The impact of The Great Resignation is all around us. The statistics associated with it are compelling. There are record levels of voluntary job departures. While there may be net job growth, we know that positions are staying open longer, and we know how expensive it is to onboard new hires.
Our focus at The Artemis Partnership is solely on business development and new business pursuits. That’s why this finding from the Harvard Business Review is significant. HBR reports that resignation rates have been highest among mid-career employees. It’s likely that this cohort of departed employees includes some – or many – who were vital to business development. Perhaps in sales or business development functions, or in important, related areas such as marketing, data analysis, or administration. Such departures would create some heartache for business development activities.
But more troubling is this: If you are in professional services, this mid-career group includes people who are vitally important to client satisfaction and retention, and certainly to business development, proposals, and pitches. I’m referring to architects, auditors, lawyers, designers, account managers, creatives, engineers, project managers, analysts, estimators, and so on. People who are at the heart of your pursuits of projects and service agreements worth six to nine figures of income.
Despite this loss of resources, we’re painfully aware of many firms in professional services who have tried to maintain a high pace of business development activities. Essentially, still trying to receive as many RFQs/RFPs as possible. Perhaps they’re automating some response systems. Or they’re cutting back on some BD activities associated with each pursuit. We’ve seen that, inevitably, this approach leads to winning a lower percentage of their pursuits. And it’s understandable, as this reduction of time and effort into each pursuit will be obvious to decision-makers on the client or prospect side.
These firms are practicing a strategy we call “Pursue more. Win less.” In doing so, they’re asking their remaining talent to work as hard as they did before, and in many cases, even harder. And, to us, this is contributing to The Great Resignation.
Let’s go back to why mid-career employees – and others – are leaving. Among the prominent, well-documented reasons are perceptions of misalignment with:
- Work-life balance
- Meaningful work
Organizations that are practicing “Pursue more” while having fewer resources are playing right into the mindset of The Great Resignation. These teams
- Minimize creativity.
- Force cookie-cutter solutions into their pursuits.
- Stifle individual contributions, collaboration, teamwork.
- Isolate people from the bigger purpose of the pursuit and, maybe, the bigger purpose of the organization.
- Mess up work-life balance.
- Can’t provide adequate compensation as they’re not bringing in enough wins.
- Chase low-hanging fruit, which is often doesn’t excite or motivate remaining team members. It’s a chore.
There’s a counter-strategy that’s always been preferable, long before we learned what “pandemic” means. Organizations that have practiced it have always had higher new business win rates, more revenue and profit from their BD activities, and a higher ROI on revenue growth. More importantly, these organizations have stronger growth and client-centric cultures, and more motivated people. Great Resignation
We call this strategy “Pursue less. Win more.”
The practice of this strategy leads firms to be much more selective in their business development pursuits and activities. This allows them to be more focused and intentional on the pursuits they choose to take on. And this higher degree of focus, or what we call “intensity” has long been correlated with far superior BD metrics.
The strategy also provides business development team members with far better roles and responsibilities. Here’s what it can mean to participate on a BD team that practices “Pursue Less. Win More”:
- They get to know the prospect better. They build stronger relationships. They craft better solutions.
- They pitch more strategically by pursuing work that’s core their objectives, principles and values.
- They’re not stretched as thin. They have the chance for better work-life balance.
- They’re challenged and given meaningful ways to contribute.
- They work collaboratively, avoiding boiler room or production line approaches.
- They work in closer, more tight-knit teams.
- They win more often, so they have more available compensation.
- Their firm makes more profit which can be reinvested in the business, including systems that benefit employees.
It’s crystal clear to us that “Pitch Less, Win More” is the best, and perhaps the only strategy for success during The Great Resignation. Organizations that practice it might experience fewer departures. They will be more attractive to outside talent which will aid recruiting. And they’ll be able to succeed with diminished resources.
About the author
Bob Wiesner is managing partner, Americas of The Artemis Partnership, a global consultancy focused on helping its clients improve the results of their business development efforts. Wiesner has been working in this area for over 25 years. He’s the author of Winning Is Better: The Journey to New Business Success.