The Business Development Plan

{Spurlock, 2013. Business Development: A Practical Guide for the Small Professional Services Firm} 


Your BDP is a guidebook for each BD effort you undertake. If an opportunity is presented, it must fit within your plan and the goals you’ve laid out, or it becomes a distraction from your overall objective.

Tie the BDP to the Corporate Business Plan. 

The BDP is focused on creating new business opportunities with revenue impact. These are the guidelines for priorities and targets. The planning provides direction; the implementation provides focus and alignment. The plan establishes accountability and measurement methods. It helps to budget resources in the right places. Everyone is clear and focused on what will be done next.

The plan gives a point to return to for restarting BD activities if you become sidetracked. It focuses your effort on specific targets rather than on reacting to events.

Clearly define your focus, create specific objectives, and develop a strategy for opening doors and creating new business opportunities.

Dedicate time to growing your business. A plan makes this time fruitful, purposeful, and outcome directed.

A strategy reveals what you plan to achieve. What activities make a difference; where am I now, what have I achieved, what should I focus on now, and what must be adjusted? I aim at specific results. I methodically implement the plan. The plan guides my effort. I do not stray away; I do not let distractions get in the way.

The business environment is competitive and rapidly changing, with too many unknowns. A good BDP produces direction, alignment, and accountability for targeted action.

The Shotgun Approach: Everybody does their own thing to feel busy. They keep trying various things until something happens. The perception is they are doing something to contribute to the BD effort.

Outline the Action: BD is only accomplished through action. Your plan is a vehicle to move to action. By creating a targeted plan, you are mapping out the action part of your BD effort.

Parts of the Plan

(1) Define guiding statements. Clarify what you plan to accomplish. What purpose does your business serve? Stated this through mission and vision statements. Where does the business plan to grow?

(2) Conduct a SWOT analysis. Company strengths and weaknesses; marketplace opportunities and threats. Take the view of different stakeholders.

(3) Based on SWOT, identify the best market sectors and potential prospects within each sector. Define the perfect client and type of project best for the firm’s skill set. This section is important, with the most detail, and requires the most work.

(4) Implementation plan. Who is responsible for what, how to do it, and how to measure each activity? Method of communication and schedule. Who is responsible for each target, and how will you measure and hold each other accountable?

(5) Budget planning.

Now, implement and put it into action. Track and measure goals and objectives. Estimate durations, costs, and profit. “Will it produce results and profit” is the question. Make the plan accessible to everyone involved in the BD process. Refer to the plan often and update quarterly. Completely reevaluate annually.

Brainstorm: pull key employees together. Hold off-site events. Give people plenty of notice so they can prepare.

Sections of the Business Development Plan

Section 1- Purpose, Goals, Objectives

Section 2- SWOT Analysis

Section 3- Targeting: Define Your Company’s Perfect Client. Identify Target Prospects. Define the Schedule and the Process.

Section 4- Networking and Trade Show Activities

Section 5- Implementation and Action Plan: What, By When, Who, How, Measures, Monitoring, Expected Outcomes, Results Achieved, Accountability, Review, Adjust 

Section 6- The Budget Planning

Strategy is your vision for accomplishing your goals. Focus your time dedicated to growing your business on activities that make a difference. Gauge your strategy: will this get me closer to what I plan to achieve; what I do today, tomorrow, next month, and next quarter? Does it get me where I want to be next year or in the next five years? What has changed? What do I adjust, if anything?

My BDP aims at specific results. I methodically implement the plan. My efforts produce results. I focus on my objectives. The plan is my guidebook; it keeps me awake and aware of distractions. I do not let distractions impede my business success.

I focus on creating new opportunities that provide new business.

My efforts create new opportunities. A good plan, focused efforts, and greater results.

I know my resources, and I work on target. Flexible is good; effective is better.

I know my skill set; my skill set shapes my strengths and weaknesses within the environmental opportunities and threats.

I know my perfect client and the project type best for my skill set and capabilities.

I have a budget, and I have an implementation plan.

