Why invest in your frontline people

Gettyimages.com/ Teera Konakan

Your technical experts are close to your customers and with the right training can be a powerhouse for business development efforts, Hi-Q Group's co-founder and managing principal Nic Coppings writes.

As a government contracting executive, you understand the challenge of consistently hitting your organic growth goals. You might have even rolled out company-wide growth initiatives to increase on-contact growth and recompete win rates.

It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Your frontline delivery team has great relationships, and your participation incentives appear motivating, but rather than embrace the initiative, they actively resist it.

Lack of Training, Results in Lack of Support

Many organizations ask their frontline teams to perform business development tasks without training and wonder why their "Everyone’s in BD" initiative only causes resistance and pushback.

It makes sense because, after years of cultivating customer trust in their technical capabilities, the frontline perceive BD as “using” those trusted relationships to push, peddle, and perhaps manipulate the customer into purchasing additional services.

The Double-Threat Advantage

The answer lies not in forcing your frontline team to be traditional salespeople but in encouraging them to become a “double threat.” They already have excellent technical skills. Now imagine their potential if they improve their people skills.

Relationship quality is often the best predictor of success. Your frontline team's ability to engage customers in a manner everyone loves will create not only discriminators for your organization but also set you apart from competitors who rely solely on their technical capability.

The benefits of people skill training for your frontline teams include:

  • Improved Customer Intimacy: They become the customer's go-to resource, able to identify customer needs and co-create solutions. This secures your recompete wins and on-contract growth and favorably positions you to take away competitors' contracts.
  • Enhanced Customer Intelligence: Their ability to connect with customers on a deeper level provides higher-quality intelligence about their unmet needs much earlier in the acquisition process.

Transform Your Team

Studies show a 27% increase in on-contract growth opportunities for companies with trained frontline teams. However, these trained subject matter experts will also increase your recompete win rates and elevate your Pwin on competitive takeaways and new opportunities.

Transforming your frontline delivery team into growth partners requires:

  1. Skill Development - Include customer engagement and BD Essentials like emotional intelligence, active listening, questioning, and relationship development strategies. Remember, these are technical SMEs, not sales or BD people, so ensure the curriculum is specific to their roles, needs, and customer interactions.
  2. Mindset Reframing: BD/ customer engagement must be reframed as a collaborative problem-solving process focused on developing winning relationships and understanding customer needs at a deeper level. This mindset shift must replace the negative perceptions of traditional sales with the positive perceptions of how emotionally intelligent modern engagements help customers achieve their goals and mission objectives.
  3. Motivation and Accountability: Your frontline team must see themselves as a part of the growth engine. They must be supported and then held accountable (and incentivized) for on-contract growth, winning recompetes, driving innovation, and supporting the BD Team on takeaway or new opportunities in adjacent departments or technologies.

Beware of Your Assumptions  

In today's contracting environment, consistent organic growth may depend on those who haven’t participated in winning business in the past. However, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that your frontline personnel will become BD contributors simply because you ask them.

It will take new skills, mindset, and confidence, and even then, not everyone on the frontline will “want” to do it. So, find willing participants and give them the training and support needed for success.

Do this correctly, and your training investment will be a small price to pay to achieve on-contract growth rates of 27% or more.

With over 20 years in the Government market, Nic Coppings, a senior partner at Hi-Q Group, has been pivotal in helping clients secure billions (and counting) in contract wins by enhancing their customer relationships and intelligence quality. Hi-Q training programs go beyond theory, equipping teams with the 'how' to forge Winning Relationships and weaponize customer intelligence. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn for more information on how to win more with winning relationships.