Training your operations people to be business developers reminds me a lot of patrolling in Afghanistan. On a patrol, security is everyone’s job, but it’s not everyone’s full-time job. Although the most experienced soldiers can better recognize something unusual, more often, the less experienced soldiers end up finding most of the anomalies in their surroundings. Why is this the case? Because there are more of the less-experienced soldiers, looking in more places than the few experienced soldiers can. With all of them looking, they find most of the caches, intelligence-gathering opportunities, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Every team leader has a job to train his soldiers to recognize and point out the different anomalies.

Although business developers are better at recognizing new opportunities, they cannot be omnipresent. Your personnel on the ground are the ones that know everything about the work that is being accomplished. They are the ones in the best position to identify the opportunities for scope additions or new opportunities that should be added to your pipeline. The only problem is if untrained, your project personnel could miss most of these opportunities. They don’t know how to listen to the customer to pick up on the hot buttons and carry that information to their business development team. Training your operations people in business development and capture basics will help grow your existing footprint in a particular agency. Your people can tell you all about the customer’s hot buttons, and they should participate in developing the solutions to address them. Moreover, the operations people are in a position to vet your solution with the future evaluators, making your proposal themes and approaches more persuasive.

The communication between your project team and business developers is another part of the secret to success. Just like in the theater of operations, if one member of the team sees something that’s odd, but doesn’t bring it to anybody’s attention, the whole team suffers. The same is true of your operations people working on your contracts. They are your force multipliers, and if they come across customer-desired improvements that could be made, but don’t say anything you as the business developer or your company, may miss out on work that you could be doing.

To implement better communications, you need to establish channels for the operations personnel to notify your BD team that there is a potential opportunity. This could be done through weekly or bi-monthly meetings, SharePoint, other collaboration portals, wikis, or other mechanisms. Once the opportunity is properly qualified, the operations person can help arrange a meeting between the Government customer and the business development folks to take this opportunity further.

Our upcoming class, Foundations of Business Development, is a great way to introduce some of your operations, people, to the business development world. In the Army, we would say “Keep your head on a swivel,” which meant keep your eyes open and keep scanning your sector. The same thing can be applied to your operations people. Turning your workforce into your sales force is the most efficient way of growing your business.

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