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10 ways to start the financial year with a BD bang

In Australia, most firms will kick off a new financial year on 1 July. The start of a financial year is a great time for new beginnings when it comes to business development. It’s a time to look at what you’ve been doing, to analyse what’s been working, to figure out ways you can improve and to trial and implement new ways of winning work. 

That’s why I’ve come up with 10 ideas to help you kickstart your BD with a bang in FY18.

1. Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective client

What better way than to start the new financial year by Googling your name, looking at your LinkedIn profile and reviewing your website. What do each of these tell you about your practice area and your expertise?

Now identify your three closest competitors and do the same for them (do this incognito when you’re using LinkedIn). When you do, put yourself in a prospective client’s shoes.

What do you notice? How are you positioned? Do you show you can help in a way the others can’t? Or are you undifferentiated, mediocre and getting left behind?

Be honest and be critical… And if your messaging isn’t cutting the mustard, start the year by improving it.

2. Begin taking bites out of the elephant

Last year I wrote about the importance of consistency when it comes to BD. In other words, don’t binge on BD by spending weeks drawing up elaborate plans you never get around to implementing. Instead, go to your calendar now and set aside 30 minutes a day to doing small BD things that - when strung together - can make a real difference. Schedule these sessions into your diary and make them an appointment you’re not allowed to break.

Use your 30-minute intervals to do practical things like taking a colleague out for a coffee to ask their perspective or do some research on a client and their business. Otherwise, why not spend a moment on exploring your client’s social media pages.

And, for maximum effect, at the end of the day write down one BD activity you want to implement. Then schedule the first 30 minutes the next morning to completing that task, before you start on billable work.

3. Choose your first 15

When it comes to BD the magic number is five. If you have five important clients, five good referrers and five important prospects, you’ll have a pretty darn good practice.

So spend a bit of time working out who each of these players is for your practice and the role they can play in helping your business grow. Give them your love and attention and focus your BD efforts on them.

Anyone who falls outside of the list you can afford to spend less time and effort on.

You can read more about the concept of a BD First XV here.

4. Break up with bad clients

It’s become the stuff of urban legend: the story of Jack Welch turning GE around by sacking the bottom 10 percent of his workforce each and every year… The old ‘rank and yank’.

To be honest, I’m not convinced it’s an appropriate tool for managing employees. But it should be a gold standard when it comes to managing clients.

Building a thriving practice is as much about pruning bad clients as it is about focusing your time and energies on the best ones. So, go through your client list, work out who the bad clients are - your bottom 10 percent - and make a plan to refer them on.

If you’re worried about the fees you’ll be losing, don’t be. Not only will this simple action make you much happier and more fulfilled, it will also give you the capacity to take on more work from the clients you actually like.

Read more about how and why to break up with bad clients.

5. Start writing

If you’re not a prolific writer and publisher, you’re missing a trick. These days the top experts in their field - or at least those perceived as the top experts in their field - are the ones who are prepared to share their knowledge with the world.

The process doesn’t have to be painful and arduous; it should be simple, straightforward and even fun. (Read how to do that here.)

Worried on what to write about? Start by thinking about the questions clients ask you. Worried you don’t have time to write? Get some outside help. Worried what people will think of you? Don’t be. There will always be detractors, being successful has always meant rising above them. Besides, most people who have something bad to say will just be jealous that they didn’t get in first.

6. Put some people in touch with each other

At its heart professional services is about relationships. So, if you have other team members who’d benefit from knowing your clients better, start taking them along to meetings at each and every chance.

The more you ‘velcro’ the client relationship with multiple contacts from your firm, with multiple contacts within a client, the more work you’ll probably receive out of them. The Rule of three is a great start: you should have three contacts within each client and each client should have three contacts in your practice.

But I think there’s more to it than that. It’s about good karma. Generally, the more people you help out the more people will go out of their way to help you out too.

So, don’t limit it to people in your firm. If you have a client who’d benefit from being in touch with another service provider of yours, introduce them to each other. If you have a colleague could add value to a client, do what you can to get them in.

Go on, get to work as a matchmaker. 

7. Find out what went wrong

When you look over the past year’s work there will probably be a number of misses as well as hits. There will be the leads that went stone cold, the pitches that fell on deaf ears, the tenders you spent weeks preparing for only to never hear from ever again.

Now’s the time to do something about that.

Pick up the phone and call some of your ‘misses’, especially if getting the work would have meant something big to you. Do it before the July School holiday break and see if you can arrange to meet early August when things may be quieter.

Don’t do the hard sell. You lost and going in with a new pitch will probably turn them off. Instead, just check in and find out how they’re doing. Eventually, you’ll get around to discussing what went wrong and what you can learn from it. Who knows? All may not be lost after all. They may have gone with someone else for a reason they now regret, they may have other work more suited to you or there may be some other way you can work together. Keeping in touch is the main thing here.

8. Map where your work comes from

Good practices know where their work comes from. They know who’s passing them matters or files, who introduced them to a new source of work and how they’re positioned to potential sources. So if you don’t yet have that figured out, make it a priority this financial year.

Find out who your best referrers are and cultivate them. Update them on how you’re getting on with each of the new clients they’ve introduced you to. See if they’ll let you into any feedback they have from the client’s end.

Most importantly, do what you can to shine the light on your referral source and make them feel good about helping you. They’re the key to your practice’s success. You can read some ideas on how to do that here.

9. Work out what made something special (then look for more specialness)

When you’re analysing what you’ve worked on over the past 12 months, make a note of the five files or matters you enjoyed working on the most. Have a think about what made them the cream of your FY17 crop. Was it the nature of the work? The people involved? The chance to do something different? Or the chance to hone one of your existing skills.

Whatever it was, if you’re going to be a happy and successful professional, you should be trying to do more of the same this year.

So think about a way into more of that kind of work. Could you get in touch with someone you worked with to let them know how much you enjoyed what you did (they may not know)? Could you give a talk on some aspect of the work to position yourself as an expert? Could you write a case study to show exactly how you helped? Could you change your LinkedIn profile, website or other marketing material so that you get more similar files?

10. Put it onto one page

Finally, if you really want to make the next financial year a great one for BD, you need to write down exactly how you plan to do that. Where do you want to be in 12 months time? What do you need to do to get there? What does your pipeline for attracting new business look like? Everyone of the past tips I’ve given you should be contributing to this in some way or other.

That said, I’m not one for lengthy strategy documents that get put in a drawer and never looked at again. But I do think you should have a one-pager that shows how you want this financial year to play out. Stick it up nearby and use it to motivate yourself.

Let it be your motivation to do something every day - in your 30-minutes of eating the elephant - to make sure you’re getting there. Set aside one hour once every month to see how you’re tracking, where you’re doing well and where you could improve.

Most importantly, hold yourself to account. Treat your one page plan as a non-negotiable part of your professional objectives for this year and your chances of achieving it will skyrocket.

Want more?

If you really want to start FY18 with a BD bang, get in touch. We’re experts at showing you exactly how to increase your market share, expand your current relationships and protect your existing revenue.