Five Habits of Incompetent BD Executives
Excerpted from: How to Win in the Government Market (by Mike Lisagor & Mark Amtower)

Five habits of incompetent BD executives
Based on over 250 management-coaching assignments, my own experience and an over-stimulated imagination, here are five habits of highly incompetent sales executives (and other leaders) and how to deal with them.

1. Avoids making decisions. There is a time to self-reflect and gather information. There is also a time to fish or cut bait. This individual’s inability to reach a timely conclusion can drive you crazy and contributes to organizational malaise and low win probabilities. Not unusual for this type of manager to avoid putting anything in writing. Your only solution is to document everything that does and doesn’t happen and email it back to them for verification.

2. Treats staff like personal servants. Stuck in a bygone era, these managers have an over inflated sense of importance and a lack of respect for subordinates. Their style would work successfully on pirate ships but is not a motivating influence in modern organizations. Best to disconnect your phone to avoid their midnight calls or texts and lock your (virtual) office door to hide from late Friday assignments due on Monday morning. Better yet…lose the Zoom login or move to another state.

3. Overly politically sensitive. At the top of this individual’s agenda is pleasing upper management. It comes before everything else including making the right decisions. Often collects facts only to ignore them or refuses to listen to bad news. Also has a difficult time staying on target or saying no to bad new business pursuits. Avoids conflict by saying yes to everything instead of acting as a filter to prevent subordinate burnout. Deal with this manager by regularly presenting a list of your tasks and how many you can accomplish within your resource restraints. Wait for a prioritization or make your own.

4. Hides true BD pipeline status. The bane of many government contractors, some managers believe risk avoidance means to only report the news that superiors want to hear. So, win probabilities are always 75% or higher with inflated revenue projections – until they aren’t. Then it is time to blame others. The only cure, other than forced backbone implant elective surgery, is to carefully document the correct sales opportunity status and keep on chugging.

5. Is technically proficient but people impaired. Beware technical experts with poor BD or people skills. Rather than admit to a lack of management acumen, they accept ever-increasing levels of responsibility without the necessary training. Their compensation and stature are inversely related to the number of subordinates who enjoy working for them.

They often wallow in the minute capture details when they should concentrate on the bigger issues and most important bids. Company leaders too often look the other way until the BD strategy implodes and the best BD staff depart for saner pastures. This will be a wonderful learning experience about how not to treat your team members when you get promoted.

By the way, I have a strong aversion to chain emails and social media posts. Especially the ones that say I’ll sprout something terrible like a second head unless I forward the message to ten of my friends. Still, I urge you to send this chapter to ten of your neediest business associates – it may be their only hope! As for the head thing – no promises!

A (usually) retired GovCon expert, writer, and musician, Mike Lisagor is the founder of Celerity Works and a co-founder of His books include, How to Win in the Government Market (with Mark Amtower), The Essential Guide to Managing a Government Project, and How to Develop a Winning SBIR Proposal (with Eric Adolphe). He can be reached at and The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.