Stay Flexible. Spend time on what works; change what does not work. Be on target, and review at least quarterly. Make necessary directional changes and update annually.

Implementing the Business Development Plan

Completing the planning is good, and now comes the most important phase in BD, the implementation. Now you bring new project opportunities for the firm.

Don’t try to do everything at once. Set priorities. Avoid tensions of competing areas. Manage small, manageable chunks along with other daily tasks.

Make staff assignments to share BD responsibilities. Be clear on responsibilities and expected outcomes.

Meet regularly. Discuss progress in weekly scheduled meetings. If alone, set aside time each week to review progress. Maintain focus on goals and commitment to achieving them.

Measure and monitor progress. Tracking progress consistently gives staff feedback and support and ensures accountability.

Recognize and reward positive progress often. Use transparent results reporting. Provide visibility to see measurable progress. Celebrate achievements of objectives. Make visible the contributions of everyone to results.

Section 1- Purpose, Goals, Objectives

Define the purpose of your BD efforts.

How do you want to be viewed by the world?

What is your specific objective?

What do you want your efforts to accomplish for the company?

What is your revenue goal?

To determine these, think about: what is the current business situation; are you busy; is it the type of work you want to do; are you working with the type of client you want to work with; are you putting up with people that do not appreciate the value of your work?

Is your focus on long-term growth, or is it a sudden burst of business that may die off?

Evaluate where you’ve been and where you want to go.

A purpose or vision statement for your plan: become known to a certain market within a certain time or add a certain number of clients this year in a particular market sector.

An objective is an actual result. Determine goals to be achieved in a specific time frame. Outline your strategy for accomplishing your objectives and list specific activities to achieve the objectives.

Make your efforts effective by planning and strategizing. Focus on the right things. Achieve a steady flow of work with the type of clients you want to serve who have the type of project that fits your skill set.

Section 2- SWOT Analysis

Think from the perspective of your potential prospects, competitors, and the general market.

Strengths are internal and correspond to your company’s skill set or expertise, previous project experience, or that you are a small company and can be responsive to client needs. Consider the experience of personnel, company reputation, and the proximity of office location to prospective targets. Look at established relationships in a particular market. Think about your strengths as compared to competitors. If you have the same strengths as competitors, they are not considered strengths but necessities and are expected by your target prospects. Find your firm’s unique strengths.

Weaknesses are internal limitation areas that place the team at a disadvantage and require improvement. Lack of a particular skill set or knowledge. Personnel resources, experience levels, lack of market presence, or reputation in a particular industry segment. Any problem or obstacle might stand in the way, even if the obstruction does not have an obvious solution. A client’s perception might be that a small company cannot handle large projects.

Opportunities are external chances to improve profits, such as improving economic conditions, availability of better-qualified hires, new market trends, growth areas, or target prospects where you know someone.

Look at your strengths and see what opportunities or growth areas could open up for the firm.

Look at weaknesses and see what opportunities might open up if you could eliminate them.

Threats are external obstacles to overcome to pursue a target sector. Lack of funding, changing technology, dying industry, lack of knowledge, unknown company, competitors gaining ground in your area.

Apply the same analysis to what you know about your competition and see where you can gain an advantage.

Section 3- Targeting

Determine where to focus efforts and identify market sectors and potential prospects to target. Evaluate customer needs and the potential for profitability and long-term growth.

What staff expertise is available or easily obtainable?

What is the risk of focusing on the chosen sector?

Long-term growth versus short-term opportunities, make trade-offs and keep a balance.

Generate ideas, and differentiate your business. Consider these:

Your company’s particular expertise areas and available skill sets.

Where most of the work is coming from currently.

New growth opportunities in the market.

Prospects and projects that make the most sense for the long term.

Prospective clients with funding for projects that fit your skill set.

Opportunities likely to be most profitable.

Determine a geographic radius for travel that makes sense.

Research on your own for original information.

Do you want to focus on previous, current, or new clients?

