The Cost of Wasted Time in the Business Development Process

For many of us in professional services, our “sales force” only has a relatively small portion of their week dedicated to business development activities, so it’s essential for us to help them use that time wisely.

BD time wasters generally fall into two categories:

  1. Ineffectiveness (not focusing on the right things)
  2. Inefficiency (not using the right amounts and/or types of resources)

How much are these time wasters costing your firm in terms of hours? Opportunities? Revenue?

Times Wasters from INEFFECTIVENESS

Focusing on the Wrong Opportunities

One of the biggest time wasters in professional services firms is spending time pursuing prospects that are never going to buy from you or that otherwise just don’t make sense for your firm.

If your firm has a defined pipeline and/or sales process, you probably have distinguished what a qualified opportunity looks like. For us, the basics of a qualified opportunity include:

  • Do they fit the profile for the type of client we want to work with? (in terms of size, industry, geographic location, values, etc.)
  • What’s their budget? (Do they have the ability to pay for the solution we offer?)
  • Who has authority to buy? (Do we have access to the decision-maker(s)?)
  • Do they have a need for this solution? (Are they in pain? Are they sufficiently motivated to make a change to their existing situation?)

It’s important to have a clear, established framework for assessing and prioritizing opportunities and even more important to continually reinforce that framework with your doer-sellers.

There are a ton of resources out there related to qualifying prospects, but here is just one that includes a comprehensive list of qualifying questions.

Lack of Planning or Strategy for Each Activity

Ok, so maybe your doer-sellers are focused on the right relationships and the right opportunities—GREAT! But are they approaching each lunch meeting, each golf outing, each “check-in” email with specific intent?

Before any interaction, doer-sellers should be able to articulate exactly what it is they hope to gain. As marketers, we know that each email we send, each webpage we publish should have a specific Call To Action (CTA); each business development activity should follow suit.

Are we seeking to understand how they feel about their current service provider? Do we want them to make an introduction for us? Are we attempting to impose a sense of decision-making urgency?

Spending a few moments beforehand to consider our desired outcomes can ensure less time is wasted on directionless activities.

Times Wasters from INEFFICIENCY

Searching for Information and Materials

Do your professionals know where to find information on service offerings for non-profit organizations? A summary of your firm’s state and local tax experience? The resume of your R&D tax credit expert?

Based on a study by IDC, 36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information. How much of this time could your firm get back if all of the information your team members need was neatly stored in one location?

36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information

This is obviously not unique to business development; BUT if your firm lacks a system for organizing and accessing the materials that support your doer-sellers in the sales process, you may have some inefficiencies here.

The beauty of a tool like POUNCE is that materials are instantly and easily accessible. Users know exactly where to find the information they need, significantly reducing the amount of time wasted in search of marketing and sales collateral.

Not Delegating Tasks that Should be Delegated

Many of us struggle with delegation and feel the need to execute tasks on our own, even when our plates are spilling over. While doer-sellers can’t delegate or outsource the entire business development process, there are some easy ways they can leverage other team members.

Prospect research is a perfect example of a critical BD task that can be delegated. Researching a prospect organization and key contacts can be done by staff or administrator who can investigate and simply present their findings.

Other tasks that can be delegated include:

  • Content development
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Send client or prospect gifts/thank-you notes
  • Drafting proposals, including initial fee estimates
  • Analysis of current clients to determine cross-servicing opportunities

Delegation in general is one of the best time-management tools. Additionally, sharing business development responsibilities with staff contributes to their career development, skills-building, and job enrichment.


Too few hours in the day is one of the biggest BD roadblocks for our doer-sellers. By working with our teams to focus on the right activities and eliminate inefficiencies in the business development process, we help them invest their time and effort on high-value tasks, opportunities, and relationships.

We can help them focus on the right things (i.e., being effective) and leverage the right resources to help get those things done (i.e., being efficient).


