Business management

How to boost business development remotely

Doug McPherson, director and business development consultant at Tenandahalf, offers essential advice on how to strengthen your business development strategy in the current climate.

Spend more time talking to clients

But never forget that business development (BD) is still – as it always has been – all about relationships. If professional services firms are to get through the pandemic, they must look after the relationships they already have with existing clients, their professional contacts, trade bodies or other interested well-connected people within their market. The new challenge is how we stay in touch with those people from our own homes.

Ensure you make more telephone or video calls, depending on the medium of communication your clients prefer. Over the past few months of working from home we’ve found that people welcome the contact. Currently, clients have more time for you and value the social and professional support your calls deliver. After all, this is the first time in world history that absolutely everybody has something in common, so why not use it to your advantage? 

During this period, I have done virtual wine tasting, played a game of darts over Zoom and exchanged Spotify playlists with different contacts. Indeed, the conversations have become a lot more varied than they were before lockdown.

With so much uncertainty, nobody knows how things will develop, and where these conversations will go, but everyone involved in BD at any level needs to talk. Professional services firms in particular have perspectives, insight and knowledge that a business owner or director may not have and clients will welcome your views on relevant issues.

In this crisis, firms risk being remembered for what they didn’t do, rather than what they did do. You can mark yourself as somebody who genuinely cares about your network if you invest the time to sit, chat and add value. Find out where clients need help and do what’s needed to deliver that help. You will come out of the crisis stronger for it.

Everyone involved in business development at any level needs to talk. Professional services firms in particular have perspectives, insight and knowledge that a business owner or director may not have and clients will welcome your views.

Doug McPherson
Director and business development consultant at Tenandahalf

While there is professional insight to share, don’t neglect the personal element. People gravitate to those they like. Time and again, when we conduct client service review programmes and interview our clients’ clients, we hear them saying they like their auditor, or tax adviser because they are approachable.

If you get that personal dimension right, you will increase the number of referrals and introductions you receive, and people will come back to you with cross-selling opportunities because you have a relationship.

Start producing valued, relevant content

BD does not always have to be for extroverts. For those less inclined to put themselves out there, content provides the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to the way you do BD.

With the enormous spike in internet use, now is a good time for creating content. Having something new, fresh and relevant to say will help get your name, and your firm’s name noticed. It should not be too long or technical but something punchy that highlights a problem, suggests a solution and leaves readers with the appropriate contact details. 

It can take different forms: you can write blogs, articles or even a FAQ self-published on LinkedIn. And remember content doesn’t just have to be written. Podcasts, short videos, and infographics can be equally (if not more) effective.

Additionally, once you have some self-published work, you can start identifying trade publications that your clients and targets read and approach editors with ideas you could contribute. 

Make good use of LinkedIn

Connected to this, content creation also provides you with the perfect updates for your LinkedIn account. All you need is the link and the headline and you have your next update.

With social media – and I’m thinking specifically about LinkedIn in the professional context – consistency is critical. You cannot just pick it up for one afternoon at the end of the month and hammer it and then do nothing for the next two months; that doesn't work.

Adopt a little-and-often approach. At the very least, make a habit of liking or sharing a few things that your colleagues and contacts have put on your timeline daily. If you get free e-newsletters or sign up to Google alerts that can generate relevant ideas for content, and you can post those headlines and links as updates.

Don’t worry about commenting on things if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. Just make sure you’re doing something every day so your connections keep seeing you crop up on their timeline. That is the real value of LinkedIn; it should act almost like a subliminal advertising campaign.

Foster mutual support among your colleagues

Critically, when working from home and you’re not seeing colleagues or clients in person, it is easy to feel isolated and dislocated from your business. It can feel demoralising and sometimes it’s difficult to gauge how successful your efforts are.

While we are spread out, success has to come from clarity. Partners, directors or whoever has responsibility for your team or department have to give people clear accountabilities. How much content do they want to be produced? How many phone calls do they want to be made? What do they want those calls to achieve? 

And teams need to be together, even if it’s only a Zoom or Teams meeting so you can discuss progress and what’s actually working across the group, set next steps and, more importantly, celebrate success. 

From a more individual perspective, success will come down to perseverance and personal preferences. If you are task-orientated, jot down a list of what you want to achieve during the week and tick off as you go. Other people might react best to the personal touch, so they should keep their line manager up to date with what they’re doing. 

If you’re in a team, support each other. This is particularly important given we’re not all sitting together. It’s beneficial to have as much interaction as possible. 

And, when it comes to the networking aspect of BD, don’t forget your colleagues. Everyone always thinks BD is about new client acquisition – but that is the hardest thing to achieve. The most productive source of new work will always be the people you already know. Can colleagues from different departments refer something to you? If so, get closer to them.

The second most productive group will be your existing clients; they’ve already bought into your firm. Consider not only what else you can do for them but also the introductions and insight they could provide. This is where working on the ‘personal’ element of your relationships will pay dividends.

Planning is also critical. Everything starts with a shortlist – from whom to call to what content to produce. We have plenty of materials, tips, tools to help you with the insight you share in your conversations and content at Tenandahalf

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

scroll to top