This is the second of two posts helping business owners and those with responsibility for new business by providing them with a template for a topline business development plan. It is particularly relevant for small and medium firms selling B2B (business to business).
If you want to start at the beginning, here’s Part One. If you’ve just read that, and you’ve been waiting with bated breath for points five to eight, then you’re in the right place!
As a (very brief) recap, here are the eight steps in my business development plan.
8 simple steps: business development plan/template
Position yourself for success
Define your audience
Articulate yourself clearly
Build a targeted database
Develop your prospect relationship
Manage your sales pipeline
Convert prospects to clients
Turn clients into happy customers
The first four steps were covered in more detail in Part One, and so we now pick up from step five – develop your prospect relationship.
(And, as an aside, if you’re wondering about the best time to invest in new business, you might find this article helpful.)
Step five – the prospect relationship
Draw up a marketing plan to start to grow healthy, long-term relationships with your lovely target audience.
Develop a strong inbound marketing strategy for the longer term and to position yourself as thought-leader. Complement this with some brand-appropriate direct or outbound marketing to look for some quicker wins and early stage lead generation.
If your brand and offer is based on price competitiveness, outbound marketing can be very effective, especially in the short term – although you need to keep a careful eye on your conversion rates to make sure it’s covering that narrower profit margin.
A marketing plan very specific to your target audience
Every marketing plan is unique because you need to find where your prospects are and what they want – then give it to them. Don’t fall for the easy mistake of making a list of all possible marketing activities instead of a plan (website, HTML emails, events, PR, social, blogging). This just leaves you wondering why you can’t possibly get all that done with the budgets and resources you’ve got to work with – and if you get round to actioning it, won’t be specific enough to your firm to get the right results.
Top secret tips for events in a B2B marketing and sales cycle
Some of my greatest successes have come from attending tiny, niche, industry-specific conferences where it’s been free or very cheap to attend (yay!) and I’ve just walked the floor talking to bored sales and marketing teams whilst all the delegates have been conferencing their socks off. Cheap and bountiful.
You can also learn an awful lot about your niche and the conversations that people are having by scanning through the programmes and keynote subject matter of all those specialist conferences.
Plus, you will find that the actual headlines of the speakers’ topics can make for very good article or blog headlines for your own content planning.
The reason for this is that the conference or event managers have probably spent a fair bit of time and effort researching what their attendees want to hear and learn about. So they’ve provided speakers who can meet that need. So can you – online if your budget isn’t up to paying for a speaking slot and you’re not quite yet a big enough name to get invited for free!
(Don’t tell anyone else, those tips are only for my readers 🙂 )
Steps six & seven – sales pipeline through to conversion
Start the face-to-face, direct communication that leads on to a clean, healthy and still qualified pipeline.
This communication should be part of your marketing plan, but this is where things start to get personal, and marketing starts to segue into sales.
So get out there and start finding the right people to talk to, on an individual and personal basis. Get to know them, start with small talk, move on to big talk, then move on to business talk.
Offer help, support and advice wherever you can.
I am a great believer (and not everyone is) that giving things away for free is one of the best ways to successfully develop your sales pipeline.
People can move surprisingly quickly from reading posts (like you are now), to downloading content (it’s part of my plan for year two), to asking for advice (a long and helpful phone call without ever any intention to charge = your time given freely), to thinking that a paid consultation may be a great way to kickstart a business relationship.
That simple process is a sales cycle, from article reader to paid client. Much nicer (and this is just my view and my own personal perspective on sales), than thinking in terms of “Whom must I convert today?” or “Which obstacles do I need to overcome?” etcetera.
If people need you, and then find you, they will buy from you.
From there, it becomes a matter of time and fit.
Step eight – happy customers
This is an interesting one, because here we start to connect more fully with existing operations, and it is easy for the sales team to forget about a new customer once they’ve signed on the dotted line or begun the first bit of work.
BUT – this is a vital period. Customers have developed a real and personal relationship with a real human in your organisation – and that human is probably part of your sales or business development team.
Depending on your sales cycle and the value of your services, this may have taken up to 24 months (or more!), and the relationship may have become one where the client is now leaning heavily on that person for advice, support and guidance.
From sales into client management – the handover!
The worst thing you can do is introduce them to your MD, Key Account Director, Account Executive, Operations Manager, Client Services Director etc. in a single meeting, and have them never meet their human again.
Many businesses consider this a valid and effective handover aimed at reducing the cost of sale – i.e. not wasting anyone’s time internally and allowing the business development employee to get straight on back to finding new clients. And this may well be the case if you’re selling a commoditised service.
Is a quick handover the best thing for your client?
Suddenly it becomes obvious how to work out the best way to do the handover. I know! We’ll ask the customers what they’d like! And then find a way of making it happen.
Yes, you might have to tweak your processes and build new or stronger internal relationships, and business development will almost certainly retain a closer tie for longer; but the impact this will have on customer satisfaction – and the likelihood of this client becoming properly and smoothly embedded – is very definitely worth it.
Step nine – not on my template
I know, I know, there isn’t a step nine in my template. But there should be. And that’s client development. But with a word count of over 1,200 on this post already, I should stop now. My bad. Luckily you’re only one click away from finding out more about how to do really good client development.
So – that was it. My template for some business development planning.
I hope you’ve found it useful – and please, please let me know if you have (or have not). Feedback on any of the points – or all of them (!) – would be very welcome, just stick a few words in the comments section at the bottom.
And if you’d like to leave any feedback direct to me – simply click on the link below and let me know, in your own words and personality, whether I’ve helped you in any way.
Bye for now.