Amplify!, Business Dev/Sales

Amplify | Navigating the Role of a Business Development Executive in Accounting

A Business Development Executive’s Success Stems from Collaboration

Business development executives (BDEs) play a crucial role in accounting firms. The BDE role can vary based on the firm’s size, scope and specialization. However, their primary focus remains consistent: generating activity in the market, identifying opportunities, nurturing leads and contributing to the firm’s growth. In a recent Amplify! podcast, Adam Klein, chief growth officer at Bennett Thrasher, shared how the BDE role collaborates with firm leaders to drive strategic growth.

Collaboration with Firm Leaders

Collaboration is key in defining a successful relationship between BDEs and firm leaders.  It’s essential to align on high-level strategies and goals. A lack of communication or a misalignment of objectives can hinder the effectiveness of business development efforts. As such, business developers should work closely with firm leaders to understand the firm’s growth priorities and tailor their efforts accordingly.

Adam has found that an early indicator of a business developer’s ability to succeed or not comes down to how the role is set up. And when a BDE fails, it’s more often a result of how the role was set up within a firm than it was their skills or capabilities. To prevent this from happening, a BDE needs to report to an individual who:

  1. Prioritizes growth
  2. Has a long-term strategic outlook
  3. Understands the business developer’s roles and responsibilities
  4. Knows what to expect in the market
  5. Grasps how long things may take to develop

While smaller firms might have a single BDE reporting to a firm leader or operations leader, larger firms may have teams of business developers reporting through a traditional sales structure. Regardless of firm size, there needs to be a collaborative nature between BDEs and the firm leaders setting the vision for growth.

As a BDE identifies opportunities, uncovers pain points and engages with potential clients, they eventually need to bring in subject matter experts, often partners or senior professionals within the firm, into the sales process to resolve the needs or challenges the prospect has. There are some practitioners who believe relationships should be exclusively managed by the professionals delivering the services. However, Adam contends that business developers can play a vital role in nurturing prospect relationships. BDEs offer consistent engagement and act as quarterbacks, ensuring that prospects receive the attention they need. This approach doesn’t seek to replace the professional’s role but rather complements it, enhancing the overall client experience.

Adam advocates for the “player-coach” model, where business developers not only generate opportunities but also coach professionals within the firm to become better business developers themselves. This approach fosters a sense of partnership and collaboration, allowing professionals to work together to win new business and serve clients more effectively. It’s not about replacing existing relationships but supplementing them with additional expertise and perspectives.

Aligning Business Development with Firm Goals

One critical aspect of successful business development is aligning it with the overall goals of the accounting firm. With a collaborative approach, business developers work closely with firm leaders, partners and practitioners to establish a unified vision for growth. This collaboration ensures that the business developer’s efforts are synchronized with the firm’s strategic objectives.

Effective communication between business developers and firm leaders is essential. While it is important to have strategic conversations about the firm’s growth goals, it’s equally important to look at metrics and numbers. Business developers should be prepared to provide insights into the activities, strategies and tactics taken to achieve the firm’s objectives. These discussions should include metrics around what is in the pipeline, when will something close, how many dollars, etc. But the conversation cannot only be about numbers. BDEs need to do the right things to sow the seeds to build the activity that will translate into lead generation, especially early on in their tenure. The focus should be on both the tactical and the strategic. Find a BDE who is also a proactive strategic thinker and encourage them to bring in new ideas for consideration.

Much of the success of a business developer is also closely tied to the firm’s culture. A growth-oriented culture that values business development as a strategic function provides an ideal environment for BDEs to thrive. In contrast, a culture solely focused on immediate results may hinder their long-term success. A healthy growth culture encourages open dialogue, experimentation and strategic thinking, allowing business developers to contribute effectively.

Initiating Strategic Conversations

Whether you are a business developer or a partner seeking a more collaborative approach, initiating strategic conversations is the key to success. Both parties should openly discuss what success means to them, how to align their efforts and what metrics and strategies will lead to that success. These conversations should take place early on, ideally before hiring a business developer, to ensure that expectations and objectives are clear from the start.

To harness the full potential of a BDE, accounting firms must foster a growth-oriented culture and align their business development efforts with strategic objectives. Open and strategic conversations lead to a more collaborative and effective approach. That’s how accounting firms can navigate the evolving landscape of business development and drive success for both the firm and its clients.


This blog post was written based on content from the latest season of Amplify, the podcast of AAM – dedicated to firm growth. This article is based on Season 4, Episode 3, featuring a conversation with Adam Klein, chief growth officer at Bennet Thrasher. Learn more about the podcast and listen first-hand at

About Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super-regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame.

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