From service to BD Success: Avoid these three mistakes when hiring veterans Liudmila Chernetska

As you onboard veterans for business development roles, you need to invest in the right training, according to BD expert Nic Coppings.

Hiring former government officials or retired military personnel with established relationships seems like a shortcut for companies looking to accelerate organic growth. After all, isn't BD success all about customer relationships?

Maybe not!

While relationships are crucial, hiring solely to access a potential network might not deliver the results you anticipate.

For instance, Chris, a recently retired colonel, touted his network strength during the interview process, and the hiring manager envisioned him helping to quickly grow their Army business.

Yet within six months, Chris had resigned after struggling to convert connections into winning relationships. Gathering the competitive intel needed to win required a different mindset and skillset than his previous experience.

We've seen many promising veteran new hires fail because of three common yet easily avoidable mistakes:

Mistake #1: Expecting them to 'hit the ground running'

Leaders often overestimate a new hire's network's strength, relationship quality, and readiness to engage customers while underestimating the adjustment period and training required for success. BD requires a different skillset and mindset than most veterans initially bring.

Additionally, hitting the ground running doesn't account for many veterans' fear of being perceived as 'that sales guy' by their previous colleagues who are now their potential customers. Overcoming this takes training and support, not just a "you got this" pep talk.

In their previous roles, mission success was based on a foundation of planning, preparation, and training. Providing a similar structure will not only bolster their confidence but also their ability to fully leverage the value of their network.

Mistake #2: The limited shelf-life of GovCon networks

Agencies are characterized by frequent personnel changes, meaning that even a solid network has a limited shelf-life of 2-3 years. What then?

Existing relationships are a starting point, but the ability to continually grow a network is critical for long-term success. Elite BD professionals never exhaust their network because they prioritize growing them.

Rather than fixating on the size of their network, it's more important to focus on their people skills and ability to continue growing their network.

Mistake #3: Assuming they already have the skills needed for BD success

Many BD leaders mistakenly believe that because their new hires will call on 'friendlies,' they don't need any engagement skill development. This assumption assumes they have good relationship quality and the skills to transform personal connections into winning relationships.

Even well-connected experts benefit from customer engagement, advanced communication skills, and emotional intelligence training. Personal connections make it potentially easier to schedule a meeting, but this means little if they can't effectively use that time to qualify, conduct deep discovery, or shape an opportunity.

The worst is realizing during a losing debrief that the outcome could have been different had they understood the value of a piece of intelligence that was shared but not communicated to the capture team.

Effective BD requires more than just chit-chatting with past colleagues. It is the ability to gather game-changing intelligence and find real discriminators by asking the right questions to the right stakeholders at the right time.

Without training, new hires will struggle. Investing in a program like BD Essentials can bridge the gap with best practice skills for engaging customers, strengthening relationships, and reducing call anxiety.

The bottom line:

As the Govcon market becomes more competitive and contract values grow, the cost of failed new hires has increased substantially. Let's stop setting our veterans up for failure by overestimating their network quality and their ability to leverage their contacts without the training they need for success.

If you are unsure about a potential new hire's readiness, have them complete the free Hi-Q Assessment. This evaluation measures their use of 20 engagement best practices and provides recommendations for further development.

You can empower your veteran new hires to thrive in their new role and maximize the value of their networks by equipping them with the specialized skills necessary for BD success.

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. Connect with Nic on LinkedIn for more information on how to win more with winning relationships.