The Key 7 Elements in Building a Rockstar Business Development Plan for your Firm
In the accounting profession, you and your teams are likely balancing two important responsibilities: developing new client business and creating a best-in-class delivery experience. One can’t live without the other. If you were to spend a day in the life of a rockstar accounting professional focused on developing new client business, you’ll likely find a common theme. They invest their time on the right prospects, clients, and business development activities. They have a process and plan.
Having the right plan will help you succeed in any environment—including one like our fictional case study of Klein, Rowe & Co. In this article, I share seven elements of a rockstar business development plan that can help you tackle real-life challenges.
Element 1: Key Goals and Milestones
Start your business development plan by developing a list of your key goals and milestones. Some specific categories can help keep you focused on what you want to accomplish.
- New Client Growth
- Current Client Growth
- Game Changer Goal
Think about what you want to accomplish for the year and write it down in three or four sentences. What does your book of business or territory look like at the end of the year? What are a few of the things that you want to accomplish? What are your revenue goals in these key verticals, service lines, and product categories?
And then lastly, what’s your game changer goal? That’s a stretch goal that can make a huge difference in your book of business or in your territory for this year.
Putting all the details on paper will provide the strategic snapshot of what you want your book of business or territory to look like at year end.
Element 2: Target Verticals
Next, target strategic verticals.
Selecting focus verticals can help accelerate the growth of your book of business. Think of it as selecting a major and then some minors. Verticalization offers significant benefits, even if you have a predefined territory, a predefined book of business, or a predefined service line. The requirements of business development and client service can be better balanced, especially for those of us that are selling or developing business as we’re also delivering services, if we can home in on a major and a minor vertical. Just getting traction in one vertical could be your runway to spin off into other verticals if you choose.
Some questions to consider when targeting your verticals:
- In looking at your client set today, where do you see vertical majors and minors? (Example: healthcare may be your major; home health or nursing facilities may be your minors.)
- In which verticals have you already established expertise?
- What verticals do you have a passion for or an interest in going deeper into?
- What verticals will have the greatest opportunities over the next 1 – 3 years?
Element 3: Target Clients Per Vertical
Now, what are the top 25 accounts or clients per vertical that you want to build relationships in? Ideally, this is also tracked in your CRM.
Using myself as an example, professional services is my major, and I have three minors– public accounting, insurance, and technology.
Element 4: Intelligence Verticals
Intelligence is the deep information that we gather through research on our top prospects and clients, and also within our verticals. For your research, you will want to look at:
- Industry Trends
- Leadership Vision
- Organizational Challenges
- Key Initiatives & Goals
We need to have the right intelligence at both the vertical and the client level. Knowing these can help us discern how we are best positioned to serve the vertical and client. The more we know about these areas, the better we can help our prospects and clients accomplish key objectives and match up the right services.
Element 5: Decision Maker Personas
For each of your key verticals, you need decision maker personas, to guide your business development process and conversations. Compiling this information helps you get a clear picture of that person, so you can tailor your conversations appropriately. Some questions to brainstorm:
- Who is/are your decision maker(s)?
- What are their top responsibilities?
- What is this person measured on?
- What are their key challenges?
- What will make change difficult?
- What does success look like?
As you’re evaluating your key verticals, use a current client or ideal client, and write out your persona details. I keep mine in a Word file. My marketing messages tie back to the personals, and they guide my BD conversations.
Element 6: Strategic Alliances
Strategic alliances are the key partnerships you will need to accelerate growth. These may be through:
- Industry associations
- Centers of influence, both organizational and individual
- Complimentary business partners
- Technology partners, like Bill.com
- Research organizations
The key is to determine the partnerships and alliances that are the best fit for your plan. Then ascertain where you can commit to an investment, whether that investment is financial or time or a combination of both.
Element 7: Brand Presence
Your firm may have a marketing strategy, but do you have a personal strategy that goes along with it? In my book, The Modern Seller, I talk quite a bit about ambassadors. One of the things that make ambassadors stand out is building longer term loyalty and lifetime value. To be able to rise above and have a personal brand that’s unique. Having your own personal leadership brand can tie to your verticals and help elevate how well known you are in the marketplace.
These are key areas for you to consider in your personal marketing plan:
- Social Media
- Thought Leadership Content
- Website Blogging & Guest Blogging
- Guest Podcasting
You don’t need to tackle the whole list. Choose the ones that align best with your natural skills.
Keep Your Business Development Plan Plan from Collecting Digital Dust
Congratulations! Now you have all the elements to create your plan. But don’t stop there. Your next challenge is to make sure you continue to use and update the plan—it’s a living document. Here are a few ways you can keep it moving forward.
- Find an accountability partner
- Use it in 1:1 coaching calls
- Use it with your CRM
- Make it easily accessible for you
My best advice is to keep it simple! This doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective – in fact, I would say the simpler and more streamlined you keep your plan, the more you will be motivated to keep it alive and integrate it into your daily business life.
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Don’t miss Amy’s next webinars and articles on business development as part of the Bill.com Automating Success series, which brings industry thought leaders who have adapted and thrived to walk you through what it takes to redefine your business for today’s world. Subscribe today and gain access to all on-demand webinars.