Developing business developers
Generational Viewpoints: Training staff to be business builders
By Jennifer Wilson and Krista remer
in this Generational Viewpoints article, Perkins & Co ( www.perkinsaccounting.com), a Portland,
ore.-based accounting firm, shares their views on enhancing business development skills from the
perspective of Generation X staff accountant maria young, born in 1979, and that of Baby Boomer
shareholder dave sullivan, born in 1956. We asked them to consider the following question:
What is the best way to develop business development skills in up-and-coming people?
YOUNG’S GEN X VIEWPOINT
It’s impossible to sustain growth without
bringing in new business. I believe that every person deserves an opportunity to enhance their business development abilities.
As an up-and-coming tax staff member, I have
identified three factors that have facilitated
my own business development skills: a firm
culture that values growth, empowerment,
and opportunities to practice my skills.
The head “honchos” in my firm constantly
consider how we can best generate new business. It’s a message conveyed at company meetings, and we see firm
leaders gather regularly for pipeline meetings. After those meetings,
a list of prospective clients is available for perusal by the staff; the
strategy is to leverage each individual’s circle of influence to help close
new business. By sharing this information, our leaders set a tone at
the top of persistently pursuing new business, and that trickles down
through the office.
Often, staff members feel it’s not their place to drum up business.
It might even be perceived as overstepping bounds. A winning firm
clearly and consistently communicates that new business is everybody’s business. To build these skills, it is important to encourage selling activities. Then, praise and reward your staff when they do so.
It’s also important to provide up-and-comers with opportunities
to practice business development skills. Examples include inviting
up-and-coming staff to attend professional community events, mixers
among related industries, and in-house social events — especially
with others in your firm who are more adept at networking. These all
provide a backdrop to hone small-talk skills, exercise active listening,
and get comfortable speaking in a professional setting.
Often, employees are hired for a specific job and skill set, but we all
possess abilities that are not used on a daily basis. When we are given
a reason to employ our business development skills, they grow and
develop. And if an employer communicates the importance of these
skills and encourages activities to develop them, staff members are
much more likely to become competent rainmakers. It’s up to firm
leaders to let employees know what they want, give them the proper
tools, and let them come along to develop their skills.
SULLIVAN’S BOOMER VIEWPOINT
When I find a budding business developer, I
waste no time in throwing them into the fire,
putting them in what might be considered uncomfortable situations. The good ones rise to
the challenge. While this may seem harsh, it’s
the best way to truly assess whether they have
natural aptitude. Frankly, I’d estimate that less
than five in 100 have this natural gift.
I determine the rainmaking “it” factor
based on personality, the ability to stay calm
under pressure, and capacity to command a
situation. These traits come to life in a number of ways: how a person
carries themselves, their tone of voice, their ability to draw people
together, to listen and summarize what they’ve heard, or to get people
to like them and be drawn toward their ideas. When you discover the
social geniuses on your team who have this natural talent, they should
be put to work developing new business for your firm.
Upper management should celebrate these people, even if it means
putting them ahead of the class — potentially out of order per the
“normal” stages of career development. Offer them speaking opportunities, invite them to brainstorming meetings, and bring them to
internal proposal and prospect meetings to teach them how to run
their own meetings in the future. This will require someone to mentor them. If you don’t have a strong mentor in-house, find someone
outside and pay them to educate your budding star.
An individual with natural talent will develop even further when
you encourage them to join a committee or board and take an active
leadership role. Encourage them to read articles and books about
relationship-building and networking, take a speaking course, or lead
a peer group of other professionals. Of course, all of the personality
and charisma in the world won’t make up for a lack of interest in being an advisor and confidant to a client. They must have a desire to
probe and show care for the client’s success, and begin to have the
confidence to offer ideas and insight. They must also have an interest
in doing a lot of homework to begin forming their own ideas about
how to conduct client and prospect meetings.
Identify and foster your employees’ talent. Allow them to make
mistakes and watch them blossom into difference-makers. AT
This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and
partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC ( www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future
Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Going, going, gone … is paper going
away for good? We all know the revolution the paperless office has made at
many accounting firms, but what about
the way we get news? Is the print publication becoming obsolete?
I, for one, don’t think so — and not
just because I work at one. That said, I
realize how important being digital and
technically savvy is. That’s why I’m going
to ask you this — how do you prefer your
news? Via an e-mail roundup every morning on your handheld? Or do you prefer
nuggets of news blasted at you during
the day as it happens? And how much
opinion are you looking for, in comparison to hard facts? C’mon, tell me.
I’m also wondering — how much do
social media sites like Twitter and Facebook help in getting you the information
you need to stay on top of your ever-changing profession? Please write me
and tell me your thoughts — I’m all ears.
On another note, we’ve been pleased
with the new contributors writing on the
site. You’ll probably recognize Jody Padar, a CPA and adjunct professor at Oak-ton Community College who wrote about
what’s not working in networking. Sarah
Johnson and Art Kuesel, two consultants
from PDI Global, teamed up to offer their
expertise on the marketing and communication world. We also welcomed
sophomore accounting major Jess Lambi,
who wrote about how she learned about
accounting through developing a business plan in one of her classes.
Finally, I’ve made an attempt to
“like” every single state society that has
a Facebook page. If I’ve missed you,
please let me know. Or if you’re part of a
state society and have ideas on possible
especially if you
have a young CPA
group or network
— please don’t
hesitate to be in
As always, you
can contact me at
— Liz Gold