Understanding that Business Development is Cyclical

By Anna Kennedy

Do you tend to think of business in straight lines? Getting from here to there? Starting this project now and getting to the finish line? As a model, it has some validity, but if you join the two loose ends together, you open up a whole new world of opportunity – you create a feedback loop.

This loop is significant, because very few businesses can survive without adapting to the trends and pressures of the marketplace. Not only that, new opportunities constantly reveal themselves, if you just look. The feedback loop allows you to step back from time to time and reconsider what you’re offering to the marketplace.

You need to do this in practice so that it has a material impact on your business. To start, think about where the feedback loop is and what it comprises. Here are some places to insert a feedback opportunity:

  • When a deal is won or lost (or sitting on the fence): Your first interactions with a prospect/customer are very important. They set the tone for the future relationship (or even determine whether there’ll be one). When a decision is made about whether a prospect will work with you, follow up and do a win/loss interview. Find out everything you can about where the firm found you, whether your communications were helpful and what the sales process was like for the prospect.

  • When a project is in progress: Check in with your customer over and above any regular communications. Is it getting what it expected? Is the work progressing as it expected? Are you doing or not doing anything where tweaking things would make a difference for the customer?

  • When a customer project is done: Conduct a formal customer-review process. Take the firm back to its first contact with you right through to the completion of the project. Dig into every area of interaction you’ve had with the customer and capture its comments.

Armed with a bunch of feedback from your customers, you need a way of incorporating it into your business model. This doesn’t happen by itself, so you have to do that systematically. You have to start thinking of your business development as a ’round and round in circles’ kind of a game:

  • You create an offer that you take to the marketplace. You validate your offer with research, talking to your network and making sure that your offer has a market. You design how you’ll market it, sell it and deliver it.

  • You set goals for your business. You’d better have some goals and a plan for how you’re going to reach them.

  • You work your plan. You put it into action and monitor the results.

  • You gather feedback. In addition to customer feedback opportunities, you check the market to see how things are shifting.

  • You reinvent (or confirm) your offer. You use the sum of your experiences to reinvigorate the offer you have, or the way in which you’re selling, delivering or administering that offer.

The feedback loop is powerful in keeping your business on track with what the market wants. The trick is to use it. At a minimum, do a thorough review every year and incorporate any changes you need to make. You’ll see faster sales, happier customers, more efficient delivery, lower costs and higher profits. Using a feedback loop is pure gold.