Becoming Our Best Client
Updated: Jul 11
Working with a lot of different types of organizations, I get asked relatively frequently whether my clients are doing things "right." That can mean a lot of things!
Business development teams can come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Some of my clients have mostly relationship managers, some have mostly proposal coordinators, some have mostly recruiters! But the composition of the team doesn't necessarily mean much for me.
What I look for are specific signals that mean that the capture or proposal process and my interactions with my client will go smoothly. These are a few factors that tell me that a new client is going to be easier to work with.
1. Clearly identified deliverables
In a lot of my introductory meetings my clients don't have clearly identified deliverables. Sometimes they are just looking to grow their roster of consultants. Sometimes they just want to understand what services I could provide to help their team. If you want to set up that kind of introductory meeting with me, you can schedule it here. But when a client does come with a specific project in mind, I know it will go well if they have a specific set of deliverables outlined.
2. Knowledge about their donor
Nothing makes me swoon quite like a client who can tell me exactly what their donor cares about! If they can say right off the bat that they have a relationship with the donor and know their hot button issues and priorities, then I know that they have the insider knowledge to make a more competitive bid.
3. Dedicated internal resources
I often get pulled in to support clients when their own benches are looking a little thin. That's fine! What I do want to see is sufficient internal staffing to fill the most essential roles of a proposal development team. If the proposal team is understaffed, it's a signal to me that the client hasn't invested enough time and resources to really prioritize this funding opportunity, and it's a signal they bidding might not be the best use of resources.
4. Clear reporting lines
As an external person coming in to a team, it can be difficult to learn immediately who the key decision makers are within the team, and who ultimately I report to. When hired to support a proposal, I often have multiple reporting lines - one to the proposal manager, one to the proposal decision maker, one to the business development team. Understanding ultimately who my reporting line ends at is essential to my understanding of what I'm called to deliver.
5. Interest and commitment from senior staff
Speaking to a senior business development staff person, rather than touching base with lower level staff, provides the signal that this opportunity that I've been brought in on is strategic and important to the institution. Not all opportunities are the same importance, but generally when I'm being brought in it's because the organization wants to prioritize investing in winning a bid. Having senior staff be vocal and engaged signals that they're serious.