Business development. It’s usually confused with sales, often overlooked, and only sometimes given the strategic focus it deserves. Having a business development strategy, however, is crucial to long term success and ensuring that everyone in your company is working toward a common goal.
But how do you develop a business development plan? Pull up a chair and stay awhile, I’m diving into that and more below.
Business development is the practice of identifying, attracting, and acquiring new business to further your company’s revenue and growth goals. How you achieve these goals is sometimes referred to as a business development strategy -- and it applies to and benefits everyone at your company.
It’s not unusual to mistake business development with sales, but there’s an important distinction between the two. Business development refers to many activities and functions inside and outside the traditional sales team structure. In some companies, business development is part of the larger sales operations team. In others, it’s part of the marketing team or sits on its own team altogether.
When we refer to a business development strategic plan, however, we’re referring to a roadmap that guides the whole company and requires everyone’s assistance to execute successfully and move your customer through your flywheel and close deals.
Strategic Plan Template
Craft your elevator pitch
Include an executive summary
Set SMART goals
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Determine how you’ll measure success
Set a budget
Identify your target customer
Choose an outreach strategy
1. Craft your elevator pitch
What is your company’s mission and how do you explain it to potential clients in 30 seconds or less? Keeping your elevator pitch at the forefront of all strategic planning will remind everyone what you’re working toward and why.
Some people believe the best pitch isn’t a pitch at all, but a story. Recent studies show 5% of meeting attendees remember statistics and 63% remember stories. Others have their favorite types of pitches, from a one-word pitch to a Twitter pitch that forces you to boil down your elevator pitch to just 140 characters.
Find the elevator pitch that works best for your reps, company, and offer, and document it in your business development strategy.
2. Include an executive summary
You’ll share your strategic plan with executives and maybe even board members, so it’s important they have a high-level overview to skim. Pick the most salient points from your strategic plan and list or summarize them here.
You might already have an executive summary for your company if you’ve written a business proposal or value proposition. Use this as a jumping off point but create one that’s unique to your business development goals and priorities.
Once your executives have read your summary, they should have a pretty good idea of your direction for growing the business -- without having to read the rest of your strategy.
3. Set SMART goals
What are your goals for this strategy? If you don’t know, it will be difficult for your company and team to align behind your plan. So, set SMART goals. Remember, SMART stands for:
If one of your goals is for 5% of monthly revenue to come from upsells or cross-sells, make this goal specific by identifying what types of clients you’ll target.
Identify how you’ll measure success. Is success when reps conduct upsell outreach to 30 clients every month, or is it when they successful upsell a customer and close the business? To make your goal assignable, ensure everyone on your team understands who is responsible for this goal: in this case, sales or business development reps.
This goal is relevant because it will help your company grow, and likely contributes to larger company-wide goals. To make it time-based, set a timeline for success and action. In this case, your sales team must achieve that 5% upsell/cross-sell number by the end of the quarter.
4. Conduct SWOT analysis
SWOT is a strategic planning technique used to identify a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Before conducting a SWOT, identify what your goal is. For example, “We’d like to use SWOT to learn how best to conduct outreach to prospective buyers.”
Once you’ve identified what you’re working toward, conduct market research by talking with your staff, business partners, and customers.
Next, identify your business’ strengths. Perhaps you have low employee turnover, a central location that makes it easy to visit with prospects in person, or an in-demand feature your competitors haven’t been able to mimic.
Your business’ weaknesses are next. Has your product recently glitched? Have you been unable to successfully build out a customer service team that can meet the demands of your customers?
Then, switch to opportunities. For example, have you made a new business partnership that will transition you into a previously untapped market segment?
What are the threats? Is your physical space getting crowded? What about your market space? Is increasing competition an issue?
Use SWOT results to identify a better way forward for your company.
What will your budget be for achieving your goals? Review financial documents, historical budgets, and operational estimates to set a budget that’s realistic.
Once you have a “draft” budget, check it against other businesses in your industry and region to make sure you’re not overlooking or misjudging any numbers. Don’t forget to factor in payroll, facilities costs, insurance, and other operational line items that tend to add up.
