It takes time to make time
One of the key challenges for STEP members with respect to business development is lack of time. Today, practitioners are expected to develop their own business; full-time business development professionals have largely disappeared.
Lack of time often results in a lack of strategy, with business development pursued in a haphazard fashion, e.g. attending cocktail parties, having lunch with a banker or sending out a random article – whatever one can schedule in between ‘true work’. Business development is often treated as an afterthought and, as a consequence, precious time that is used for gaining new clients is much less effective than it could be.
Perhaps you believe your marketing department will handle business development, but marketing and business development are two separate things. Marketing provides the window dressing while the practitioner must ultimately make the sale. Clients choose to work with you only if you satisfy an emotional need. Your website, brochures or even the way you dress may help with your image, but it’s how, when, where, why and with whom you communicate that will determine your personal success.
Regardless of your firm’s objectives, effective business development requires strategic planning at the individual level because you are in a people business. To create an effective business development plan requires quality thinking and therein lies the Catch-22. Practitioners need to make time in the short term for planning – time they perceive they don’t have – to save them time in the long run. When bonuses are tied to revenue results, doesn’t it make sense to do so?
A proven methodology to create an effective business development plan is to decide on a goal and then the strategies, tactics and activities that will help you to achieve it.
Consider establishing a revenue and non-revenue goal, as it’s the latter that gives us our purpose. A non-revenue goal, such as enhancing one’s personal brand, will result in thinking of how to improve one’s skills to better serve the market. It’s a win-win scenario.
Typically one is given a revenue target by the firm. But why not give yourself a stretch target? Psychologically, when we have targets, they become the number we naturally work towards. Having a higher target than the one given to you may help to ensure that you reach the firm’s target and realise your self-imposed target too.
What are the best strategies you can employ to reach your goal? With a limited amount of time, three strategies are sufficient, because, when we try to do too many things, we dilute our effectiveness.
For example, one such strategy for those who receive their clients by way of referral is to create a team of advocates to refer the kind of clients you want. A team of advocates is a set of contacts who publicly support and recommend you. Advocates save you time because the clients they refer will want to work with you. Unless you don’t handle the meeting well, you’re almost always ensured a new client. Creating advocates takes careful planning. They need to know that there is no risk in referring a client of theirs to you.
What are the top three executable tactics that need to be completed that will satisfy each of your three strategies? If one works for a large company, there may be the opportunity to receive referrals from within. Therefore, two of the three tactics for advocate creation could be developing an internal and external team.
If you continue to spend time swimming upstream because you perceive a contact as a big fish and they’ve never sent you a referral, is your time being well used? Are the things you’re doing with the big fish effective? Should you throw this fish back and find another?
What are the three executable activities that will ensure the completion of each tactic? An activity could be providing your advocates with tools such as business cards, video messages or articles they can give to their clients. Make referring to you easy.
Putting your business plan into effect
Start with a future goal and work backwards through time with what you need to do to get there. The process removes guesswork and provides clarity. It liberates you from unproductive time-wasting.
Complete this timeline process once and every successive year the process will grow easier. Continue with what works and stop what doesn’t. The model will save you time and effort, and is certainly a lot more effective than throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks. There is a difference between the things that find us and the things we create.
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