7 Tips for a Successful Prospect Meeting

By Jeanette Benedetto

So, you’ve scheduled an initial meeting with one of your target prospects. Great! This first discussion is crucial for relationship development and ultimately winning business. Here’s how not to blow it:

1. Meet in-person, when possible.

Getting some actual “face time” with your prospect is an important step that lays the foundation for a relationship that can last decades, leading to repeat business and even referrals. It’s important to take advantage of, if at all possible. In an increasingly digital world, an in-person meeting will set you apart.

2. Do your research.

Spend some time gathering information about the person/people you’ll be meeting, and their organization. If you have something in common, such as attending the same school or volunteering for similar causes, it can really help break the ice. LinkedIn is a good place to start, especially if you can touch base with any mutual connections ahead of time.

3. Bring materials if you need to.

It’s fine to come prepared with information if it puts you at ease, but don’t leave behind an entire binder for your prospect to study. Be selective about any printed material you give during the meeting—keep it simple, clear, and useful. If you’re skeptical about marketing collateral’s place in today’s digital world, read this. (Need a hand? POUNCE can help you create and customize materials for a quick, on-the-way-out-the-door turnaround.)

4. Ask the right questions.

You don’t want to turn your meeting into an interrogation, but you will need to keep the conversation moving in the right direction. Consider asking questions that will lead to better understanding of what your prospect does and where their pain points are. Be careful not to ask broad questions that could be easily looked up online (make sure you do that research we mentioned). This leads us to our next tip…

5. Be prepared to listen.

This isn’t the time for a carefully-crafted sales pitch. Your initial meeting is the ideal opportunity to ask questions and then truly listen to your prospect’s answers. It’s not about your product or service, it’s about their needs. Learn, connect, and build a relationship with them. Once you understand their pain points and gaps, you can come to the next discussion with relevant ideas and solutions.

6. Follow up.

Immediately after the meeting, jot down anything that stood out to you. Whether it’s the prospect’s unique situation, their needs, or potential solutions your firm offers, make sure you don’t let the details slip away. Call your contact within a day or two and take the opportunity to thank them for the conversation. This is the perfect chance to highlight or reiterate ways you can help them, and it’s a great time to provide details about your services and people (cue POUNCE).

7. Find genuine ways to help.

Rather than chasing down a deal, set your sales goal aside (temporarily) and be sure to look for ways you can help this prospect. Maybe one of their pain points is something that another person in your network has experience with. Or, you could connect your prospect with someone else in your firm who is better-equipped to tackle their needs. If you’re looking for opportunities to help rather than opportunities to sell, they’ll be open to additional conversations, continuing to build the relationship and bringing even more business your way.


With these seven tips and POUNCE literally in your back pocket (did we mention there’s an app?), you’ll be prepared and productive in every prospect meeting going forward.


Jeanette Benedetto is a Marketing Coordinator with Postlethwaite & Netterville. Her focus areas include event coordination, digital marketing, content development, and communications management.

Article Round-Up: New Ideas to Pounce On

Looking for inspiration and ideas for firm growth? Here’s a round-up of some of the best pieces of content I’ve come across recently.

1. 5 Ways to Build a $100 Million Company

One of our [business development-loving] partners recently passed along this infographic/article on 5 different approaches to building a $100 million company:

  • Option 1: Hunt Flies (10 million customers at $10 per year)
  • Option 2: Hunt Mice (1 million customers at $100 per year)
  • Option 3: Hunt Rabbits (100,000 customers at $1,000 per year)
  • Option 4: Hunt Deer: (10,000 customers at $10,000 per year)
  • Option 5: Hunt Elephants (1,000 customers at $100,000 per year)

Like many firms our size, our client base is a mix of Elephants, Deer and Rabbits. Based on my own experience in the business development process, the same amount of time and energy goes into winning new clients, regardless of their size. If the level of effort to successfully win new Rabbits is the same as it is for Deer and Elephants, how can we shift our focus and hunt larger animals?

Of course, moving from a diet of Rabbits to predominantly Deer and Elephants doesn’t happen overnight; our goal is to facilitate incremental improvements, which we track through changes in specific metrics, such as:

  • Average ($) size of opportunities in our pipeline
  • Average ($) size of the opportunities we close
  • Average ($) size of our clients

We report and discuss progress on these metrics as part of our monthly pipeline meetings. As business development coaches within our firms, we can help lead the hunt and make sure we are pushing our teams to pursue larger opportunities.

