How to define the role of BD in the small business contractor

I recently provided a two-hour market overview for a small contractor at their annual off-site management meeting. My session covered many topics including capture and business development roles. When we get to that point in the discussion, we add sales.

When the question was first raised about how I define BD, I jokingly said, “The person who costs $300,000 per year and has a large budget for many meals…”

They laughed politely and indicated that they had gone that route, possibly more than once, with lukewarm results.

We then did a deeper dive.

Before COVID, BD had a reputation for lots of breakfasts and lunches, lots of events, classic networking. During COVID, that activity disappeared, driving BD and sales to LinkedIn, online meetings and webinars, and to that old device, the phone.

Many venues were created for various job functions, including BD, venues like the IDEATION group (part of Government Marketing University) and the Capitol Business Development Association, which meet online, though CBDA now hosts live events as well.

With the effects of the pandemic subsiding, we now have a hybrid situation.

BD’s role for smaller contractors is vital, but is defined differently for each contractor. Perhaps a more direct question is What do you need to do to win more business?

There are always variables, but you should include-

  • Who are your current clients and is there more work to be found there?
  • What are their core capabilities and where else can they be implemented?
  • How are you currently finding opportunities and what percentage of them materialize?
  • Is there funding for the opportunity?
  • What tools (BGov, GovTribe, GovWin, etc.) are you using?
  • Do staff at your client’s site have a mechanism to share what they hear? And are they trained to listen to opportunities?
  • Do you have a library of “best practices” for determining how you won or lost certain deals?
  • Who evaluates opportunities as they arise?
  • Are you getting in early enough to influence the opportunity?
  • Do you know the right people at the agency you are targeting?
  • Do you have an internal mechanism for sharing all ideas?

These are just some of the questions we discuss.

So, the resolution in BD?

It varies for small contractors, where BD has to play a lot of hats, because all the world it wears many hats until it reaches a certain size, a certain bandwidth.

Time is the limiting factor, as each person has a finite amount of time to focus on priorities and achieve results. By asking the right questions, you can align your organization to identify and pursue must-win opportunities and use BD effectively.

Limited resources require many small contractors to have a DB function that includes sales and capture and sometimes taking out the trash.

And that BD person can also be the CEO.


Mark Amtower is a GovCon consultant, speaker, podcast/radio host, WashTech contributor, and author. His new book Government Marketing 2.0 Best Practices is available on Amazon.

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