Business development plan template for B2B SMEs (PART ONE)

Do you ever feel like you just want a look at someone else’s business development plan to get you started? Some inspiration and ideas to get you going? A sort of template umbrella plan that helps you think about the options, one that you could change to suit your own firm?

Fag-packet new business planning

More and more I’ve been sketching out quite a few back-of-the-envelope business development plans to demonstrate to people that the steps involved can actually be quite straightforward.

So I thought it would be useful for people to see the 8 steps that were common to much of the business development planning that I’ve done.

Best for B2B consultancies and agencies

This type of planning is particularly relevant to B2B professional services firms that are selling high value services to other businesses. Think marketing agency, training consultancy, research firm, engineering company etc.

(And probably most suited to those with a turnover of less than £5m who don’t yet have a strategic or well-established sales and marketing function of their own.)

8 simple steps: business development plan/template

Remember, the steps will always look easy. It’s actually doing it that’s hard 🙂

  1. Position yourself for success
  2. Define your audience
  3. Articulate yourself clearly
  4. Build a targeted database
  5. Develop your prospect relationship
  6. Manage your sales pipeline
  7. Convert prospects to clients
  8. Turn clients into happy customers

That’s the easy bit. Now here’s a bit more detail to help with your planning!

Step one – positioning

Create a narrow, targeted position or niche for yourself. One that is long on your skills and experience, and  as short as possible on competition.

One that makes it easy for people to know why you exist and what problems of theirs you can solve.

How to find your positioning?

To do this well, review yourself objectively. Involve someone who doesn’t work in the business. Aim to get really clear on:

  • What work are you best at?
  • Which work is most profitable?
  • Which work do you enjoy most?
  • What do your customers think you are best at?
  • Which types of customers are you best at looking after?
  • Which work has the least amount of competition?
  • Which sectors / sub-sectors or niches do you already excel at? If none, which could you naturally excel at, given your past story?
  • What is your culture like (think values, attitudes, approach to business)?

Step two – audience

Narrow down your target audience as far as you can. Imagine it as a manageable list of businesses. One which you can see the end of, with just a little bit of scrolling on an Excel spreadsheet.

One which, if you suddenly became responsible for absolutely all new business development and sales (assuming you aren’t already), you could imagine getting to know a decent amount of them by name in a year.

Creating personas (**marketing jargon alert**)

Who are these people? What are they like? What are their offices like? How do they do business? What do they have in common? Think of actual clients you know (well, those ones that you would like to keep). Give them names, personalities, attitudes, likes and dislikes, ages and gender.

This is currently known in marketing terms as creating a ‘persona’ for your customers/prospects.

Understand which problems you solve

List out the different problems you either know or believe them to have, which your firm is uniquely positioned to solve. Now put customers’ job titles to the people you know lie awake at night because of those problems (these are your buyers). Then match your services with their problems. Look for the best fit ones.

Step three – brand / articulating yourself

Explain and express yourself professionally in a way that is very, very clear for your customers and prospects to understand.

This is fundamentally down to simple messages, good copywriting and good design. Too often, what you think is clear (because you understand your business very deeply) may actually be far too in-depth, technical or confusing to people who are completely new to your firm.

Plain English will always win over technical detail. (Unless you are writing your PhD).

High quality writing and design are important

Use skilled, experienced designers and copywriters for things like branding, logos, copy and web design.

When it comes to web development, there are plenty of price-related options out there to help you stick to smaller budgets – just make sure you use a reliable and recommended resource who isn’t likely to disappear without giving you plenty of notice.

And for heaven’s sake – if you are about to get a new site, please take a moment to read my 3 absolute must-dos before you commission a website. 

Step four – your prospect database

Build up a clean, qualified, healthy, good-fit set of prospect data.

If your positioning is narrow enough, then it should be easy to know which data you want to acquire. If you find it very hard to pick a small enough segment for you to manage sales-wise, you are probably too widely positioned.

How do I get the data?

You can buy data to start you off, you can acquire it through social media bit by bit, you can build relationships with industry bodies – there are lots of ways to build up your database.

Beware: buying data is not always as valuable or simple as it seems to start with. Quick wins? Maybe, if you’re lucky. Lots of irrelevant, out-of-date, poor-fit company contacts which leave you building up your own data anyway? Much more likely. Especially in the higher value services where they may be a more complicated buying chain right from gatekeeper to decision maker / budget holder.

Think of it as your database

Remember, this is YOUR database. Someone else’s is never as right as you might think. Never as clean, never as relevant, never as targeted, never as legal…

And as it is YOUR database, you must find a way to own it. And you have to love it.

If you farm your new business out to a telemarketer who uses their own data, you might only get to own the leads. What happens when you stop that telemarketing contract and the leads are gone? Converted or gone cold, what other value do you have?

The gold standard of inbound marketing

Yes, you know it already, but the best practice way to get data is to collect it yourself through inbound marketing. People who are interested in what you talk about – your industry expertise, your specialist knowledge, your useful tools – will give you their data with pleasure in return for this help. It will be accurate, relevant, opted-in and part of your wider network. It will be yours.

In return, you will have their attention. And that is worth everything.

Yes! You will need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system

Oh – and definitely invest in a CRM system. It’s a tool that helps you manage your sales pipeline and prospect communications. There are loads to choose from – from the simple freebies to the behemoth that is Salesforce. Do a bit of research, ask around, and start simple if you’re not sure.

It’s much easier to upgrade from a cheapie than grapple with an expensive giant.

Where’s point five gone??

Hopefully those first four points have got you started.

As this post is getting longer than it ought (sorry!),  I’m now taking the unconventional route of splitting it into two and the second part will be up in a couple of days !  NOTE – The second part has now been written and can be found here. 

Bye for now 🙂


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