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5 Ways to Build Better Business Development Processes with CRM

By Megan R. Miller, CPSM


Running a successful architecture and engineering (A&E) firm requires strong systems and processes for business development (BD) and marketing. However, many A&E firms struggle to build effective processes to track clients, manage pipelines and measure performance. Only 48% of firms have business development processes and nearly a quarter of firms are not using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to help manage their business, according to the latest Deltek Clarity A&E Study.
Here are five ways A&E firms can leverage CRM technology to streamline and improve business development processes:

1) Identify the Metrics That Matter Most for Your Firm
You can't improve what you don't measure. Start by identifying metrics that can help you measure success in business development. These should include activity metrics, such as the number of client meetings, RFP responses, networking events and results metrics like win rate, capture rate and value of the pipeline.
Your metrics must align with overall company goals and provide a balance of activities and results. Understand that activity metrics indicate the level of effort being invested, while results metrics show the outcomes. You need both to identify where adjustments may be required.
Determine how you can track each of those metrics within your CRM. For example, how can you report on activities and marketing campaign successes? How many meetings has a particular BD person conducted this year?
2) Develop Client and Project Pursuit Strategies
Having the right mix of client and project pursuits is the only way to help your firm achieve its goals. Client and pursuit strategies are foundational to business development accountability – who is responsible, what are they responsible for and what is expected of them?
Prioritize your clients and assign clear ownership for each client relationship. Document detailed plans for managing the top relationships directly in your CRM, including strategic goals, key contacts and specific action items throughout the year.
Map out connections at various levels within the client organization so you can expose gaps or identify opportunities. Track the strength of each relationship too – is this just an acquaintance or someone who would take your call?
Maintain this information directly in your CRM to make it easily accessible to anyone who has a relationship with the client. This also allows you to quickly identify gaps or bottlenecks and keep your team accountable for action items.
3) Manage Your Pipeline and Opportunity Progress
One of the most critical aspects of business development is effectively managing the pursuits and the overall pipeline. Yet, one of the biggest challenges firms face is simply keeping the pipeline and pursuits updated and accurate in a central location like a CRM.
Set expectations so that opportunities get logged as soon as they are identified, long before an RFP appears, if it is an opportunity that is relevant to your business. Don't wait for a high level of certainty before tracking because you could lose critical intel about those opportunities and the client along the way.
Provide easy ways for BD leaders and project managers (PMs) to update pursuits from anywhere via a mobile app or email integration. Quickly capture details from meetings, calls or events. Reduce barriers to keep information flowing into the CRM, such as reviewing your security access so more people can contribute.
Use your CRM as the core of regular BD meetings or updates. Show the importance of having updated details on activities and opportunities. Use that data to make decisions about the next steps and hold people accountable for the activities and pursuits they are managing.
Use workflows and reminders in your CRM to keep pipeline data current. Send notifications when key dates are approaching, or milestones have been missed. It’s also critical to maintain clear visibility into upcoming deadlines, milestones and progress through dashboards and reports. Set up views specific to each user’s role and responsibilities or set up reports to be emailed on a consistent day to keep BD priorities top of mind.
4) Prioritize Where to Invest Your Time
Help staff identify where to focus their limited BD time for maximum impact. Use CRM dashboards and reports tailored to specific users or roles to help avoid analysis paralysis. Highlight key action items and upcoming milestones so each person knows exactly what they are responsible for and where to focus their time. Limit the view to just the clients, pursuits and activities covered in each person’s responsibilities so they can focus and not get overwhelmed.
Ensure client plans and pipelines reflect strategic priorities and identify the next best actions based on strategic goals, not just short-term deadlines.
With the client plans and pursuit strategies developed, there should be clear action items and owners so each person knows what to do. It will make it much clearer where their focus should be and ensure that the right clients and projects are getting their attention.
5) Track KPIs and Progress
The purpose of tracking your key performance indicators (KPIs) and progress toward goals is to identify challenges early and course correct where needed to keep the business on track. You may have established what you want to track, but you also need to set targets for your KPIs and routinely measure performance against goals and ensure that the targets are realistic.
Look at metrics across factors like service lines, market sectors or geographic regions to identify trends. Share results with staff and leadership through CRM dashboards and other typical communication methods to share successes and call attention to areas that are off track.
Establish an accountability schedule and ensure all individuals involved understand the expectations. Where will they need to make updates? When will updates be shared? And when sharing the status update, share more than just if the project is complete. Every status should lead to action – if something isn’t hitting the mark, what will we do about it? And, when things go well, will we share what was learned from it with others to encourage repeat success?
Leverage your CRM data to gain visibility into what's working well and where teams may need support or adjustments. Let the numbers guide your business development approach.
Make CRM Easy
The key is making your CRM system easy to use for staff at all levels. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Provide appropriate access and training so each person can be part of the solution
  • Simplify data entry and updates with mobile access, email integration and simplified data entry requirements
  • Streamline data entry by removing unnecessary fields or steps and organizing data logically for the everyday user
  • Create tailored searches, dashboards and reports to help team members prioritize and focus
  • Automate reminders and notifications and leverage workflows to populate data, reducing manual data entry where possible
Foster an environment where CRM is as critical to the business as your billing and invoicing system. When staff see how their small additions improve visibility firm-wide, they will be more motivated to keep data current. When your team starts to see how better data improves their client relationships and pursuit success rates, CRM will be essential to the business, not a burden.
Bring It All Together
With the right CRM strategy in place, A&E firms can transform disjointed business development activities into a structured, connected and measurable process. Defining metrics, strategies, owners and actions will get all team members on the same page, boost win rates and improve client relationships.
The end result is time savings for staff, easier reporting for leadership and ultimately, maximized business development impact through improved client and pipeline management. A properly implemented CRM system becomes the connective tissue that binds together your business development efforts into a comprehensive, results-driven program.
Megan R. Miller, CPSM, is an experienced marketing professional with a passion for helping A/E/C firms know more about their business and improve their processes through technology. She is a CRM guru who loves to help firms gain visibility into client relationships and pursuit pipeline while building processes to improve data integrity and efficiency for BD and marketing leaders. Megan is also the leader of the Deltek Clarity A&E Industry report, delivering benchmarks and trends to A&E leaders. Prior to joining Deltek, Megan spent more than a decade at an A&E firm supporting marketing and BD efforts. She has been a member of SMPS for 20 years and is a past president of Greater Cincinnati SMPS.