7. Identify your target customer
Who will your business development team pursue? Your target market is the group of customers your product/service was built for. For example, if you sell a suite of products for facilities teams at enterprise-level companies, your target market might be facilities or janitorial coordinators at companies with 1000+ employees. To identify your target market:
Analyze your product or service
Check out the competition
Choose criteria to segment by
Your target customer is the person most likely to buy your product. Do your homework and make sure your business development plan addresses the right people. Only then will you be able to grow your business.
8. Choose an outreach strategy
What tactics will you use to attract new business for your sales team to close? You might focus on a single tactic or a blend of a few. Once you know who your target market is and where they “hang out,” then you can choose an appropriate outreach strategy.
Will your business development plan rely heavily on thought leadership such as speaking at or attending conferences? Will you host a local meetup for others in your industry? Or will your reps network heavily on LinkedIn and social media?
If referrals will be pivotal to your business’ growth, consider at which stage of the buying process your BDRs will ask for referrals. Will you ask for a referral even if a prospect decides they like your product/service but aren’t a good fit? Or will you wait until a customer has been using your solution for a few months? Define these parameters in your strategy.
3. Upselling and cross-selling
Upselling and cross-selling are a cost-effective way of growing your business. But it’s important this tactic comes with guardrails. Only upsell clients on features that will benefit them as well as your bottom line. Don’t bloat client accounts with features or services they really don’t need -- that’s when turnover and churn start to happen.
4. Sponsorship and advertising
Will your BDR work with or on the marketing team to develop paid advertising campaigns? If so, how will your BDRs support these campaigns? And which channels will your strategy include? If you sell a product, you might want to feature heavily on Instagram or Facebook. If you’re selling a SaaS platform, LinkedIn or Twitter might be more appropriate.
What’s your outreach strategy? Will your BDRs be held to a quota to make 25 calls a week and send 15 emails? Will your outreach strategy be inbound, outbound, or a healthy combination of both? Identify the outreach guardrails that best match your company values for doing business.
Strategic Plan Example
Let’s put all of these moving parts in action with a strategic plan example featuring good ol’ Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Dunder Mifflin is a local paper company dedicated to providing excellent customer support and the paper your business needs to excel today and grow tomorrow.
At Dunder Mifflin, our strengths are our customer service, speed of delivery, and our local appeal. Our weakness is that our sales cycle is too long.
To shorten the sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4, we need to ask for more referrals (which already enjoy a 15% faster sales cycle), sponsor local professional events, and outreach to big box store customers who suffer from poor customer support and are more likely to exit their contract. These tactics should allow us to meet our goal in the agreed upon timeline.
Dunder Mifflin’s 2019 goal is to decrease our sales cycle 5% by the end of Q4. We will do this by more proactively scheduling follow-up meetings, sourcing more qualified, ready-to-buy leads, and asking for 25% more referrals (which have a 15% shorter sales cycle already). We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
Strengths: Our strengths are our reputation in the greater Scranton area, our customer service team (led by Kelly Kapoor), and our warehouse team, who ship same day reams to our customers -- something the big box stores cannot offer.
Weaknesses: Our greatest weakness is that our sales team has been unable to successfully counter prospects who choose big box stores for their paper supply. This results in a longer than average sales cycle, which costs money and time.
Opportunities: Our greatest business opportunity is to conduct better targeted outreach to prospects who are ready to buy, ask for more referrals from existing customers, and follow-up with closed lost business that’s likely coming up on the end of an annual contract with the big box store.
Threats: Our biggest threat is large box stores offering lower prices to our prospects and customers and a sales cycle that is too long resulting in low revenue and slow growth.
Measurement of success
We will measure success by looking at the sales pipeline and calculating the average length of time it takes a prospect to become closed won or closed lost.
[Insert budget breakdown]
Our target customer is office managers at small- to medium-sized companies in the greater Scranton, PA area. They are buying paper for the entire office, primarily for use in office printers, custom letterhead, fax machines. They are busy managing the office and value good customer service and a fast solution for their paper needs.
Networking, sponsorships, and referrals will be our primary mode of outreach. We will focus on networking at regional paper conferences, HR conferences, and local office manager meetups. We will sponsor local professional events. And we will increase the volume of referrals we request from existing customers.
A strategic plan for business development is crucial to have your team aligned and working toward the greater good of your company. Not tapped out on planning? Check out this sales plan template, or this free template for building a successful business plan.
Originally published Apr 4, 2019 8:30:00 AM, updated April 04 2019