Training APEX Awards Best Practice: Gilbane Building Company’s Business Development Onboarding Platform

In addition to a full-time coach dedicated to the business unit, the program features online modules, action learning projects, and videos.

APEX Awards

In response to a goal to lower its sales workforce turnover in 2020, a senior business development manager (BDM) at Gilbane Building Company proposed a full-time coach and trainer role to support new BDMs, key individuals who drive project pursuits, build proposals for clients, and create the backlog of projects the company depends on for continued revenue. That proposal was accepted and became the Business Development Onboarding Platform (BDOP).

Program Details

BDOP is a hybrid curriculum for new BDMs with a central focus on coaching—this is the first and only field training program at Gilbane with a full-time coach dedicated to the business unit. Overarching themes of the onboarding platform include:

  • Developing a culture of collaboration between BDMs and Operations personnel
  • Good judgment to pursue appropriate projects
  • Internal lobbying for skilled project teams

In addition to coaching, BDOP includes six online modules, five action learning projects, and 13 instructional videos. Development began in early 2022 and continued into a final phase for 2023. During training, BDMs learn:

  1. Gilbane’s proprietary Sales Lifecycle
  2. How to presell construction projects
  3. Pursuit management
  4. Capture planning
  5. Networking
  6. Collaborating with internal partners
  7. Differentiating services offered by Gilbane
  8. Financial acumen

Each module in the program contains a self-paced online course and an action learning plan (ALP) to support skill transfer to the job. First, self-paced modules introduce verbal information and promote positive attitudes toward specific tasks. Then, the BDM practices intellectual skills and cognitive strategies through the ALP.

ALPs incorporate current real-life pursuits into the training. For example, the ALP accompanying the online course for Pursuit Management uses an actual pursuit assigned to the BDM. The learner will generate leads, develop a list of potential clients, and then outline their roadmap. The module is complete after the BDM analyzes the success of their decisions and adjusts their roadmap as needed. They meet regularly with a senior BDM throughout the training for guidance and feedback. Upon graduation, BDMs will have received a full year of coaching for their role.

Personal coaching continues indefinitely beyond six months. In addition to the ongoing support, new BDMs also attend an annual, week-long sales conference with:

  • Guest speakers from inside the industry
  • A panel of current and past clients who candidly discuss their experience with Gilbane’s sales process
  • Lectures from leadership on best practices and market analyses


Some 40 percent of Gilbane’s total BDM workforce were trained in 2022. Because the program is one year long, and sales results may not be seen for more than a year due to the size of construction projects, Gilbane analyzed data for two groups of individuals in two-year blocks. Group one is a control group of BDMs hired between 2018 and 2020 who did not receive coaching or onboarding training. Group two comprises trained BDMs who were hired after 2020 and received both online training and coaching.

Results include:

  • The control group had a turnover rate of 28.57 percent over a two-year period.
  • The trained group had a turnover rate of 18.18 percent over a nearly three-year period.
  • In total, there has been a 10 percent reduction in turnover since the onboarding program launched.
  • For BDMs hired within each two-year period, trained BDMs have earned 49.58 percent more sales than the control group.

Recently, the program has been used as a differentiator during recruitment to attract new talent.

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.