If you wrestle with the practical aspects of developing and executing on a business development strategy (you’re not alone!), very few things will bring the clarity that comes with a focus on Targets.

Check that.

Few things will have the impact that comes with a focus on Smart Targeting.

From no target at all (waiting for the phone to ring), to a target that is so large or nebulous as to make it impossible to discern a bulls-eye, to not having enough — target identification seems anathema to many professional service providers.

In an effort to change the conversation, here are 5 ideas that, when incorporated, will have dramatic (and positive) impact on business development planning.

1) Get strategic.

The “S” word may be one of the most over-used in our planning vocabulary; but it is important to understand in this context. Targets are not created equal.  Smart targeting:

a) defines a universe, providing focus for all efforts;

b) plays to a strength, building on expertise and understanding;

c) factors the metrics, so that you’re not aiming at unprofitable targets;

d) incorporates affinity, to keep the imagination engaged.

2) Think names.

Identifying an industry is (a little) better than no target at all; a company is a bit more relevant; but when it comes to the development of business, an individual almost always occupies the bull’s eye.  The axioms are familiar, but nonetheless accurate – people hire people; relationship trump everything.  While it may be necessary to start at a macro level, success hinges on the identification of individuals.  This is where to invest time and resources.

3)  Target outside the box.

The smart target list is constructed with a relational (or connected) approach, and includes at least three categories:

a) Those who, based on relationship to one making hiring decision, will recommend you;

b) Those who will advise (coach) you on the elements of a winning pursuit of another target;

c) Those able to connect you to a referral, coaching or hiring target;

4)  Suspend disbelief.

Business development is about the pursuit of relationship.  It requires time and tenacity.  Once you’ve identified a target, don’t talk yourself out of a pursuit prematurely.  Absent solid rationale for change, commit to a 12 to 18 month plan of action.

5)  Grow your list.

One of the toughest business development hurdles is working with a target list large enough to keep a pipeline full of new business, even in the slow seasons.  And we all know that when there are clients to serve, business development moves down the list of priorities.  That acknowledged, constant focus on numbers 1 and 2 above provide the formula for growth and stability.

The premise is that smart targeting is the foundation upon which an efficient and rewarding business development plan is constructed.  Does this idea resonate?  What should be added to the list?  How would you expand on these five ideas?