Top 3 Business Development Mistakes to Avoid

Whether new to business development, or a weathered veteran, you will inevitably confront the challenges inherent to identifying opportunities and securing new work. Professionals typically start the process with the opportunities that are most accessible to them (a referral relationship here, an invitation to speak there) without taking the time to step back and research the most common business development mistakes and how to avoid them.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the three most common mistakes, and how those mistakes can affect efforts towards increasing revenue and growing your company or firm. As well, we’ll discuss how to recognize and address mistakes when you make them, and when to know to call for help.

The Short List

  1. Lack of a strong business strategy
    By far the most common, many business development efforts fail simply because there isn’t enough planning and groundwork laid at the outset. Sometimes this is due to insufficient communication and guidance from your firm’s leadership, and sometimes it’s due to unclear goal management: what shareholders are responsible for, by when, and how. If business development often feels like an afterthought, or a nice-to-have, something that rolls around once a quarter or once a year, a lack of strategy is likely the root cause. Solving this issue depends entirely on the scale of the problem: internal teams may require a simple realignment of priorities, whereas strategic misalignment of larger goals may be a longer and more involved process.

If you have a strong strategic plan, but are not seeing the expected results, consider the following possibilities:

  1. Weak business strategy execution
    It’s one thing to commit to a plan, but entirely another to execute it. Weak execution of a strategic plan typically breaks down into one of two categories: a lack of skills/confidence throughout the team, or a lack of leadership buy-in and commitment.

Our 2020 study of professional services firms found that nearly 30% of marketers report that their business developers don’t have the skills, or the technology, necessary to execute their business development plan. Often, this can hamstring a strong strategic plan, simply because your team may not feel confident enough to implement it. Thankfully, a lack of skill is one of the easier problems to solve, with technology geared towards up-skilling business developers and tracking business development initiatives on the rise.

On the other hand, leadership buy-in and commitment is a more serious problem. Firms that are inconsistent in their prioritization of  business development are more likely to lack the focus required for sustainable, forecastable results. Having consistent metrics is critical in measuring the success of your initial efforts. Use leading indicators to signal where you’re headed so you can pivot as necessary. Our PipelinePlus platform delivers a simple, easy-to-use business development & sales pipeline software solution that can keep your firm sustain its focus on key targets and generate performance reports to leadership.

Getting the Guidance Your Business Needs

The third and final business development mistake is inertia. Many firms miss their targets year over year, but stay the course for wont of fresh ideas. Bringing in an outside expert for a consultation can be key to scaling your business. Ask your consultant to deliver a customized webinar that presents a few new approaches to your team. If their input resonates, share your strategic plan with them so they can provide an outsiders’ perspective.