A colleague once told me the story of how he got started in business development. He learned a trade in the armed forces, got out, and started working as a technician of some sort. The company he worked for was a Government contractor. He enjoyed his work well enough, but it was really just a job to him. On his way in and out every day, he passed a neighboring office and noticed from a distance a tremendous amount of camaraderie among the staff. It seemed they were always there; on occasions they were loud, and some mornings he’d see stacks of pizza boxes or other remnants from their nightly activities on his way in. He said to himself, ’What are they doing in there? They’re really living, and they have excitement in their work lives. I need some of that.’ He found out they were business developers, proposal writers, and others involved in growing the company, joined them, and found his niche—a place where he enjoyed working so much that it was no longer just a job. His journey sounded like many others I’ve heard, where people came ‘sideways’ into the world of business development and learned their trade on the job.

Learning by doing is necessary and powerful, but there’s an issue with completely self-directed learning: You don’t know what you don’t know, and more often than not, there are gaps in your experience and knowledge base even when you have the help of a later-version-of-yourself-mentor. Those learners at the opposite end of the spectrum face a challenge, too. Extended exposure to learning experiences selected by others that take place primarily in classroom settings with the less practical application can leave a person at a loss for how to apply that knowledge in real-world settings. In between these two extremes is the enlightened learner who seeks out both structure and practical learning through means that work for him or her.

Business development and proposal work are a mix of art and science, which leaves room for success based on a variety of backgrounds, work experiences, and points of view. There are no universally accepted protocols, such as the rites of passage accountants and lawyers go through by taking the CPA and bar exams. So how can one truly master the craft and demonstrate a commitment to business development as a vocation? The best incorporate certifications into their professional walk and expose themselves to different firms, client sets, and/or markets to complement the knowledge acquired by obtaining those certifications.

What does certification do for you? Think about it like this: No one will ever take you more seriously than you take yourself. Earning a certification will demonstrate your commitment to your vocation, both to yourself and others. It also shows a level of proficiency and possession of skills and knowledge that a number of studies have shown result in higher income, promotions, and an ability to find work more easily than others. Companies appreciate certifications because having certified staff results in better processes and products that directly contribute to winning more work, corporate growth, and financial success. Additionally, people will know what they can expect from you if you’re certified, and you will become a more well-rounded business developer in the process—one who knows what, when, and how to do critical business development, capture, and proposed actions that others don’t.

OST’s Bid & Proposal Academy recognizes that the field of business development encompasses a number of specializations, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to certification. Our certifications are tailored to business development professionals with different career paths because every proposal profession requires its own set of competencies. Capture managers’ skills are distinctly different from those of business developers, and proposal coordinators need different courses than proposal managers. With that in mind, we’ve developed five different certifications to meet these varied needs: Certified Federal Business Developer (CFBD), Certified Capture Manager (CCM), Certified Proposal Manager (CPM), Certified Proposal Coordinator (CPC), and Certified Proposal Writer (CPW).

Most business development educators teach things that can be looked up and present at a superficial, 50,000-foot level. Our certification and training programs incorporate both first-order principles and practical application. We believe that grounding in the first-order principles of successful business development forms the foundation for knowing both what is important in growing Government contracting firms and why. Anyone can look up checklists in reference books or online, but we teach the reasons behind the actions, which is the more elusive and important thing to understand. Practical application builds on those first-order principles, which we emphasize in our certification courses while training to how they really work in actual practice.

Our business development certifications have helped many organizations succeed with higher win rates, greater efficiency, speed, and productivity, and we can help you, too. To get started, visit our Bid & Proposal Academy Certifications page, select the certification(s) you want to pursue, and register online. If you have any questions, email us at [email protected]

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