9 Tips to Being Successful at Business Development

By Jan Schweitzer | CPA, CFE

What is it about the term “business development” that presents such a daunting image for a number of us?  Perhaps it automatically conjures up phrases such as “cold calling”, “being pushy” or something similar.  The good news?  I have found after 15 years of being with my firm, it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.  I’m not what I would consider a rainmaker, but I have found over the last several years I have gotten more and more business from both new and existing clients.   There is no single compelling reason why that has happened, so I’ve found myself putting a lot of thought into why the tide has turned in my favor after so many years; perhaps some of my thoughts can be helpful:

It’s all about the relationship.

 A quote from Theodore Roosevelt captures the underlying theme of this for me:  “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you let your clients know how much you care, and how much you want them to succeed, they will pay you back with loyalty, regardless of your fees.  Your goal?  Make your client’s business better.

Don’t forget the value of direct conversations. 

In today’s social media world, it’s easy to hide behind your phone or computer.  Don’t let impersonal correspondence be the main source of communication with your clients, prospects or referral sources.  They will value personal interaction more than you think.

Ask questions and listen, listen, listen. 

Hear what their concerns and needs are.  Pause before you respond, and think through your responses before you speak. 

Be proactive

Be proactive in providing resources that will help your clients and prospects improve their business.  They will remember those that go out of their way to help them succeed.

Be smart and strategic about the business you accept. 

Taking on the wrong client for the wrong reasons ultimately ends up costing your firm more in the long run than it may be worth. 

Honesty trumps volume. 

Be tactful, but above all else, be honest, even if it’s something the person you are talking to wants to hear or not. 

An unhappy client can speak more volumes than a satisfied client. 

Make it a goal to exceed expectations and provide excellent service that your clients will be enthusiastically talking about to others.

Don’t sacrifice quality. 

If your firm has a good reputation for quality, be proud of it.

Get out there! 

Be willing to get to community events; serve on boards; nurture referral sources; give presentations to relevant groups.  The more visible you are, the more people will recognize you as the technical or topical expert and will associate your name with your firm.

Business development is a vital role to undertake if a firm is to grow organically, but remember that it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.   By using some of the tips outlined above, you may find it can be a very fun and rewarding experience.


Jan Schweitzer is the Controller Services Business Unit Director and Shareholder at Anderson ZurMuehlen. She has significant audit and accounting experience, including performance and supervision of financial statements and compliance audits for nonprofit and commercial entities. To learn more about Jan:

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