Christine Nietzke, Rainfall Consulting
As another new year arrives, we inevitably look back at the previous year and assess what went well and what needs improvement. One area that always faces scrutiny is business development. Firms set revenue and new business goals for the coming year and, ideally, your individual business development plan should support those goals.
Whether you have a tried and true business development plan or are creating one for the first time this year, there are four areas to consider:
Clients – Review the list of good clients you work with and identify 10 who need more services than you currently provide to them. Schedule regular meetings with these clients to discuss their own business goals. During these meetings, you will learn what is important to them, what they want to accomplish, and how you can be a part of their ongoing success. Most people have busy calendars booked out at least two weeks in advance; recognize this and try to schedule meetings around three weeks out. This also will give you time to review their information and any notes you may have taken in previous conversations with them. Do your homework so it will be fresh in your memory, help guide the conversation, and demonstrate that you are prepared.
Referral Sources – Do most of your referral sources know one another? If so, you are caught in a social circle. Expand your network of referral sources by intentionally meeting other people who are very good at what they do. By developing relationships outside of your current social circle, you will increase the awareness of your expertise, and you will have experts to recommend to your clients when they need one. If you have children who are involved in sports or other extracurricular activities, strike up conversations with other parents. You never know who you have been sharing the stands with during all those games or recitals.
Prospects – Most of us have a list of prospective clients we want to work with. The new year is a great time to take an honest look at your previous efforts to build a relationship, provide information, and schedule meetings with them. If the prospect shows little sign of choosing you as their trusted advisor despite your efforts, it may be time to move them to a less active status on your pipeline and move others up. Also, consider how many names you have on this list. If you have too many, you will have a hard time pursuing all of them. If you have too few, you run the risk of becoming a pest to them. Select an amount you can comfortably pursue. A good goal here is 10 to 15.
Networking – Do you think of networking as face-to-face chamber meetings or other community events? While those are good local networking events, do not forget to network outside the boundaries of your community. LinkedIn groups and industry associations can provide you with a stage and audience to showcase your expertise to a wider group. If you join a LinkedIn group, be active in the conversations. It is often a requirement to maintain membership in the group. Industry associations have conferences throughout the year and frequently look for speakers to present information to their members. By speaking to these groups, you position yourself as a thought leader by demonstrating your knowledge on topics relevant to them. Conferences also provide the opportunity to speak with individuals one-on-one throughout the event. You will learn as much as you teach at these events.
Success in business development is a result of being intentional. By having a plan, regularly meeting with clients, referral sources and prospects, and following up after each meeting, you will gain momentum in your new business efforts. If your firm does not utilize a CRM, your calendar and a spreadsheet can keep you organized. Use the resources you have and keep it simple. If it is too complicated, you will not maintain it for long. You want to capture enough information to track your efforts such as dates of meetings with conversation notes and next steps with due dates. With this information, you will be able to look back and identify areas which are working well, and determine which need adjustment.
Business development is a process. It takes effort and discipline on your part, but if you are intentional about it, you will see progress in the coming year.