How To Create An Effective Business Development Strategy

The “Business Development Strategy” is used to underpin your main business plan and, essentially, it sets out a standard approach for developing new opportunities – either from within existing accounts, or by proactively targeting brand new potential accounts and then working to close them.

The key word is ‘strategy’, because you are creating a workable and achievable set of objectives in order to exceed your annual target.

Your Starting Point

The key words are Who? What? Where? When? Which? Why? How?

For example:

Who– are you going to target?

What– do you want to sell them?

Where– are they located?

When– will you approach them?

Which– are the appropriate target personnel?

Why– would they want to meet with you?

How– will you reach them?

If you have conducted regular account reviews with your key accounts during the previous twelve months, you should be aware of any new opportunities that may surface during the next twelve months. And when assessing what percentage of your annual target usually comes from existing accounts, you will also need to review data over the last two or three years. (It is likely that you can apply Pareto – i.e. 80% of your business will probably come from existing accounts and, in fact, 80% of your total revenue will come from just 20% of your customers/clients).

You will be left with a balance – i.e. “20% of my business next year will come from new opportunities”– therefore, you can then begin to allocate your selling time accordingly.

Ideal Customer Profiling

Proactive business development demands that we create an ideal target at the front end – i.e., an Ideal Customer Profile. The essential characteristics you will need to consider are:

  • Industrial Sector
  • Geographical Location (Demographics)
  • Size of organisations (Turnover, number of employees, etc)
  • Financial Trends
  • Psychographics – i.e., philosophical compatibility

Many strategic sales professionals merely profile their best existing clients and try to replicate them. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, but we should always remember that we are seeking an IDEAL and we can always improve on what we already have.

‘New’ Opportunities from Within ‘Old’ Accounts

Because it costs approximately ten times as much to first locate and then sell to a new customer as it does an existing one (although these costs are rarely reflected in the cost of sales), it is essential that we fully develop our existing accounts working upwards, downwards and sideways, thus making the most of the (hopefully) excellent reputation we have already developed.

Most corporate accounts have several divisions, departments, sites, even country offices and you must satisfy yourself that you have exhausted every possible avenue. Don’t be afraid to ask the question “Who else should I be talking to in your organisation”?

Developing New Opportunities

There are a number of ways in which we can target new opportunities:

  • Direct mail
  • Telephone canvassing
  • Researching archived files for customers who used to buy from your company
  • Exhibitions
  • Seminars
  • User groups
  • E-Mail campaigns
  • Referrals
  • Qualified leads
  • Advertising
  • Social media

Not all of these will be appropriate to your particular industry, but you should not be afraid to experiment – challenge the paradigm – and do not accept that just because a particular idea has not worked in the past that it will not do so in the future. (Remember when you were learning to walk – it didn’t work the first time then!)

The important thing is to make an early decision in terms of what you are going to try and then build this (those) ideas into your master plan.

A Typical Business Development Plan

You should plan out the whole year and review / revise quarterly.

List your existing accounts and plan what activities/actions need to be completed in order to fully exhaust all opportunities. You may, for instance, plan to cover more bases within the decision-making unit or contact associated companies or offices. The Strategic Account Profile can be used as a prompt.

Begin to target new accounts using business directories, etc. and set weekly/monthly/quarterly targets. I normally allow for eight hours per week as a minimum. (Don’t forget to continually refer back to your Ideal Profile.)

Then build in what assistance you need from your marketing function – i.e., qualified leads, seminars, exhibition attendance, etc.

Finally, share your plan with your manager and then commit to it.

You should also measure your plan against ensure you it is:









Linking with Your Commercial Plan

I have suggested that your Business Development Strategy would link with your Master Business Plan but, logically, you should also integrate it into your Commercial Kit – a document that outlines your monthly, quarterly and annual targets – and specifically the areas that deal with new business generation, account management and development, four-tier account lists, etc.

These three documents, when combined, should drive and guide you through the next twelve months and beyond.


As I have said often enough, “People do not fail because they planned to fail, but rather because they failed to plan.

The man or woman who knows where they want to go is more likely to get there – they just has to decide howto get there. All plans are essentially maps and guides – the strategic element is the ‘How.’

Do be prepared to change course – flexibility is key – and don’t be afraid to experiment.  Look outside the square.

Copyright © 2020 by Jonathan Farrington All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.