This might sound like a bold statement but here we go – your business development strategy is based on assumptions.
The reality is, that’s true for everyone.
Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you don’t at least check the validity of what’s under-pinning your strategy then it could be a costly mistake.
What do I mean by assumptions?
A couple of good examples come from Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup.
Eric talks about two common assumptions built into the strategy and business plans of start-ups; these are assumptions about Value and Growth. Essentially, many start-ups make un-tested assumptions based on what they think customers want and how big the market is for growth.
Outside of start-ups, I see a lot of assumptions being made about how customers describe their need or problem, how they see your business in the marketplace and, indeed, who they think your competitors are.
Often, the competitors that you’re watching are not the ones your customers and prospects compare you with.
The way to find these assumptions is to challenge them by asking questions.
Read out your strategy and then start to pull it apart. Start from the premise that you don’t believe a word of it. If the strategy says “Product X is targeted at Y customer segment” ask – “How do you know that?”
That’s a great question to start to unpick a statement.
This is where an external third-party can be helpful since they naturally have a fresher, outside perspective and are not invested in the strategy.
Another approach is to ask “what would have to be true for this to work?”
Once you get an answer, ask the question again and again to uncover assumptions that are baked in deep.
As I said, it’s not that assumptions are wrong. Someone’s experience is essentially just an assumption, ie: X had Y result before so that will happen again.
And in many cases that’s correct.
But sometimes it’s worth checking with reality.