A BD plan is an important part of any Business Development strategy. If you don’t know what it is that you are planning to do in the year ahead, then your BD will, at best, be an ad-hoc activity. Like many in B2B and professional services firms, your BD will basically be you chasing any shiny object or opportunity that you see directly in front of you.
Many people have a BD plan, and many people refresh it every year. The word “refresh” has many meanings, in a lot of cases it can be that you simply change the date on last year’s plans. If this is the case, it suggests that the plan is simply a ‘tick the box’ exercise. If this is the case for you, it is highly unlikely to help you win new clients or grow revenue from your existing client base. If these are your aims for the year ahead it really pays to have a well thought out BD Client Action Plan in place. By that, I mean your BD plan needs to be action-orientated, so that it is a living document that guides what you do during the year.
To help you avoid having a partner plan or BD plan that simply sits in your drawer, below are the 7 top things that you need to consider and include in this year’s BD Plan.
The 7 top things to include in your BD Plan:
1. An honest commitment to your BD plan
Technically this isn’t something that you can include in your written plan. Yet, it is actually the most important thing you can do. If you are completing your BD plan because your Managing Partner or boss has told you to do so, or because your colleagues all do it, there’s zero point in doing it. It’s simply a waste of your time.
To make your BD plan a successful one, you have to be honest with yourself. Only commit to actions that you will follow. After all, in most cases in professional services you have to deliver the work that you win. Therefore, only put in a level of BD activity that, given your other time commitments, you will actually deliver on. Otherwise, your BD plan is destined to fall into the same category as many New Year’s resolutions. Great intentions that ultimately don’t survive much past February!
2. Understand and define your market
You probably feel that you can provide your accounting, legal or engineering services across many sectors and markets. However, trying to be all things to all people, will actually mean you miss out on more opportunities than if you position yourself for one or two key market sectors, or clearly defined target client bases.
Your technical expertise is really not a differentiator in any way to your clients. They see most professional services firms as being broadly similar, one full-service firm looks much like another. It’s why in recent years boutique firms have done relatively well. Because a boutique firm usually has a defined service they specialize in, and the really clever ones usually have specialized client sectors they operate in.
So, think about where your current clients sit, where your passions lie, and commit to a certain sector or business demographic (e.g. SMEs, franchises etc.) that you will concentrate your BD efforts on.
3. Define your Personal Brand
This may seem like one of those pesky marketing buzzwords, and there’s lots of advice for people in professional services and B2B on how to develop and build their personal brand. Putting any aversions aside as to the term ‘personal branding’ that you might have, it actually is a core component of your BD Plan.
Now you understand your target market, the next step is to align what you stand for to that market. This means really starting to think about how you want your target market to perceive you. This then allows you to start building a personal brand that aligns to your objectives.
4. Keep your plans achievable
There’s a whole host of acronyms around planning from KISS (which I’m sure has now faded out due to the original use of the word “Stupid”!) and the more well-known SMART goals. However, what is key is to not overdo it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your ultimate client goals and dreams are unlikely to be achieved in 6 months, or even a year.
Therefore, focus on, say, three key goals that you can realistically achieve this year. It might be getting a speaking slot at the year’s most well-respected conference or virtual conference. It could be getting your first paid piece of work from your dream client, or to get those important first meetings with decision-makers at your target clients.
5. Book in time for you to deliver against your BD plan
You may wonder why this has come before the actual planning of activities; it would seem logical to do this at the end of the process. However, if you book in your diary/calendar time at least every week where you will carry out your committed BD activities, then you’re off to a great start.
Make sure even if it in one week it clashes with something you can’t reschedule, that you move that week’s BD time to a different day that week. Make it one of your goals in your BD plan to stick to your weekly BD time.
6. Map out your year’s BD activities.
This is where for those highly detailed people you can get very granular. List the number of meetings you want during the year with each of your existing clients. These meetings should be ones to develop your client relationships, not related to the work you are delivering. Do the same for your target and prospective clients. Define who you need to meet and how many times.
If you’re going to run educational seminars, workshops, speak at events, write content or even develop some e-learning, then add this into your plans. Make it specific and have dates committed. This will help keep you honest.
7. Share your BD plan with someone you respect
The last part is important. To help you keep on track, it pays to have someone who can help hold you accountable. There’s a reason that bootcamps and fitness crazes like F45 do so well. It’s because working with others keeps us focused, and helps us ensure we deliver on what we commit to.
If you have a BD team in your firm, I would hope that you would work alongside these professionals and get their input, and use them as a trusted colleague who helps keep your BD plan on track. If you don’t have the luxury of this resource, then a colleague can fulfill this role, or you may look to get an external mentor or coach.
Whoever you rely on, give them permission to hold you to account. Allow them to call you out when you have failed to deliver against your commitments. These conversations may be awkward, but they will ultimately be the ones that over the year provide the highest value.
Your BD plan is your crutch for the year
So rather than simply changing the year in last year’s BD plan, spend some real time and thought on this year’s plan. Spend real time on thinking about your clients and the markets they operate in. As always, tailor your messages and services to meet these demands. Finally, create an action-orientated plan, that you follow throughout the year.
Do the above and your BD plan will help you grow your revenue.