Amplify!, Business Dev/Sales

Amplify | The Dynamic Role of Business Development in Firm Growth

Episode 1: What a Business Development Executive Does

Meeting new people, building external relationships and identifying opportunities for the firm are key responsibilities of a business development professional. These people play a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of their firms.

No two paths to a business development role in a CPA firm are the same, and Danielle Reynolds, business development manager at Whitley Penn, is no exception. In a recent Amplify! podcast, she shared her journey from health promotion to becoming a key figure in business development.

Danielle’s transition to business development wasn’t a predetermined career path. Whitley Penn supported her through external coaching, and she credits her success to the firm’s entrepreneurial culture and autonomy. Emphasizing the two-way nature of mentorship, Danielle believes in the importance of advocating for oneself and actively seeking support. As a result, she has carved out a multifaceted role that is unique to her. It’s a testament to the adaptability and growth potential within the accounting industry for sales professionals.

What a Business Developer Does

Danielle’s day-to-day activities are far from monotonous. As a brand ambassador for Whitley Penn, she actively participates in various organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Her role also extends to co-chairing an events committee for a non-profit, showcasing her commitment to both professional and philanthropic endeavors. Danielle emphasizes the importance of not only external relationship building but also nurturing internal relationships to foster personal and professional growth.

She is not a CPA but believes her background in health promotion is a unique superpower in her business development role. This perspective allows her to listen for elements beyond the technical aspects, adding a valuable dimension to client interactions. Danielle’s focus on understanding clients’ needs, both technical and non-technical, allows her to take a well-rounded approach in business development.

Danielle’s typical day involves a myriad of activities, from external meetings with business owners and referral partners to scoping calls for initial client connections. She actively engages in building target prospect lists and contributes to supporting various industry groups within the firm. Weekly LinkedIn content creation and professional development videos add another layer to her varied responsibilities. Collaborating closely with the marketing team, she ensures alignment between sales and marketing efforts.

Danielle sets her own goals in collaboration with the Chief Growth Officer, and her transition into business development was facilitated by external coaching. While there’s flexibility, she emphasizes the importance of tying goals back to growth initiatives. Her measurable goals include organic leads, transitioning web and phone leads to closures and other key performance indicators. This requires a balance between external representation and internal collaboration to drive success.

A BD Playbook

A self-proclaimed chameleon, Danielle believes her ability to adapt to the changing seasons within the firm is crucial, especially during busy seasons when priorities and goals shift. She uses a playbook to detail her approach to identifying business needs and collaborating with partners. Her playbook consists of scoping questions to gather information about a prospect’s business needs and it’s coupled with an understanding of each partner’s style and preferences. This enables her to make introductions to partners with a clear understanding of the scope of work needed.

Rather than viewing client acquisition as an individual endeavor, she encourages a team approach, leveraging the strengths and resources of everyone involved. This collaborative mindset extends to young partners, creating a positive and supportive work environment.

Her role requires balancing various responsibilities, and she helps by putting the prospects’ needs of first. She works to:

  • Build lasting impressions. When dealing with web and phone leads, it’s about creating the best first impression. Even if the prospect may not be the perfect fit for a potential client, she aims to leave a positive impression, even if it means referring them to other accounting firms.
  • Understand the buyer’s needs. By identifying the specific needs a prospect may have, she navigates the process with a focus on building relationships rather than just closing transactions.
  • Be a resource beyond accounting. Her approach extends beyond the traditional scope of accounting. She proactively offers herself as a resource, asking clients if there’s anyone else she can connect them with, even outside the realm of accounting. This highlights her commitment to providing value beyond the immediate business transaction.

She also works to slow down the sale to speed up the close. In a world that often emphasizes quick results, Danielle focuses on relationship-building over transactional interactions. Taking the time to understand a client’s needs thoroughly will help her when it comes time to close.

Setting Goals and Building Pipelines

It’s important to set clear goals and collaborate with leadership to align a business development professional with the firm’s vision. Utilizing Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Danielle manages multiple pipelines tailored to different aspects of her role. This includes a specialized pipeline for web and phone leads, offering a comprehensive view of communication progress and providing targeted insights for industry-specific meetings.

The strategic use of CRM gives her the ability to filter and streamline data. It gives her a nuanced understanding of deal activity across the entire firm while ensuring she has the flexibility to focus on her specific contributions. This transparency enhances internal collaboration, enabling teams to align efforts and seize growth opportunities.

Use of CRM extends beyond pipeline to custom dashboards. These personalized interfaces offer a snapshot of key metrics, aiding in effective communication with leadership.

Transparency and Team Collaboration

In a role that involves constant interaction with diverse stakeholders, staying organized is paramount. She employs task reminders to ensure timely follow-ups with prospects, a crucial aspect of relationship management in business development. She’s also built LinkedIn into her routine and uses the upgraded version to proactively engage with profile viewers and new connections.

Danielle is committed to transparency. By ensuring visibility into her activities through firm-wide pipelines and dashboards, Danielle fosters a culture of openness. This transparency not only aids collaboration but also helps her colleagues understand the intricacies of her role.

Adapting to Firm Needs and Embracing Change

Aligning business development efforts with the evolving needs of the firm is part of her chameleon approach. She strives to adapt to the firm’s growth goals and strategic plans, exemplifying the versatility required in modern business development.

The firm also has to be open to change and growth. She places equal importance on what she terms “essential skills,” emphasizing qualities like attitude, work ethic and innovative thinking as crucial elements in a successful business development professional. This approach ensures that business development professionals can contribute meaningfully to the firm’s goals and adapt to evolving challenges.

Business Developers Evolve with the Firm

In a world where business development roles can take myriad forms, Danielle continues to evolve. She embraces change, fosters external and internal relationships and stays organized – all crucial elements to her success.

This chameleon will certainly continue to evolve with her firm. From strategic CRM use to transparent collaboration, her approach highlights the dynamic nature of business development and the importance of aligning individual goals with the overarching vision of the firm. Embracing adaptability and nurturing essential skills will be key to unlocking sustained success.


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 1, featuring a conversation with Danielle Reynolds, business development manager at Whitley Penn. 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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