Having a Business Development Plan: D.TER Your Competition
By Rachel Anevski, Matters of Management –
July 20, 2016
Whether you are a lead partner involved in the business development committee at your firm, a controller of a small organization responsible for driving business performance, or a sole practitioner, it is likely that you did not envision your future to include business development.
Business development is not something to do just when you have time; it is the difference between your organization and its competition. Top-of-class companies employ sound business development plans. In terms of importance, a business development plan runs a close second to your operating agreement.
Basically, if you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business. As business consultants and advisors, you know that line better than anyone. So why is it so hard to write it out or practice it? And why do some companies feel they don’t need a plan?
There are small companies that function with an unwritten business plan: Basically the owner of the company and perhaps a few key executives are the plan. Eventually, as that type of organization grows, it becomes critical to find a sales replacement workforce. Unfortunately, some organizations find that out too late and cease to exist. For example: A small business that functions with the business owner as the exclusive point of sales contact will likely lose value immediately in the event that the owner becomes incapable to run the business. You may call this lack of a succession plan; it can also be called lack of business development sustainability.
Some plans are more marketing based and never actually transition into sales. This type of plan frustrates business owners and firm leaders because marketing can be costly and have limited impact on the bottom line if executed poorly. Take the visual of a volleyball game: Your marketing team is on one side with positions of branding, collateral, database management, social media, communications and public relations. They all volley together and are necessary components. With the lack of a strong striker, however, the ball cannot make it over the net. A spike over the net is completed by a sales professional. Therefore, plans that are heavily marketing based and do not incorporate a business development or sales component are missing the win.
Elements of a Business Development Plan
Traditional business development plans typically follow the script below:
- An executive summary.
- Goals and tactics.
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and industry analysis.
- Financial and organizational structuring.
- Expected results, measures of success.
These types of plans take dedicated employees or consultants with significant expertise to draft, implement and hold people accountable; however, they are proven to be very effective if given the right amount of dedication. While this system works, there are other ways to develop a business plan that are equally effective and less demanding.
Here is an abridged but still effective pro forma plan that doesn’t steal billable hours away from executives: By (1) isolating a company’s differentiation, (2) developing a sales education strategy and then (3) executing just a few simple tasks, an organization can produce extraordinary results. Plans like these actually start at the end result and work backward. When you know what you look to achieve, you can back into a formula to arrive at it.
Develop a value proposition for your product or service in conjunction with a needs assessment to determine your differentiation. Often the product or service from one organization is similar to another’s, and it becomes the experience that sets you apart. Ask yourself: Why should your customer choose you over your competitor? What is the experience your customer receives when working with you that makes you superior to other services? Now write your differentiation story.
Train Your Staff
Next, determine how to train your staff to sell. Developing an organization of brand ambassadors will increase your sales tremendously and will not leave you blindsided when you look for the next tier of business development executives. Having a sales education strategy as a part of your overall business development plan helps to determine if your company is best suited for a select sales team, department of sales executives, or hybrid marketing and sales. It also gives your employees further confidence in who and what they represent. Ever hear the story of the audit manager who never sold a tax return because it wasn’t his niche? I haven’t either, and his name never went on the door. Cross-selling services, especially ones that you do not have to complete yourself, is a sure way to drive sales and fast-track your career. Companies often lack the ability to cross-train staff or even educate them about the other services they provide. Simply making staff aware of the diverse products the company delivers will improve the success of developing new business. Teach your people public speaking and writing techniques and give them the opportunity to learn about what others under the same roof do.
The final step is to execute on important goals and objectives, such as understanding how much you need to sell to cover basic operating costs and how much profit can be derived from future sales to sustain growth. Measuring how many prospect meetings will equate to one proposal and how many proposals turn into a new client is all part of the execution phase of a successful business development plan. One person should lead this charge and have overarching responsibility for the success of the plan. Identifying sales targets, modifying the training program, increasing market awareness and performing competitive analysis can also be linked to a marketing department’s goals and objectives.
Having a business development plan ensures that you are being mindful of the process by which you are successful at acquiring new clients. A business development plan to a business development executive is like internal controls to an auditor: It is required to be able to produce the same or similar results each time with limited risk or exposure. If you remember the steps, you will deter (D.TER) your competitors and gain market share quickly and easily: Differentiate, Train your staff (sales force), Execute, and Repeat. Continue the cycle of celebrating what do you differently, educate your entire workforce on all of your products, and give them the language to talk eloquently about what you do. The whole team will be excited to execute and exceed sales targets. When you find a system that works, repeat it.
This article appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.