Check out the infographic here.

2. Better than Bonuses: 4 Motivators that Matter More than Money

This article is interesting in the context of how to appropriately motivate your doer-sellers to participate in business development. The question of if/how to structure incentives for bringing in business is a highly debated one across many professional services firms, but several studies (referenced in this article) have found that other “incentives” can be even more effective than monetary bonuses.

Read the full article.

3. Quarterly Marketing Plans vs. Annual Marketing Plans: 4 Crucial Comparisons

Most firms probably have some sort of annual marketing plan and budget. If you’re like us, you probably spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of each year laying out exactly what we want to accomplish and what it’s going to take to make that happen.

While it’s important to have a proactive strategy for growth, equally important is our ability to quickly recognize and react to challenges and opportunities as they arise. With changing legislation, evolving technologies, and shifting client priorities, marketing teams must be more agile than ever before.

Quarterly marketing plans—or at a minimum, quarterly evaluations of our annual marketing plans—are a simple way to ensure that our marketing efforts continue to align with both firm goals and market opportunities.

We are halfway through the year—are you focused on exactly what you thought you would be 6 months ago?

Read more about agile marketing planning here.

What Building a House Made Me Realize About My Role as a Marketer

By Rachael Higginbotham

I didn’t know until recently that you have to select plumbing fixtures for a new house before the slab is even poured. Why is this important? Because bathtub faucets have different specifications, and the plumber needs the right valve for the rough-in.

To be honest, I didn’t even know what a rough-in was, which is why I hired a contractor to guide me through the process. I could look at a set of plans and say, “I want this house,” but I had very little idea of how to turn that plan into a reality. If it had been up to me, I would have probably selected my floors before my plumbing fixtures, because visually it seems that flooring is installed before faucets.

Through the process of building a home, I’ve come to realize that marketers are very similar to general contractors. We (usually) don’t have the right technical skills to execute the jobs (i.e., we aren’t going to prepare a tax return, like the GC isn’t going to wire the house for electricity), but we know the process for marketing and selling our services. My GC guides me through the home building process, bringing his experience, resources, and advice along the way.

Marketers can guide the growth process, and help our team members build things too–things like relationships, brands, pipelines, and revenue.

So what can we, as marketers, learn from a great general contractor?

Growth Process

All GCs understand the home building process, but most homeowners don’t. A good GC walks you through the process instead of just letting you navigate it yourself.

As marketers, we understand the buyers’ journey and can help our doer-sellers identify the right tools to use along the path. We give insight into the industry, and we help provide order and knowledge (i.e., create a relationship first, send a proposal later, just like you select plumbing fixtures first, pour slab later). Having that guide gives critical advice and provides a level of comfort, especially to those who haven’t built things before, whether it be a home or a book of business.

Budgets & Timelines

A good GC ensures that expectations, including budgets and timelines, are well-established and vetted. No one likes surprises. If you’ve worked in an accounting firm for any period of time, you know that CPAs like surprises (especially financial ones), even less. That’s why it’s critical to know not only how much you are spending, but WHY you are spending it. What does that $5,000 sponsorship get you? Does it create direct opportunities/leads? Does it make your “doer-seller” team more effective? Is there a better way to spend it? I don’t want my GC to say “whatever you want,” and our firms don’t want us to go along with the path of least resistance either. It’s our jobs to recommend the right budgets, with the right investments, and to manage them according to the right timeline.


A good GC has resources at their disposal. One of the most stressful parts of building is selecting finishes (flooring, paint, windows, doors, cabinets….ALL THE THINGS). A good contractor has great vendors—people who can guide you and advise you about their specialty. A good marketer also has resources who can advise our firms. Whether your firm needs a graphic designer, videographer, web designer, business development trainer, or other type of specialty, having marketers with relationships outside of their firms is critical to success. As an example, we have found great resources in the Leading Edge Alliance, the Association for Accounting Marketing, the Rainmaker Companies, and others.


