Business Development Hurdles for Professional Services Firms

This post was authored by Megan Miller of the Deltek Vision marketing team—follow her on Twitter.

Finding and winning new business in in professional services industry can leave you feeling like a duck in the middle of a pond. You are frantically paddling under water and yet you look calm, cool and collected from the surface. You are constantly navigating the currents, fighting off the competition for your food and determining which direction to go, all while maintaining poise and composure in front of your clients.

Firms are optimistic about their outlook for the next few years, putting high expectations on business development and marketing teams to succeed. This year’s Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study dove into the business development side of architecture and engineering (A&E) firms to bring the bright spots and challenges to the surface. While there is no perfect formula or equation for business development success, getting a better understanding of the challenges facing your firm will help you create an action plan to address them so you can win more work.

What are the top challenges facing business development professionals? How can firms tackle these top challenges and win more?

Related article: Key Findings from the 2015 Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Report [Infographic]

Net Revenue Growth Forecast

Firms are optimistic about continued growth and are projecting an average net revenue growth of 6.2% this year, a slight increase over last year’s forecast. Large firms predicted a growth rate nearly twice as high as smaller firms. Whether you are a project manager who also does business development or are doing business development full time, there is a large task ahead, regardless of the size of your firm. deltek-clarity-2015-business-development-net-revenue-growth

As a firm, how are you going to reach those optimistic and exciting growth goals? Challenge your team with these questions:

  • Do you have enough in your pipeline to reach your growth goals?
  • Do you have a strategic marketing plan to help feed the pipeline?
  • What is your business development plan to achieve growth? Do you have specific tactics outlined and assigned?
  • How can you find more of the right projects? And, how can you increase your success rate?
  • What is working now? What needs to be tweaked? Who needs to be involved?

Business Development Challenges

Business development is no easy task and just like project managers, people who serve in a business development role face many challenges. Many of those challenges circle back to one thing – a lack of time and resources. And, even as the economy continues to level out, competition isn’t going away. Winning projects is harder than ever and each opportunity seems to take more time and effort than ever before.


But, firms aren’t just sitting back and watching other firms win. We’ve included in this year’s report their top business development initiatives.

So what challenges are your team members facing and what initiatives do you need to put in place to positively impact your bottom line and reach your growth goals?

  • Do you approach business development systematically like a project? What does your approach look like?
  • Do you schedule time in your calendar each week for business development tasks?
  • Who else should get involved in client relationship nurturing?
  • How should you be spending your business development time and who can help with some of the other necessary tasks?

Go/No Go Process

A go/no go process is a structured decision-making tool to determine whether a firm should pursue a project opportunity. Overall, about 60% of A&E firms use a go/no go process in at least some situations with 29.2% using a go/no go process for all opportunities. Large firms are nearly twice as likely to use a go/no go process and more than half use it for all opportunities.

Not enough firms are using a go/no go decision making process or taking a strategic approach to deciding which opportunities are worth going after and which ones they should walk away from. This means significant non-billable time is being wasted pursuing work that is either less profitable or that firms may not be positioned to win. The selection process is becoming much more complicated and time intensive, making it more important than ever for firms to be selective and strategic in their project pursuits.

Considering the following questions:

  • What does a great go/no go process look like for your firm?
  • If you said no to one proposal this month, how can you better invest that time?
  • How much time and money do you sink into opportunities you can’t win?
  • Do you track your win rates? What can you learn from them? How can they help you build a better go/no go process?

Just like business development, there is no perfect formula or equation for a go/no go process and it will constantly evolve as your firm learns more and changes its targets. But, by working together to develop a systematic approach to deciding which opportunities to pursue, you can positively impact your bottom line.

More Business Development Insight

These are just a few of the key insights included in this year’s report. Check out the full report to see how your firm measures up against other metrics to identify your areas for improvement.

Recent Posts