How to Keep Business Development on Everyone’s To-Do List
Even as firms struggle to find staff and professionals feel overworked or overwhelmed, business development (BD) still must be on the to-do list. As marketers, we understand nonbillable activities are just as important as billable ones. Without new business, our firms won’t have billable work. Without effective recruiting, we won’t have the people to do the work. Without accounting and billing, we won’t get paid for our work.
With the Great Resignation affecting all professions, including accounting, how can we help rainmakers free up time for BD while being sensitive to the competing priorities on their plates?
The answer lies in low-effort, high-impact activities and expanding upon what you may already have at your fingertips.
Schedule Business Development Time
Many accountants feel business development competes with billable time. It doesn’t. It competes with other nonbillable activities. Encourage professionals to intentionally budget how much of their nonbillable time goes to BD activities.
“Unplanned sales activity can never compete with planned project activity,” said Mel Lester, a management consultant to professional services firms who writes for LinkedIn. “To combat this tendency, treat it like a project. BD is readily converted into the core elements of project work — tasks, assignments, schedules, budgets, deliverables, reviews, metrics. A basic time management principle applies here: If it’s worth doing, make a specific appointment and get it on your calendar. Then treat that appointment like any other — schedule other activities around it or reschedule it if you must.”
Firm members likely already field and respond to client questions as part of their ongoing client service. If someone takes the time to reply to an email answering a client’s question, turn that response into a social media post. Chances are, if one person has the question, many others will benefit from hearing the answer.
Check in regularly with partners and ask them to copy you on client emails that address questions. Use their answers (edited to remove client-specific information, of course) to create FAQ blog posts. You’ll provide visibility and shelf life to valuable content your professionals have already created.
The people at your firm interact with clients and referral sources every day, which means every day is an opportunity for them to be brand ambassadors. Answering the phone or responding to an email should be viewed as high-impact activities because you’re addressing a need. This is one way to look at something you’re doing every day as a business development opportunity. Being a good listener, responsive and understanding can expand your brand and encourage people to refer more business your way.
Solve, Don’t Sell
Accountants are excellent problem solvers. Help emerging business developers understand their focus should be on solving, not on selling, since the term “solving” likely is more palatable than “selling.”
One way to do this is by having them analyze existing clients to identify additional services they may need and your firm can provide. Help them create what Nicole Sterling, communications and marketing director at RSW Accounting and Consulting in Montreal, calls a Client Excellence Plan.
“These types of plans are an excellent way to mine business from your existing client base,” Sterling said. “It takes far less time and fewer resources to pursue new work from existing clients than to build new business relationships. By taking this deep dive, you may uncover new ways to provide more to those already at your fingertips.”
To keep existing staff and clients feeling supported, consider taking a look at your client list and begin culling. Though not an easy or quick activity, thoughtfully pruning clients may be a source of relief.
There are many tactics to part ways with clients who are no longer the right fit. For example, you can refer them to a smaller firm that would better suit their needs.
It may feel daunting to undertake, but removing some clients may release the valve on the pressure cooker and allows you to spend the right resources on the right clients. (For more information on how to prune clients, see Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Marketing’s Role in Culling Clients)
Cultivate Growth Culture
It’s a marketer’s job to help cultivate a culture of growth from the onset of someone’s career with our firms. Make sure marketing and business development are a part of the firm’s onboarding materials to help empower new staff, regardless of their level, with the tools they need to talk about the firm.
Educate team members on how to identify a cross-serving opportunity within the firm. Encourage partners to adopt a “tag-along” policy to introduce junior team members to referral sources, prospects, or a client’s team and mentor those who have expressed interest in growing the firm.
Consider these strategies to create more space to tackle BD activities and to give yourself and your teams credit for the BD activities they’re already doing.
When we’re all busy and feeling overwhelmed, sometimes a shift in our mindset can make a huge difference.
Access the full Spring 2022 issue of Growth Strategies which focuses on talent and technologies here: https://accountingmarketing.org/publications/growth-strategies-archive
About Casey Blake
Casey Blake is the Director of Client Success with Kolibri Law Support Solutions. She is an experienced marketing professional with a demonstrated history of making an impact in the professional services industry.
Welcome to CPA Growth Trends — your source for information, insights, tools and best practices to drive growth within an accounting firm.
with Danielle Reynolds, Business Development, Manager with Whitley Penn
A business developer’s day involves a myriad of activities from external meetings with business owners and referral partners to scoping calls for initial client connections.