on our numerous, annual proposal submittals and ensuring that timely follow-ups occur.

And my advice to our busy division manager? Be yourself, find common interests, and don’t be intimidated by the “groups” in the room of other Chamber folks. People are just people; we naturally gravitate to those we know. Breaking the ice with a new contact, and discussing your “elevator speech” is the best, most effective way to meet folks and find those new clients that reflect your personal and corporate values. You’ll be surprised how quickly you will be part of the “group discussions” in the room, and meeting people consistently. It’s really that easy!

Now, get out there and get some business!

Jonathan Savage is vice president at Pennoni. Contact him at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.