It’s easy to confuse strategic planning with business planning. However, what business you want to be in and how you should allocate resources to do business are two very different issues. If you jump ahead to business planning without having done a thorough job of strategic planning, you risk achieving great resource allocation applied to the wrong strategies.
You might think that you know what businesses you are in and want to be in, but that does not give you a strategic plan. If your strategic plan consists of identifying customers and pursuing anything you can get from them, you don’t really have a strategic plan. Bidding everything leads to failure. A strategic plan is the first step in making sure you don’t go down that road. One counter-intuitive way to understand the necessity of strategic planning is to realize the horrible fates of companies that don’t do effective strategic planning. A good sign that you’re already going down that path is when you get to the proposal phase and find that it’s really hard to write your proposal win themes.
When companies don’t have effective strategic plans, they often fill the void with bad habits. Like all bad habits, they are notoriously hard to break. It’s better to prevent bad habits than try to correct them. You can do this by developing good habits that lead to winning.
To become a company that wins through strategy, you need to think about strategic planning differently. It’s not about creating a document. It’s about recognizing that you want to be a company that responds to RFPs like your business depends on it by thinking through the chain of events that leads to winning business. And then positioning the right way in the right places, with the right pursuit strategies.
A strategic plan helps focus people in your company on pursuing the right targets. But it should also guide them in the right ways to pursue them. This requires considering a combination of:
- Processes and policies
- Resource allocation and budgets
- Strategies and approaches
- Organizational issues
- Roles, responsibilities, and territories
For example, in pursuing government contracts, teaming strategies can be vital. Or a way to reduce your income. The right strategic approach can make or break your success.
Effective strategic planning pushes you to better understand your business. It requires you to understand how marketing, sales, and organizational issues impact each other, so that you can provide appropriate direction and resource allocation.
For business development, it all revolves around your business pipeline. It’s not enough to track your leads. You need to link where those leads will come from to how they get qualified and each phase of pursuit. A pipeline is a mathematical model of this, that is often visualized with simple bar charts. But behind the charts lies a world of complexity that when you understand it can provide tremendous insight into the nature of your business. A good pipeline assessment can predict the future of your business.
But it can also tell you how to fill your pipeline. You can learn what’s more important than lead generation. Adding metrics to your pipeline can tell you how to allocate resources. Understand how your win rate impacts your pipeline can help you make better decisions and improve your company’s ability to grow. Understanding your pipeline also tells you how much business development you can afford.
The key to effective strategic planning is to turn it into a tool. A brilliant document that sits on a shelf is useless. You want to create a strategic feedback loop. You should learn something from creating your strategic plan and it should provide support and guidance for your staff at every step. It should be an asset and not a reference. And what you learn from implementing it will enable you to improve your strategic plans during the next update. It’s that feedback loop that guides you to greatness.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.
The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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