Owner managed businesses typically perform less business development than required due to lack in three main areas:
1. Lack of focus on targeted business development – an opportunistic approach works for accepting projects, but not for targeting them.
2. Documented processes – Time based follow-up procedures are critical for maintaining contact and ensuring that opportunities do not slip away.
3. Lack of discipline – Owner-managers typically do not have a chain of accountability, and consequently do not have to report lack of progress in business initiatives. This lack of reporting frequently results in lack of awareness in the state of business development initiatives, which consequently wither and die.
1. Business development should encompass at least 30% of working time each week. This will principally include:
- Contact & follow-up to existing & new business contacts. This could include regular e-mail or newsletter issuance following an initial telephone conversation
- Joining, regular attendance at & aggressive networking within business-to-business (B2B) level networking organizations, such as BNI, Board of Trade, etc.
- Development of speaking engagement & seminar opportunities by contacting suitable business organizations.
- One-on-one meetings with people within targeted organizations/roles; or providing access to these.
A target should be 8 hours/week of structured contact or meetings. This will likely result in 10-12 hours per week total (including scheduling, planning, etc).
2. Business development initiatives must be targeted.
By limiting the scope, efforts are focused in intensity and impact. Trying to have too many simultaneous initiatives or too broad an appeal severely waters down impact. Especially when there is tendency to focus business outside of areas of strength to broaden appeal, the lack of expertise will limit all opportunities, and negatively affect brand perception.
3. Business Development initiatives must be documented, and measured.
By recording activity and outcomes, you enable:
- Time-based follow-up procedures
- Prioritization of activity based on magnitude of opportunity
- Tracking of close rates for specific types of projects & initiatives, and the effectiveness of the program, the access contact or the target sector.
Even simple processes & regular recording enable at-a-glance overview of where business follows activity. This enables fine-tuning of programs, and allows for spending business development time and resources where they will have the best results.
4. Arrange a regular review by an outside party.
This can be within a professional setting; networking, or with a fellow practitioner. Outside review means accountability, and greatly increases tendency to follow through with time-based plans.