I have been coaching a partner in a large accountancy practice who confessed to me that he was feeling daunted about the marketing plans we were drawing up. You could say, he wanted to become more confident at business development. His reaction is not unusual, in fact, I’d say, his reaction was fairly common. Firstly, why? As an accountant, lawyer or consultant (delete as appropriate), you spend most of your formative years in the profession crafting your technical abilities. The only nod to increasing your business development skill set is potentially giving you some networking training. (Although, this is normally, ‘how to work the room’ – how this will help you actually build and nurture your network for the future is a debatable point). Is it any wonder that when faced with a tough business development target – to be achieved on top of the day job – that most professionals feel daunted about business development, and suddenly want to become more confident at business development.

How to become more confident at business development

Here are some tips to help you feel more confident and comfortable about business development.

1. Have a manageable plan

Rome wasn’t build in a day, and your £500k+ client portfolio will not get built over night. So, take the pressure off yourself and work out what you will do when. It gets mentally much easier to do business development when you stop thinking about all the things you could do and just focus on what you will do.  I’d recently seen my pipeline of leads start to dry up. As you can imagine, this is something that really does keep me awake. So, I set myself a new business goal for Q2, and focused on what I was going to do to achieve this target, i.e. my tactical marketing plan. Two weeks into Quarter 2, and if two proposals get accepted (which seems pretty likely), I will have achieved my new business target. In The Go-To Expert, Part 4, we discuss using a tactical marketing plan to chunk down what you will actually do to deliver on your business development objectives.

2. Specialise and have a niche

I was recently running a webinar for the alumni and current MBA students of the Warwick Business School. The webinar was all about how to use your network to find your next role. One of the comments in the discussion went something like this:

I want to leave myself open for the opportunities I can do

That is exactly the problem that many associates, managers, directors, and dare I say it partners have with business development. They want to leave themselves open for the opportunities they can do, rather than focus on the opportunities they really want to do. I’ve said this many times, but business development just gets easier when you truly specialise and commit yourself to a niche.

3. Work with a coach

Over the last few weeks I’ve taken some unscheduled calls from my clients. (It’s all part of the service we deliver to our clients). I’ve found myself saying something similar to this to these clients:

If it was easy you wouldn’t be working with me as your coach

Moving from being someone who services client work to someone who wins client work is hard. It is not something which is easily learnt by osmosis. In fact, I get very frustrated that many firms prioritise leadership training for their high potentials (i.e. future partners), rather than a combined mixture of leadership AND business development training.

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