Successful business development is not a big mystery. Anyone who has been seriously working on the issue for very long has a good idea what is required. Precise process can vary. Termonology can differ; but it is not rocket science. In substance, in virtually any arena, business development is about the same thing.
Create visibility and deliver value to a target market; listen and learn what drives your target; and then connect the value you provide with what your market cares about.
Sure, you can leverage efforts by being more strategic (and we’ve explored it plenty in other posts); but follow the above formula in a sustained fashion and you’re on your way.
There are plenty of resources that will provide advice on some of the questions. What does a viable target look like? How do you decide where to network? Should you blog and/or engage in the social media arena? Should you speak? Where should you speak? What should you write about? What do you talk about at those networking functions?
It is easy to find good advice and helpful tools.
So, if the formula is simple; and support is readily available, this begs a question. Or two.
Why do we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with what to do and where to go with our business development efforts? Why do we feel like we’re continually starting from scratch?
If business development isn’t rocket science (it isn’t), and if the nuts-and-bolts of a good plan are easily knowable (they are), why aren’t we making any progress?
If you’re thinking it is because the budget isn’t big enough, or the market just doesn’t know we’re here, or our website is the wrong color combination, or rates aren’t right — and the list could go on — if this is what you’re thinking, I’m betting business development will continue to seem mysterious.
Here is what is missing most of the time — business development just isn’t important enough.
Soften the language if need be. But the issue is often as simple as this just isn’t a priority. Until time is short.
You know you should make it a priority, but it is impossible to find the time. Until all you have is time. Intellectually it is not difficult to process the fact that waiting on the market to find you, or depending on others to send you work is not a good long term strategy. But the truth is that even with a slow-down here and there, things have worked pretty well.
And networking, speaking, writing, planning and doing the other things that you sense you should do is uncomfortable and difficult.
Most of the time the fact is that it simply hasn’t risen to an appropriate level of importance. The platform isn’t burning. Yet.
Not everyone is a rainmaker. But here’s what I’m fairly certain of: anyone committed and disciplined enough to begin by investing four hours a week can make this the year that the business development light comes on.
That’s not all it takes. This isn’t the BD version of “get-your-six-pack-abs-in-five-minutes. We didn’t say it was a piece-of-cake. We said it isn’t rocket science.
Where to begin?
Here are four ideas we’ve seen work for others.
1. Take stock of your network. Business development is about relationships. Your acquaintances, connections, friends and colleagues are your greatest assets. Create a list in a systematic way. But don’t put it off. Get your contacts in order.
2. Identify three (3) initial targets. Study the list of contacts you’ve whipped into shape, and pick three that can hire, refer, recommend and/or coach/counsel you. Choose wisely (smart targeting is a predictor of future biz dev success).
3. Initiate strategic visibility by connecting dots. Do some research and be creative here. If you’re beginning from scratch think about the content your targets are concerned with. Brainstorm around the people and organizations your targets are connected to. Then begin searching for ways to connect those dots. A communication plan that calendars specific action items is a valuable asset.
4. Don’t give up. Working on your list isn’t fun; and it won’t feel like progress early on. But stick with it. Building relationships, figuring out ways to deliver value and stay connected isn’t second nature to most of us. And (unless you are lucky) you won’t see much progress for a while. But stick with the four hours a week.
Two things will happen. Making the investment will become something a little closer to second nature. Or at least a part of your routine. And you’ll begin to see ways to leverage opportunities. You’ll find ways to convert those four hours into the time it takes to grow a practice.
The first step to business development success is to make it a real priority, devoting time and energy as if the future of your practice depends on it.
And this time next year you won’t be starting over. Again.