It’s time we admitted something.

Business development is not complicated.

Hard work? Indeed…because it is, at its core, about succeeding at relationships…and we all know — whether we will admit it or not — almost anything having to do with relationships is hard work.

But our quest for formulas, fast-fixes and the ultimate planning template notwithstanding, biz dev success does not reside in some silver-bullet or one-size-fits-all solution.

Nor does professional service sales require the CV of a rocket scientist.

Strategically sound plans and solid processes are critical tools, to be sure; both increase efficiencies and facilitate success.

But the foundation of effective business development relationships is precisely the same as it is in a more personal context — a relentless focus on your target.

Getting BacK To Basics

Business development in the professional services arena is a simple process:

1. Identify a Target

2. Identify what your Target cares about

3. Think about and work on the relationship (speaking to what your target cares about) every day

Not a complicated process. Yet, we struggle mightily, and often seem to exercise creative genius when it comes to finding ways to complicate, over-think and sabotage our efforts.

Here are a few thoughts on how to keep it simple, and on track.

Step one — Targeting — is often problematic. It means letting go of the ever popular all-things-to-all-prospects strategy. Targeting suggests a proactive pursuit based on a specific benefit or solution that meets identified needs. In an ever-changing market with new opportunities each day, it is much easier to wait for the market to come to you, and react. And then wonder why your plan isn’t producing results.

Targeting implies a potential relationship. Or, to put it in terms of hard work — learning what a prospect might care about; what precipitates sleepless nights. And then speaking to that issue.

That’s the hard work. If you’re still with me, this is where the good news comes in. Building a business development plan is about one thing — connecting the dots between what your target cares about and what you can do to help. That’s it.

Spin it, complicate it and if-and-or-but it all you want; relationships that endure — professional or personal — are about listening, learning, and meeting needs. Do this, and trust develops. And the relationship grows stronger.

There is no cookie-cutter for frequency of commuication or type of contact; but suffice to say that when one is focused on and committed to the development and nurture of relationship, regular contact is part of the plan.

Are there skill sets, tools and more sophisticated processes that will help? No doubt. Listening skills are at the top of the list.

But anyone serious about business development can realize aspirations with attention to this simple process. Those who find a way to personalize it, and incorporate it as a daily routine are the ones that make it rain.