Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) reported this week that its Construction Backlog Indicator fell slightly in March
. This is not surprising considering that design work on new projects has declined during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer projects available for bid correlates to declining backlog.
However, the ABC member survey that captured the findings also reported confidence index readings for sales, profit margins, and staffing levels. These three indicators increased in March—pointing toward growth over the next six months.
ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu noted that many projects are coming back to life. This is supplemented by the boom in e-commerce and other tech segments needing fulfillment and data centers. Another positive sign came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported that the construction industry has added 931,000 jobs since April 2020
—recovering 83.6% of the jobs lost during earlier stages of the pandemic.
While growth may be on the horizon for the construction industry, it will not come for the passive. It is an optimum time to review business development (BD) practices within your firm or company and consider what can be improved upon.
Here are five factors to consider:
1. Reaching existing and prior clients.
Hopefully, you reached out to existing clients (and prior clients) during the pandemic. Sometimes a simple check in that is not project-related goes a long way to building and maintaining a relationship. Even if you have not done so recently, it is not too late to schedule a virtual meeting over a real cup of coffee. While finding new clients is always exciting, Forbes points out that it can cost five times more to attract a new customer
than it does to retain an existing one.
2. Identifying pain points.
Pre-pandemic, were you winning the work for a majority of bids or proposals you submitted? It is easy to blame the current health and economic crisis for losing work but that is not always the case. Do you track the number of submitted bids versus wins? Do you ask an owner or general contractor why you were not awarded a project? Without this information, you may continue down the same dark path even when the economy lights up.
3. Dividing and conquering.
Who is responsible for business development at your organization? If you cannot answer that question, you may need to rethink the process. Consider business development similar to that of a construction project. Not all individuals at your firm are involved in all phases of the project. A “superintendent” (BD manager) could oversee business development pursuits, an “architect” (marketing/communications professional) could design the outreach plan and an “estimator” (strategist) could decide what opportunities are worth pursuing. Firm principals and C-level leaders cannot always be solely responsible for BD efforts, but they can—and should—receive regular progress reports.
4. Prioritizing return on investment.
In a previous blog post, we referenced the Eisenhower Matrix for decision making
. It really does help to determine priority of tasks. When it comes to BD efforts, consider which bids, proposals, or opportunities require the most human capital to chase and complete as well as what the potential reward is. A bigger dollar-value project does not always indicate a complicated and cumbersome bid process. Sometimes, smaller projects can be more tedious to pursue. BD interaction can also be a telltale sign of what a customer will be like to work with. Are an organization’s representatives quick to respond, helpful to clarify any questions you have, and flexible with contractual terms? Are your representatives? The way you interact during the “courting process” can be very predictive of the relationship you will form.
5. Using technology to support people skills.
Personal meetings, phone calls, and even email messages are very important to building business. Not everything can, nor should, be automated; however, technology does play an important role in BD efforts. Tracking! Without a customer relationship management (CRM) system, how will you remember who you last contacted, when, and by what method? Furthermore, how will your team share notes and information in real time? Whether your CRM system is a very simple Microsoft Excel file or a robust web-based platform such as Salesforce, it is equally important to keep it updated and accurate.
As the economy starts to recover, the Helbling executive team predicts that groups in the AEC industry (as well as in other industries) will consider adding to and enhancing their business development teams. If you have a hiring need within business development, please contact us
to reach a Helbling search consultant.