Don’t They Know This Stuff?

I recently received an email from a Business Development Director who relayed to me a discussion he had during a budget meeting with the company’s CEO and COO. The COO, ever concerned about financial performance, and rightfully so, asked, “We need to train them in how to win projects? Don’t they just know that stuff?” The answers are “Yes, you do” and “No, they don’t.”

When you hire technical professionals, you hire them because they are educated and trained in their particular field. Unfortunately, those university programs that turn out great engineers, architects, lawyers, scientists, etc. have no requirements for marketing and business development. That lack of education isn’t a problem when these professionals are sequestered away and asked to simply produce. However, in the consulting industry, before you can produce work, you have to win work. Furthermore, often those you are “producing for” are not the same as those you are “winning from.” When this happens, the lack of business development skills becomes glaringly obvious. Then there is the issue that many technical professionals don’t want anything to do with the process of winning the work. To make matters worse is the problem is often addressed by taking someone that has each a chronological milestone, walking them to the end of the dock, and pushing them off hoping they will learn the business development survival stroke before sinking!

If you find yourself in a similar discussion in your firm and someone asks, “Do we really need to train our project managers in business development?,” ask them, “If we put our Marketing Manager in charge of our next design-build project, will we need to train them?” I hope the answer is a resounding,”Yes.”