On Friday 11th February, we held our first breakfast session of 2017 at Forge & Co in Shoreditch. The discussion, presented by Lucy Mann from Gunpowder Consulting, offered tips on how to strengthen business development, focusing around the ideas of marginal gains, planning and up-skilling.

Central to re-imagining business development was Mann’s ‘Small Spark Theory’. Similar to the concept of marginal gains, ‘Small Spark Theory’ breaks down the process of generating new business into distinct stages, allowing each to be measured and improved. This mechanises the often-lengthy course of business development, tightening the screws around processes and creates the well-oiled new-business machine that every agency deserves.

Below we’ve summarised the key points of the discussion so you needn’t miss out if you missed the talk.

Objectives: as with all complex processes, the ability to develop a series of clear objectives allows new-business teams and agencies to direct efforts towards specific goals. That might sound obvious, but working out what an agency wants to achieve in the near future is crucial to orienting business efforts towards specific goals.

Planning: an effective plan is an agency’s most valuable weapon, and should be designed to accommodate an agency’s respective strengths and weaknesses. As a general rule, planning should be kept light and reflect the step-by-step approach of ‘marginal gains’. Partnering with a dream brand or gaining a new ‘pillar’ client is much more likely when approaches are structured and supported by a variety of paths.

Up-skilling: Mann encouraged agencies to invest in the talent of teams around preparation, delivery and communication skills. Lead generation can be a costly process, but one with significant benefits – why waste an opportunity to convert when the initial meeting could be better, the follow up process slicker or the pitch juicer? Invest in the people in your agency, and the rest will follow!

LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be an overlooked resource to business development, but the ability to comment, like and share industry news and trends allows agencies to subtly spread their presence in ways that were impossible 20 years ago. Overlooking the importance of LinkedIn risks allowing agencies to slip into the mists of online irrelevance- use it to your advantage!

Be Human: humanising business development is a useful skill and one that can make the process all the more fruitful. Being able to walk in the shoes of a prospective client inevitably reveals the weaknesses in any approach, forcing us to face important questions that will play back into subsequent strategy: ‘Am I saying what I want to say? Am I saying what my prospect needs to hear? Am I solving problems?’

Answering these types of questions reduces the need to ‘sell’ to a prospective client, opens discourse to insightful, memorable conversations, and makes encounters all the more meaningful and significant. After all, isn’t that what prospecting for new business is all about?