A GC simply can’t be good at his/her job if they are not good communicators. Poor communication is how balls get dropped, mistakes get made, budgets get blown, and people freak out (not speaking from experience, of course ;)). As marketers, the baseline of our jobs is communication—business development is 100% letting our clients and prospects know how we can help them and why they should choose us. Marketers have tons of resources to help us be proactive communicators…content calendars, tools to help us schedule emails and other communications in advance, social media management tools, etc. But because we are all so busy, responsive communications sometimes suffer.

How many times have you been asked to provide materials to help a doer-seller with a prospect, and you’ve taken longer than you wanted to because you had to dig for it, update it, or worse, write it from scratch? Having professional, organized, searchable materials ready to go are a big part of making sure our sales teams are prepared to meet with clients. And you get bonus points if the doer-sellers all have access and can put packets together with the click of a button.

One thing I really like about my GC is that he uses a communication tool where everything I need is at my fingertips. He doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing to answer my question about the specs for my light fixtures, the date a selection is due, or who to contact for my countertops. It’s all readily accessible in my self-service app, which makes him more efficient because he doesn’t have to spoon-feed me information upon demand.


From laying the groundwork to delivering the keys to the new owners, general contractors own the building process. Great general contractors don’t just deliver a quality home, they make the process easier for the homeowners. As marketers, it’s not just about delivering growth results. Great marketers make the process easier and more effective for our doer-sellers too.


HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

Building a Business Development Culture, Summed Up with this Playlist

I was recently re-reading this article that our very own Marketing Director Rachael Higginbotham wrote on building a business development culture and decided it is a story worth re-telling in song form. Enjoy!

Track 1: Set Expectations

The Song: “Whataya Want from Me” by Adam Lambert

Standout Lyric:
Hey, slow it down
What do you want from me
What do you want from me
Yeah, I’m afraid
What do you want from me
What do you want from me

How it Relates: If you’re trying to change behavior, it is critical to communicate to your team members what exactly they are expected to do. The more specific you can make these expectations (in terms of participation, activities and results), the better. Improving focus on business development cannot happen without clear communication that everyone is responsible for helping the firm grow.

Track 2: Provide Training, Tools & Processes for Success

The Song: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash

Standout Lyric:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

How it Relates: Communicating expectations is only the first step. Once your people know what they need to do, you must show them how to do it. This comes in the form of business development training, defined processes, and technology tools that support these processes.

By removing the obstacles (such as, not having the knowledge or skills needed for business development), your team members will be able to clearly see how they can meet (or exceed) their business development goals and expectations.

Track 3: Establish Accountability

The Song: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Standout Lyric:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

How it Relates: Am I just looking for a reason to use my favorite MJ song? Perhaps. But here’s my explanation anyway:

Behavior truly changes only when there is the aspect of accountability, either in the form of a carrot or a stick. While this song maybe more focused on personal accountability and action, firms can hold their team members accountable through performance reviews, sales and business development incentives, and leadership opportunities.

Track 4: Is the Cultural Needle Moving?

The Song: “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison

Standout Lyric:
It’s gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
It’s gonna take patience and time
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it
To do it right child

How it Relates: BE PATIENT! Culture change takes time—a whole lot of precious time—and consistent efforts. You won’t see results overnight, but don’t give up! Persistence is key.


The Song: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship

Standout Lyric:
And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now

How it Relates: By setting expectations, providing tools and training to ensure focus and consistency, holding people accountable, and having a bit of patience, nothing can stop your firm from achieving its growth goals!




How to Ensure a Tech Adoption Failure

One of the questions we are frequently asked is “How did you get your people to use POUNCE?

Like any software tool, the success of POUNCE (or any new tech tool) largely dependent on the extent to which users embrace it.

New technology can help drive efficiencies in your marketing and sales efforts and can even create competitive advantages for your firm, but only if the people within your firm actually use the new technology as intended.

