Business Development – Top 10 Tips for Critical Success

By Julie Meyer and Beth More, WeiserMazars LLP Marketing Department

Business development is time intensive and takes effort. While development plans vary, the most effective focus on core business strengths, clients and contacts. It is important to have a clear understanding of the underlying business in order to help guide strategic focus in areas such as joining membership organizations, developing thought leadership and means of disseminating that material. A specific, attainable and measurable plan is required to ensure that your business development activities are meaningful.

The Top 10 Factors Leading to Successful Opportunities

In 2013, WeiserMazars invested a substantial amount of time and resources exploring how to improve the effectiveness of the firm’s business development endeavors. A series of in-office collaborative sessions focused on identifying those elements that most contributed to successful opportunities. The top 10 factors identified, which can be applied to all professionals and professional services firms, were:

  1. Prompt/Rapid Response – Clients are keenly aware of promptness and responsiveness from service providers. We have begun to lose count of the number of new clients who tell us that they switched firms because their previous firm failed to return phone calls and meet deadlines. It is crucial at all times to quickly respond to client concerns and questions and to keep in contact with them.
  2. Set Attainable Goals – Set attainable business development goals that can be measured. For example, devoting one hour a week to business development or contacting two new prospects every month.
  3. Track Your Progress and Follow Up – Make sure to keep track of all your business development efforts. This will help when following up on your progress and identifying areas for improvement. Statistics show that less than 3 percent of all sales – and, after all, pitching services is a form of sales – are made on the first attempt.
  4. Client Service – It is exponentially more difficult to get a new client than it is to receive more work from a current client. Successful business developers nurture relationships with their clients by providing outstanding service, regularly staying in contact, seeking feedback, and showing appreciation by sending cards and gifts or by hosting client-appreciation events.
  5. Fees – Fees are always important, but fee negotiations are only successful when the price fits the work. It is imperative to understand the balance between the price, realization and the value of the work.
  6. Fit (Matching Prospect and Firm) – This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how much time is invested in “mismatched” opportunities, rather than making sure that the firm and the prospect are well-matched to each other before any attempt is made to gain the new client.
  7. Staying Abreast of Industry Trends – Successful professionals monitor press for developments and opportunities. Clients and prospects respond very positively to proactive outreach and clearly demonstrated knowledge of the current industry environment.
  8. Open Rapport – Solid relationships and close communication lead to more business.
  9. Understanding the Competition – You can’t be prepared for an opportunity if you don’t know the capabilities of your competitors; just knowing competitor names is not enough.
  10. Upsell/Cross-Sell – Additional partnership opportunities identified during an engagement are win-win for the firm and the client. The best motivators to cross-selling and upselling are to stress compensation, control, competence, and communication.

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