With a New Year upon us, it’s a good time to decide on the outcomes you want to achieve in the months ahead.
Having clarity of purpose and ambition is an essential starting point, and will form the basis of any personal plan you establish.
In supporting many professionals over the years to achieve their business development goals, we are all too aware of the pitfalls that can derail the most solid of ambitions. To ensure these don’t get in the way of your BD success in 2018, we’ve shared three BD resolutions to include in your plans.
1. Create business development disciplines that become BD habits
BD disciplines are different to BD goals. Goals can be achieved – they will have a completion date and a measure of success. Disciplines are different; they are the way you do things – eg the discipline of exercising twice a week, or strategising and planning each day.
Strong BD disciplines of, for example, keeping in touch with at least five contacts each week create a habit – the intrinsic feeling of ‘this is how I do my business development’. More importantly, habits help you to get the results you want.
So for 2018 decide on the BD disciplines you will commit to, and embed them into your daily or weekly to-do lists. Don’t be reticent to share them with appropriate colleagues or ask for help from a ‘BD Buddy’. Doing so will increase the likelihood of you forming strong BD habits in the weeks and months ahead.
2. Prioritise BD in your time and attention allocations
Time is one thing that can’t be replaced. As a professional you can often find that part of the time you are working on what is important, and most of the time you are working on what is urgent. The urgent, however, can easily crowd out the important if you let it. It takes professional discipline to physically invest time in doing the important and to avoid always reacting to the urgent.
We’re not just talking here about client crises – which need to be dealt with – instead we mean the little urgencies that break your concentration and take your attention away from the things that are going to make a real difference to you. Most BD fits into the important but not urgent category and, as such, it often falls off many daily ‘to do’ lists.
This is a challenge for all senior professionals. You need to be available and responsive, of course, but you also need to be proactive, and fit as much as you can into a day. If you are like most of us, with people, devices and other technologies constantly interrupting you, it’s very easy for your attention to be diverted quickly from one thing to the other.
According to Nobel Prize winning Daniel Kahneman and others, every time you divert your attention from one task to another it takes up to two minutes to adjust your mind and concentrate on the new task. It basically means that you are potentially wasting a significant amount of unproductive time in a day if you are multi-tasking.
So what’s the solution? If you are reading your emails, read your emails – and do it properly and completely. Deal with those that require a response, get rid of all those messages you don’t want, and move to folders anything that needs filing. Extract the tasks that you need to undertake. The point is, block out the time to do your email, do it thoroughly and don’t be distracted until you have done them. Similarly, if you are going to make calls, block out the time for them. Get all the numbers and information you need in advance, close your internet browser and email package and focus fully on the call task.
Be efficient, get immersed in the task, do it fully and then stop. We all have the same amount of time; but some of us use it much more productively for business development.
3. Have the resilience to go after your ideal clients, not just easy work… and to say no to work that’s not on strategy
It takes courage to say ‘no’ to new work opportunities, and courage to reduce your target list to a smaller number of quality opportunities (rather than have the false comfort of a long list of potential organisations who may possibly give you work).
The fear of narrowing down your target list and contact list to a smaller number can paralyse some professionals. For those who do embrace it, they gain value from a much more laser-like focus on individuals and organisations who are more likely to give them work. They also get the added benefit of a manageable list and the chance to spend quality time thinking about the value they can bring to those potential clients’ situations.
So review your target list and clear out any ‘dead wood’ within it. Focus instead on those clients, prospects and contacts who appeal to you, or you genuinely value working with.
If you have revenue or client growth targets for 2018, being focused on the how you will achieve them as well as simply what they are, will give you a greater chance of success. There will be obstacles along the way and many other demands on your time. By building in resolutions, coupled with working disciplines which are focused on increasing your likelihood of you effectively implementing business development, you will ensure the year ahead does indeed bring you the positive outcome and changes you want.