No one should be surprised. It is, after all, human nature. On the other hand, it is a distraction, a resource drain and a mistake we insist on making over and over.

“It” is our seemingly relentless search for a business development Silver Bullet.

From the siren call of a social platform to the promises that the newest technology tool is the answer; from quick fixes to motivate practicioners to freshly edited insights that will flip a magic switch, the (embarrassingly secret) hope that there is something — anything — that will instantly make it rain is one of the great impediments to game-changing business development and marketing success.

Most of us must confess — the pull is so powerful that strategic focus is replaced by fits and starts with every new “opportunity” — real, or imagined.

(Yes, even the real opportunities can dramatically impede progress when a strategic plan is interrupted. The fact that a departure from the charted course might result in measured success only reinforces a behavior; when characterized as an asset — flexible, opportunistic – even (mistakenly) entrepreneurial — we may simply have given in to the shiny silver bullet. It is a heck of a lot easier than committing to a strategy.)

Sure…in the absence of a real game plan, being athletic enough to turn on a dime may well be the best option. But don’t mistake it for a Strategy (with a capital S).

And when we wonder at the advances made by competitors, or are mystified by an inability to leverage investments in business development, consider these two simple tenets:

  • Focus wins.
  • A measure of real strategy is whether it facilitates focus, empowering an organization to say “No” to the endless stream of “opportunities.”

Absent unlimited resources, few organizations are really flexible enough to react to every great opportunity that comes along. Before we alter strategy in order to take advantage of something too good to pass up, consider the implication; while we might call it opportunistic, we may have a business development strategy (with a very small “s”) that is little more than waiting (and hoping) for the next opportunity.

A successful business development strategy speaks (in a definitive but not necessarily sexy way) to three questions:

  • Who is the target, and why? — which implies you have taken stock of market realities and your organization’s capabilities;
  • What “business drivers” are top of mind, impacting critical decisions, and how do you connect to these drivers?;
  • What must we do to connect with the decision maker (that is, how complete is our decision-maker relationship map)?

Silver bullets are rare. Those that address this three-point strategy…rarer still.