Understanding the World of Project Management – The Business Development Team
Earlier in the series we explored the role of the bid manager in the PMO and their role in making sure a business is capable of taking on a project; but what happens before they become involved, and who seeks out the opportunities for potential work for a business? That is where the business development team come in.
What do they do?
The business development consultant is a key part of the sales function within a company, as they are the people who identify and pursue potential project opportunities for a business. Depending on the company, the title they hold may vary; business development consultant, capture lead, capture manager and even account manager are all common titles for those appointed to identify and act upon possible opportunities. In some organisations they may do slightly different things, but are all traditionally focussed on supporting the organisation in identifying and winning new work for a company.
As with many other roles within the PMO, the lines can often blur between the role of a BD consultant and others within both the sales function and PMO. For example in one company a BD Consultant may only be responsible for identifying leads and setting up initial contact to explore the opportunity, while the Bid Manager or writer will be responsible for actually tendering for the work. However, in some other companies the BD Consultant may be responsible for both of these elements, with varying amounts of support offered from other parties. Regardless of the individual set up of different organisations, there will be certain elements that remain relatively universal for the role. For example, the BD Consultant will typically spend time exploring potential leads, contacting relevant personnel to discuss and propose a solution in principle, and gather concrete information about the project parameters and scope. They will then be required to ‘sell’ potential work internally as well, exploring whether the organisation has the capacity, capability and resources to meet the needs of the customer, and advocating the benefits of pursuing identified opportunities. In most organisations the BD Consultant will work as liaison between the customer and the bid and project team in the early stages, although they will typically hand this responsibility over to the bid manager (if applicable) when to decision has been formally made to tender for a project.
Where do they work?
BD Consultants will work in virtually every industry that is involved in selling products or services as everyone needs new business opportunities in order to promote growth.
What do they need to know?
No formal qualifications are needed, but BD Consultants and capture leads will typically have come from a sales background, and will have an astute understanding of how best to communicate and manage stakeholder expectations. Negotiation skills, the ability to ask good quality questions and listening skills are also essential.
How do they fit into the PMO?
A Business Development Consultant won’t necessarily be considered part of the PMO, and may operate outside of this team. However due to the work they do they will often have a strong link to the work of a PMO especially in organisations managing large scale projects. When the initial discussions are had about a potential opportunity the BD Consultant may have considerable interaction with the PMO before deciding whether to pursue the opportunity, or may be required to hand over information as the project progresses.
Account Director – Network Rail
Thales Ground Transportation Systems
How long have you worked there?
Describe a typical day
In a nutshell I get up 5.30 am, plan the day ahead, catch up on emails, do presentation preparation etc. before others start calling; travel to London, Manchester or York depending on the client, attend various customer, partner and internal meetings, do a couple of presentations, attend several conference calls and return home!
Obviously the daily tasks, meetings and presentations vary depending on the day and the customers, and I’d say the most important part of my job is being the voice of the customers I represent. So I will spend around 50% of my time with my customers, really trying to understand as much as I can about their needs, pains and gains, as well as what motivates them and what they’re trying to achieve. The other 50% of my time is spent working internally, trying to find a way to make this happen for them, and help others in the Business Development team understand the customer better. I also spend time identifying new business opportunities and supporting the team in following these up.
How did you get into it?
I actually started my career within the rail industry, holding a number of different roles covering everything from project engineering, service management, product management and product development. Whilst working as a product manager I realised the part of my job which I enjoyed most of all was dealing directly with customers. Using this insight I worked to develop a role that I could really enjoy, where I could combine my insider knowledge of the rail industry and my love of working with customers and that led me to becoming involved in business development and account management.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I love the role because every day is actually quite different with lots of new challenges, which I find exciting. But another thing I love is the people I work with, both internally and the customers. I enjoy being able to spend time with customers and other organisations we collaborate with to help them achieve their vision.
Most important skills
Whenever you are working with customers the most important skill you need is the ability to listen; you need to be able to demonstrate that you understand what they need, before you can find the right solution, and you can only do that by listening. You also need to have a lot of persistence and focus because things can take longer than expected, and don’t always go according to plan, so you need to be able to push on and make sure things get done, and not lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve.
The role of the Business Development Consultant shows that there is much more to the PMO than meets the eye; it’s not just about keeping projects on track once they begin, it’s also about making sure the right projects are identified and supported at the very start. It’s a complex world, and one we will keep exploring with you.