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CPA Now
Apr 19, 2019

Build a Better Book of Business through Modern Business Development

Amy FrankoBy Amy Franko


Imagine a client saying this about you: “Susan is a difference maker to our business. She finds ways to make her firm even more valuable to us. She brings ideas I would have never thought of. We trust her. She’s our competitive advantage.”

When your clients (or prospective clients) see you in this way, you’re practicing modern business development.

Futuristic electronic display of clientsProspective and current clients deal with an ever-shifting set of business dynamics, technology trends, and cultural change. These elements influence what they need to be successful, and that in turn elevates their expectations of you. CPAs, whether they realize it or not, are operating in a new client economy.

To succeed in the new client economy, you need to become a modern business developer. Modern business developers exhibit five key capabilities that set them apart: agility, entrepreneurship, a holistic view, social awareness, and ambassador skills.

A Modern Business Developer Is Agile

Harvard Business Review defines agility as rapid and continuous learning from experience. It’s the ability to see ahead of the curve, to connect seemingly disparate things into new ideas. With agility, you can go deeper into existing business problems, uncover unidentified problems, and offer better insights.

Because the pace of change has become so rapid, agility creates more innovation and relevance. When you can help your clients be more innovative and relevant, everyone wins.

One strategy to practice agility is to develop strategic speed. Strategic speed is the ability to accomplish key business development goals by creating both short-term and long-term momentum.

A Modern Business Developer Is Entrepreneurial

The best business developers see themselves as the CEO of their book of business. Your vision, strategy, and approach determine how successful that book becomes.

This requires you to operate from an entrepreneurial point of view, positioning yourself beyond transactional business development. Become a valued, strategic adviser.

A strategy for practicing the entrepreneurial mind-set is to create three-year and one-year visions. Your three-year vision will be strategic, visualizing the bigger picture. Your one-year vision is tactical. The business development and personal development activities you choose today for your one-year vision should align with your three-year vision.

A Modern Business Developer Is Holistic

There’s a finite amount of time, energy, discipline, and motivation in a given day. How you choose to invest these resources will determine your success.

Business developers who have mastered this are extremely selective with how they invest their time. Focus on high-quality priorities. Also, identify and avoid the urgent things posing as priorities.

The best business developers reduce their number of significant goals. Yes, that’s right. Fewer goals. By doing so, they invest greater blocks of resources toward them. Their resources are less diluted.

The Modern Business Developer Is Social

Social capital isn’t a line item you’ll ever see on a profit and loss statement. Organizations and individuals who understand it know that the quality of their relationships determines the value of their book of business and their overall impact.

One strategy to build social capital is to create thoughtful questions that can help you connect quickly and genuinely.

Here are some questions that can be used in business development conversations or in networking situations.

  • What’s something you’re working on right now?
  • What big trends are you seeing?
  • What’s a goal you’re working toward that will most impact your business?

These questions can help you find ways to easily follow up and add value.

The Modern Business Developer Is an Ambassador

The best way to describe an ambassador is to envision a bridge that connects your organization to prospects, clients, the industry, and the greater community.

What makes an ambassador unique is a mindset of lifetime value: viewing an initial client win not as the end of the business development process, but as the beginning of a long and valued relationship.

Imagine a situation where you’ve earned a small, but competitive win for an initial project. Even though the project is small, an ambassador will see the future possibilities. But there’s a balance. An ambassador doesn’t try to prematurely close other new business, because delivering success this first time is what will create more opportunity. Things like staying true to scope, creating positive service touchpoints, and accurate deliverables are just the beginning. Initial wins are important, but creating lifetime value is even more important.

These five skillsets can be applied to your next business development situation and other client building opportunities. As a starting point, focus on one skillset based on your business development goals.


Amy Franko is a strategic sales expert working with professional services, insurance, and technology organizations to accelerate sales results. She began her career with IBM and Lenovo before moving into entrepreneurship. She is the author of the book, The Modern Seller.


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