PM Need to Know: What is Business Development?

David Burstein, P.E.
Posted on: 02/20/20
Written by: David Burstein, P.E.

This to do 1. Own today printed frame beside teal headsetProject managers can and should play a key role in developing new business in the architecture and engineering firm.

Some do, but too many project managers don’t know enough about marketing, sales, or client management. As a result, they miss opportunities to grow their firms and themselves.

In the A/E industry, terms like marketing, sales, and business development get thrown around casually, often meaning different things to different people. Here are PSMJ’s definitions:

  • Marketing – All the activities involved in finding a client with a project and deciding to pursue that project.

  • Sales – All the activities from the time a “go” decision is made to pursue a project until the firm is selected and the contract is signed. 

  • Client Management – All the activities for existing clients whose goal is to find new leads, either with that client or from a referral from that client.

  • Business Development – The umbrella that covers marketing, sales, and client management.

As firms create a firm's Business Development Plan, it's important to treat each “leg” of the triangle separately—they each require a different approach. For example:

Marketing – What characteristics are you looking for in a quality client? Where can you find such clients? How do you create an environment where they seek you out?

Sales – What is your hit rate on competitive proposals? How can you raise it?

Client management – Who are your existing quality clients? Are you getting all the work you can from them? If not, what else can you get, how can you get it and who is responsible for getting it?

Project managers are the gatekeepers to the firm's profits and long-term health. With a better understanding of business development,  project managers can become more effective seller-doers, feel more comfortable in the business development role, and increase value in their firms.


About the Author: David Burstein P.E. is Director of Client Services for PSMJ Resources, Inc., the nation’s largest provider of management information to the engineering/architectural professions. As part of his responsibilities, he provides consulting and training services on the subjects of strategic planning, marketing, project management, human resources, quality, finance and ownership transition. He is lead instructor and developer of PSMJ's  A/E/C Project Management Bootcamp.


A/E/C Project Management BootcampArchitecture, engineering, and construction firms have plenty of ways to spend money, but only one way to make it...through projects. A wise investment in project management is absolutely a wise investment in improved profits, improved client satisfaction, and improved value. Unlike a generic project management training seminar, PSMJ's A/E/C Project Management Bootcamp is focused on real-world A/E/C project management, and is delivered by proven A/E/C project management experts.


Register Now! 


You also might be interested in:

10 Things Every Project Manager Must Know

10 Tips for Effective Project Management with BIM

How to Manage Multiple Projects With The Same Client

Need to Know: Project Closeout In a Nutshell




May 19, 2022

Designing Your Ideal Day to End the Chaos

Managing our time and energy has - and always will - be critical to our success in almost all aspects of our lives. Leaders and managers especially need to proactively “change the..

Read More
April 21, 2022

8 Questions to Ask When Looking for Software to Manage Your A/E Firm

You have many options if you’re an architecture or engineering (A/E) firm decision-maker and are looking for software to help you manage your organization. Systems run the gamut..

Read More
April 15, 2022

Why Strategic Plans Languish and Fail

There’s no question that strategic planning is essential for firm success. Yet despite this, the vast majority of strategic plans fail or fail to be fully or successfully..

Read More