It’s the most wonderful time of the year … the time to put together next year’s business development plans and goals!
You thought I meant the holidays, didn’t you? No doubt about it, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year!” But if there is one thing that can take some of the fun out of this great season it is the dreaded process of putting together an annual business development plan that will be off course before Memorial Day. For most people the accuracy of their business development planning is on par with sticking your finger in the wind to forecast the weather.
There is a way to increase the accuracy of business development forecasting that makes goal achievement more consistent, effective, and profitable. What is it you ask? (Okay, you probably didn’t ask that since the title should have had a Spoiler Alert tag). It’s an Accountability Loop. Trying to achieve your business development goals without an effective accountability loop is like trying to drive your car without a steering wheel! Engaging and committing to an Accountability Loop will significantly enhance your individual and firm growth success.
Accountability Loop Framework
1. Clear & Measurable Objectives – Your initial objectives should be the basis of your annual business development plan. What exactly are you striving to achieve in the coming year? 20% new business growth? 15 new clients? Your annual objectives should be clear and they should be measurable, so put a number to them. Don’t say, “Double number of client relationships.” Be specific, give it a number. Don’t stop here, though, take it one step further. Break your annual goals down into 90 day increments, then 30 day increments, and – finally – weekly increments. You need to start each week knowing exactly what you need to accomplish to stay on track to meet your objectives.
2. Meaningful Goals & Metrics – The evolution in development of CRM systems over the past decade may have done more harm than good when it comes to business development reporting and accountability. With the explosion of data points that can be captured and tracked within these systems the natural tendency is to metricize everything, track it all, and that way you know you are monitoring the right activities. That’s true, unfortunately you end up monitoring a far greater number of meaningless activities in the process. What gets monitored gets done, but with too many things being monitored nothing of value gets done. Keep your metrics and monitoring lean, only measure and track those activities that have the greatest direct impact on achieving your goals and objectives. The number of COIs signed up for your monthly newsletter is nice to know. The number of tier 1 referring COIs you meet with quarterly is vital.
3. Performance Self-Assessment – Accountability is not something that is only done between a manager and subordinate. Conducting self-assessments of your performance regularly (I would recommend weekly, at a minimum) is the difference between being proficient and being a professional. Run weekly reports of your activities focused on meaningful goals and metrics. Assess how well you did in meeting that week’s goals. Did you miss your goal in one or two areas, why is that? Were your expectations too high or did you not fully apply yourself? If you met that week’s goals, what enabled you to do that? Could you have pushed even harder and achieved more? If you surpassed your goals, were they too easy? Regularly doing a performance self-assessment makes the final step in the process far more effective.
4. Feedback & Course Correction – Whether this step is done between Manager/Subordinate, Partner/Partner, or as an entire Business Development Team it is the piece that brings the whole process back full circle. It is also the step that often makes people the least comfortable. Sitting in front of someone else, or a group of people, and acknowledging that you missed your goals over the prior period is never pleasant. However, if done in the spirit of making each member of the Business Development Team more successful, not beating each other over the head with missed numbers, it can be both highly effective at boosting business growth and fun! Don’t avoid the numbers, have them printed or displayed as part of the process. But instead of talking about the numbers themselves, focus your time and attention on the causes (good and bad) of why the numbers are what they are. Use these feedback sessions to brainstorm ideas that everyone can use to be more successful.
Stop driving your annual business development process without a steering wheel. By following the four steps of this Accountability Loop framework you can take some of the negative stigma out of this process. You will also be able to move the annual business development planning process closer to really being the most wonderful time of the year. Okay, probably not, but At the same time you will make your business development efforts more effective, more successful, and more profitable!
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