Beware what you talk about, reward, and recognize. Focusing on gaining new clients seems more exciting and glamorous, but the best and most immediate opportunities might be with previous or existing clients.

For previous clients, evaluate which clients have been most profitable and where you’ve had a good experience. 

Do you want to work with them again? Which clients have the potential for new growth and new projects?

Conduct client satisfaction interviews with previous clients. Ask:

“How did we do? What could we have done better?”

“Where do you expect challenges over the next year, how might we be of support in the future?”

Build client loyalty through communication.

Define Your Company’s Perfect Client

You have identified and chosen target sectors.

Now define what your perfect client would look like in each sector.

Define criteria for the types of clients you want to work with on upcoming projects: 

We work with clients who require our services. Their projects are profitable. A good fit for our skills and services. They understand the value we bring. We understand their business. We have the opportunity for an internal champion. A trusted relationship has been or can be established. A similar corporate structure and values exist between the two companies. The company is financially stable and compensates its business partners fairly and timely.

Identify Target Projects

You have determined your sectors and defined the perfect client.

Now develop a list of potential clients in each sector. A list of good prospective clients.

Develop a plan for each of those targets. Gather basic information about each target. How is it best to pursue them?

Use a Capture Plan to track information and move the prospect through the steps.

Identify possible ways to meet decision-makers. Can you obtain referrals from someone familiar with them? Check internally; does anyone have a connection?  

Obtain just enough information to know if it is worthwhile to pursue this target. Stay focused on finding a way to meet and talk with the decision-maker to begin true business development.

RFPs & RFQs: Set your criteria for any solicitation you will pursue. Do not waste resources going after non-fit businesses. Stick with your plan and focus on your targets. Go/No-Go decisions become much clearer when you do.

Check: [] Company is in the target sector. [] Prospect is a good target client. [] Project is a good fit for my skill set. [] Reasonable time to respond. [] Possible to build the relationship.

Define the Schedule and Process

Name a target prospect. Begin the Business Development process. How will you meet the decision-maker? Where will you meet the decision-maker? Schedule networking meetings and events on the calendar. Make a cold call to introduce yourself and your company. Contact again to set up a meeting. Follow up again and again.

When you get a meeting, outline questions to guide the conversation.

Have a client retention program as BD follow-up. Schedule stay-in-touch contacts with previous clients, especially after completing a job or project.

Conduct a client satisfaction interview. Record future concerns and upcoming projects.

Section 4- Networking and Trade Show Activities

Map out in advance. Place meetings as appointments in the calendar.

Attend if: your targeted client is there; your competitor is there.

Prioritize A for must attend, keep on your schedule; B for important, only a client meeting may keep you from attending; C, attend if time is available.

Also, attend networking mostly attended by peers.

Everybody in the organization should attend or participate in at least one networking organization.

Become involved and known in the group; volunteer for an office, work on committees, give papers, be visible and participate.

Section 5- Implementation

Break the plan into parts and name who is responsible for implementing and monitoring each part. Have clear objectives, dedication, persistence, and consistent follow-up.

The Team: Name who is on the marketing team and their responsibility. Each individual may be responsible for a different sector or type of business.

Map out how much time is to be spent on BD each day. Have everyone stick to a schedule, even if it is only a few minutes each day.

Spell it out, so everyone understands their responsibilities.

Choose one person to lead the BD effort to act as the driver.

This person ensures that the plan is followed, nothing falls through the cracks, and everyone is doing what they said they would do; she coordinates, tracks leads, monitors BD activities, and may lead the weekly BD discussions.

Meet regularly to discuss progress, encourage and motivate each other, and hold each other accountable for doing what you set out to do.

The Personal Plan

The company BDP must be implemented on a personal level. A detailed personal BDP aims to create a clear focus and impact.

Keep it simple, limit time spent on research and planning, and move on to real action: make contact, and establish a relationship with the targeted potential client.

Section 6- Budget Planning

Promote profitable services that differentiate you from the competition.

Evaluate everything you did last year that produced positive results.