For many professionals we work with, business development (BD) has to ‘slot in’ around a myriad of other client, staff and other business responsibilities. And yet how successful a professional is in attracting new work greatly influences the status they achieve in other areas of their professional life.
It’s important not to treat BD as a luxury – something to be actioned when more time magically appears in the diary. Instead, the road to success involves making practical BD-focused actions integral to your working week.
At the base level this can simply mean focusing on the right, profitable, opportunities, keeping up to speed on developments in the marketplace and preparing rigorously for important calls, meetings and pitches. Winning work may also require us to be bold from time to time to create or seize on an opportunity.
So, to help your BD approach and success in 2019, here are 3 things to consider.
1. Know what success would look like for you
In our experience, any professionals can spread themselves too thinly when it comes to business development and can lack a clear view of what success will look like for them. This will naturally depend on your role and experience, but it is always important to consider what to focus on; whether it is delivering excellent client service and broadening an existing relationship or bringing in a new target.
Spend some time reflecting on what a good return on your BD activity would be in the short, medium and long-term. Think about your current strengths and how you can play to these, but don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and get outside your comfort zone to achieve your career goals. Think about the attributes of high performing professionals and which of those you can develop.
As a couple of examples, we have seen many leading professionals ‘reinventing’ themselves or becoming noted for a particular service or their knowledge of an issue of a hot topic. For those who are less experienced, it could be more realistic to have targets such as the contribution to clients and client teams or developing a network, profile or being known as the ‘go to’ person by peers.
2. Take stock of what’s working for you
Success in professional services business development normally takes motivation and discipline. Think about what you enjoy doing, as well as which clients and targets are right for you and your firm. If you have a personal BD Plan, make sure it is not gathering dust somewhere or is just a word document which has been filed away. Use such plans as live documents.
Think about how you can make time for important business development activities so that you create some momentum. Success can take time, of course, so review your actions and overall targets. Think about the activities which will help you progress, and select appropriate ‘touch points’ to help build or maintain relationships.
Keep at the forefront of your mind the importance of a strong internal and/ or external profile.
3. Improve your ‘currency’
We all have our own ways of keeping up to speed and there is a variety of business intelligence media which give valuable insights on clients and the sectors in which they operate.
Think about how well you really know your clients beyond what is in the public domain. Put yourself in their shoes to consider their likely issues, challenges and opportunities.
It is also important to think about who knows them and the strength of various relationships. For example, do you know what key stakeholders think of your organisation and your competitors? Do you know their preferred working styles? What are your individual contacts working on and how can you support them in their respective roles?
Think about how up-to-speed you are with the current trends and future issues affecting your clients. Think beyond what is in the public domain and consider how well you really know the key areas which they are focusing on, as an organisation and as individuals. Your analysis can be used as the basis to take an idea to a client or provide the framework for questions to get closer to them and their issues.
It’s very easy to put BD off but, at the end of the working day, if you do you are putting your focus and likely future work pipeline at risk. If you want to grow your network, expand your client portfolio, win new work, raise your profile and/or gain a promotion, you will need to invest in the inputs to gain the outcomes. That investment may take the form of treating your personal BD with the same importance you give to working for one of your major clients.
Success tends to come to those who are disciplined and dedicated – and challenge their comfort zone to develop and convert opportunities they have proactively created. The key is to make a start and keep taking small but regular steps on a day by day and week by week basis – implementation is the watchword here.
Can we help?
And if you need help along the way through coaching, training, e-learning etc, why not get in touch. We’ll be happy to support your Business Development success in 2019.