3 Steps to Becoming a Business Developer
Step 1 — The Mindset Challenge
Most of us abhor business development — not just CPAs. Even full-time salespeople, across professions, are reluctant business developers. They are glad and proud to work on an organic introduction — when A refers them to B, especially when they had no foreknowledge. But they are loath to ask for the introduction, particularly a targeted introduction: Can you introduce me to Bob Smith at Company ABC?
Why the reluctance, if not abhorrence?
It’s usually a question of how we see relationships between people, “social values” vs. “business values.” A social seller wants people to like them and doesn’t want to be seen as pushy or inappropriate. A business seller wants to earn the right to trusted relationships and profitable business. We usually enter the workforce armed with “social values,” learning them by early teenage years.
The mindset problem is compounded by the negative view of salespeople in our culture, cemented and transmitted through works like “Death of a Salesman” — where salespeople are stereotyped as slimy losers. When a potential buyer has this mindset, we encounter resistance. When a salesperson internalizes this mindset, there is no business development.
This is so unfortunate because salespeople are/should be heroes. Joseph Campbell, an anthropologist who studied hero myths in hundreds of cultures over thousands of years in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, identified the point where we become heroes. It’s when we “leave the village,” face the uncertainty of our quest to “kill the dragon” that we become heroes. Business developers are heroes because they face uncertainty and are on a noble quest. They lead a dual crusade — first, to support their own company by bringing new clients and second to help the prospect in the face of resistance, to help the prospect move from resistance to an open/learning mindset. This takes heroism.
When you build and reinforce a culture of the business developer as hero, the business developer earns respect and self-respect. This provides psychic fuel for a lifetime.
Part 2 — The Magic Moment of Access
So much for theory, how about practice? What can we do to help transition CPAs into a business developer role?
Assume we are working on the mindset. To help support the behavior, we can coach our CPAs to focus on the magic moment of access.
One of the most difficult aspects of business development is achieving access — getting through to the decision-maker. Yet, we have, and usually don’t use, access in the magic moment.
What is this magic moment? Say the client has made a request and we have satisfied the request. We confirm:
- They are delighted
- They have no other needs
If there are no other issues, e.g. we recently let them down, this is the magic moment of access when we could ask the client for:
- An introduction
- A written testimonial
Ideally, our CPAs come equipped with specific targets they want to meet by scanning the client’s LinkedIn connections. “I see you are LinkedIn with Jane Brown at DEF. Do you know Jane well enough to introduce me?”
Tax season might just be the most fertile time to practice the magic moment approach, as we probably have the most access to our clients.
Part 3 — Not One and Done
Cultural change takes place over time and needs to be supported in several ways, including:
- The business development culture – the business developer as hero
- Coaching the incoming business developers, which includes:
- Bringing them on client calls with experienced business developers to show how it’s done
- One-to-one coaching — ideally every two weeks
- Setting a reasonable standard after a ramp-up period, such as one introduction a month. We need a “do or die” commitment, which means if you don’t get an introduction in month one, we need two introductions in month two. Group sessions, where there are two or more CPAss being developed
- Group sessions that:
- Teach the mindset shift
- Teach the skill sets needed
- Help you learn from the group — case histories, brainstorming challenges, the impact of peer pressure
With the proper culture and change process in place, you can transform CPAs into business developers in as little as four to six months.
Andrew Gole is owner of Bombadil LLC. He works with CEOs, owners and corporate leaders throughout the U.S.