At its annual Build Business conference, the Society for Marketing Professional Services continued to grapple with the changing roles of marketers and business developers. Almost 700 members gathered in Los Angeles Aug. 19-21.

With technical staffs shifting to the role of the "seller-doer," the business developer is needed now for market research, client development planning, coaching, mentoring, and training, says SMPS President Barbara Shuck, who is marketing communications manager at Wilson & Co. Inc. "The non-technical business developer can help technical colleagues stay ahead of client opportunities, understand the spectrum of client needs and help conduct the process to a project win."

Understanding of this shift stemmed from the SMPS Foundation's book, AEC Business Development, The Decade Ahead, published last year. Authors interviewed many clients who said they want to talk with the people who will be doing the work from the first meeting. A new foundation research project involves more in-depth research on changing business development models for A-E-C firms. The study surveyed 1,300 architects, engineers, contractors, and marketers. Scott Butcher, foundation president and vice president at JDB Engineering Inc., says the findings document that "the percent of time that technical staff members spend developing business has increased significantly."

In partnership with the marketing research program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the foundation also is developing a "hit rate" benchmarking study. Most firms track success (hit rate) based on the number of proposals won vs. the number submitted. "What I found somewhat shocking is that only 38% track hit rates in terms of dollars! What happens if you win the six smallest proposals, but lose the four largest ones?" Butcher asks. The hit rate findings will come out later in 2015.