CPA Growth Trends, Marketing

Business Development: How Business Development Can Improve The Client Journey

By: Neil Barrow, RevOps Advisors

Of all the things that your business development professional should be doing, one of the most critical components to winning new business is adding them to your client journey. If you have a strong relationship with and understanding of the value a BD professional can bring to the table when it comes to inbound leads, the decision to involve them is not complicated.

Most partners are effective in handling new referrals and inbound requests, but research shows the speed at which you respond increases the odds of connecting and winning a new client by up to 50%. Considering the workload, management responsibilities and travel that partners have, a speedy response can sometimes be a challenge. A BD professional can effectively increase response times.

Why does this matter? It shows that the firm is excited and responsive to new opportunities, and that will make the prospect more likely to want to work with the firm. The partners like working with the BD too because it reduces admin time, helps them better prepare and provides them with a different perspective.


How BDs Help with Different Types of Leads

There are many areas where leads will come from, but they will generally fall into two categories:

  1. Partner originated – usually via referral
  2. Inbound or BD originated – can be referral or cold

With partner-originated, the partner will lead the communication and loop in BD to provide support. This can be informal through back-end research, meeting prep or CRM organization. It could also be more formal like bringing BD into the conversation at the beginning and then having them coordinate everything.

How this works is usually based on the relationship the partner has with both the BD and the prospective client. If this is a longtime prospective client relationship for the partner, then it makes sense for BD’s presence to be minimal or just informal. If there is no existing relationship, then it depends on the comfort level of the partner to work with BD and if the firm encourages utilizing BD to offload critical components of a new lead — the urgency, preparation and communication.

With inbound or BD-originated, the BD will lead the communication and bring in the right professionals. The typical challenge for any firm with BD-originated leads is ownership of the client — the professional needs to be involved early enough to be invested in the client relationship so it’s not just perceived as more work for them.

Firms are struggling with overloaded professionals and capacity issues. A BD needs to be sensitive to this while also making sure they are brought in early enough to build a relationship with that potential client. If a BD brings the professional in too late, the professional could feel like an overworked part of a transaction instead of a professional excited to take on a new valuable client.


What the BD’s Role Looks Like

 Now that we have the categories of leads, let’s walk through what this might look like in a simple client journey:

Lead → Discovery → Proposal → Close: Won/Lost

Let’s use an inbound lead that comes through the website as an example. Here’s what that process could look like.

1. Lead. The BD makes initial contact and provides research for the meeting on the company, executives, industry and current client stories. The partner meets with BD to discuss research and strategy for the meeting to prepare.

The goal at this stage is meeting preparation (industry, current clients, connections to team, questions to ask, etc.) and selecting the team for a call.

2. Discovery. The BD sits in the meeting to take notes and support the partner by asking high-level questions about problems they are facing, the timeline to fix them, decision makers, budget, etc. They make sure there is a defined next step and provide the follow-up. The partner’s role is to provide their expertise and experience around what the prospect is facing. They ask questions to get to the heart of the prospective clients’ challenges and opportunities and provide advice and/or potential solutions.

The goal is for the partner to understand their problem and if they would be a good fit while the BD is looking to understand how they are going to make a decision and what they need to make it.

3. Proposal. Here the BD works with the partner to put together a proposal, making sure to match the urgency of the next steps. Notes and updates are also put into CRM for the pipeline by the BD. The partner works with BD to put together a proposal and then sends that proposal to the potential client.

The partner’s goal is to put together the budget and team, and the BD puts together a business case of what their problem is, their options to fix it and why the firm is a good fit to do that.

4. Close: Won/Lost. The BD puts notes in CRM, sends a nice thank you note and moves on from the opportunity. The partner provides onboarding communications and starts to work with the client.

The goal is to understand the decision of the client and make sure to effectively follow up or seamlessly onboard.


Use a Team Approach

Winning new clients will work best when there is a team approach and the firm prepares as much as possible before the meeting. Utilizing a BD professional enables partners to keep a timely handle on new leads and follow through on the opportunities.

For this to be successful, make sure you:

  1. Define roles and expectations for both the partner and BD throughout the client journey.
  2. Ensure the BD provides critical components to winning a new client, like urgency, preparation and communication.
  3. Enable the BD to help partners offload the administration.
  4. Blend BD’s ability to respond quickly and effectively with the partner’s client experience and knowledge.

This will increase the likelihood that potential new clients will have a favorable impression of the firm and will want to work with you.

Remember, when communication and preparation are urgent, let a BD quarterback the client journey and you will see a better win rate.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Neil Barrow is a business development expert with 15 years of experience in sales and business development. He is the founder of RevOps Advisors, a fractional and outsourced business development consulting firm. He has worked in two different large, local accounting firms overseeing strategic sales development, community engagement, and go-to-market strategies.

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