Before selecting and implementing new tech tools, consider your plan for maximizing user adoption. If you want to ensure your tech investment is a big waste of time and money, follow these steps:

1. Start with technology instead of strategy.

We are surrounded by technology in the workplace. And as new solutions are developed and older solutions become more affordable, we continue to acquire even more technology.

With new tools being introduced all the time, it can be easy to fall into the “shiny object syndrome” trap. We all go to conferences and talk with peers about the tools that they are using in their respective firms, and it’s natural to want to try approaches that others are having success with. While sharing ideas with peers is undoubtedly important, it is also important to remember that no two firms are alike and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

Instead of starting with the tools, start by examining the underlying challenge or opportunity.

Think big picture. By creating a strategy that clearly aligns technology with larger firm goals, you can help maximize your technology investments and drive business results.

2. Leave end-users out of the decision-making and implementation process.

To increase the likelihood and degree of technology adoption success, involve users early in the process. Adoption will always improve if end-users have a voice in the evaluation, planning and implementation processes.

Involving all types of users early in the process offers two main benefits:

  • End-users can help you clearly define your priorities at the beginning. They can help identify features that are deal-breakers and which ones are nice-to-have, but maybe not necessary.
  • Early involvement gives end-users a sense of pride and ownership in the process. They can serve as ambassadors of the new tool, and can help persuade others to get on board.

3. Ignore the WIIFM.

Before you ask any team member to learn a new technology, be sure you can answer the “what’s-in-it-for-me” (WIIFM) question for each group. When users understand the potential benefits and long-term strategy, they are more likely to invest their time and energy up front.

Emphasize how the new technology benefits both your organization and your users as individuals.

4. Set unrealistic expectations for user adoption.

It’s important to enter into the tech evaluation, selection and implementation process with realistic expectations of how your end-users will adopt the new system. Based on our own experience with introducing new tools and processes over the years, we see users fall into three main groups:

  • Power Users/Early Adopters make up about 20% of your user base. This group embraces new technology like an office puppy. They are excited by new ideas and new ways of doing things and are typically eager to get on board with new tools. Use this group’s excitement and influence to your advantage and make sure to involve these users early in the process (see #2 above).
  • Moderate Users comprise about 60% of your user base. This group is likely to use new tech tools if they have a clear understanding of the potential benefits to them (see #3 above). Since they represent the majority of your user base, it is important to integrate moderate users into your process early (see #2 above).
  • Light Users/Laggards make up approximately 20% of your user base. This group is allergic to the office puppy. Laggards tend to have a skeptical view of new tools and a stronger aversion to change. It may not be your best use of time to try to persuade these users to embrace a change, but it is important to consider the obstacles or challenges associated with non-use by these individuals. (What happens if you have users that do not use the tool as intended? Are there reasonable workarounds that can be easily applied?)

For example, when we designed POUNCE, we were well aware that we had a few professionals in our firm that would likely never be persuaded to use the system themselves. As a workaround, we created a separate user type and trained administrative assistants throughout the firm to use the system on behalf of these professionals.

5. Over-complicate the system or process.

When selecting new technology, simplicity and turnkey functionality should be top of mind.

Systems should be simple to use once the initial setup has been completed. This is especially important when working with teams of varying levels of technical expertise and comfort. Considering the multi-generational workforce that is the norm in most firms these days, it’s important to select tools that can be utilized by both younger team members who have grown up with technology, as well as older team members who may be less comfortable with new technology.

Also, technology should be personalized to match your firm’s processes and terminology.

For example, when P&N decided to implement a CRM to help us manage our sales pipeline, it was important to us to ensure field titles matched the terminology our doer-sellers had already become accustomed to, and to build reports that were already familiar to them.

Technology should add VALUE, not WORKLOAD. The best tools enable users to be better at their job by simply using the tool to complete tasks they are already doing.

6. Treat communication as an after-thought.

The technical and functional aspects of the software implementation process can be time-consuming and overwhelming, no doubt. BUT it’s important to have a clear communication plan from Day 1.

Don’t wait for launch day to let employees know what’s going on. Employees should be informed of new tools and technology as soon as possible so there is a clear understanding of when new processes will take effect.

Make sure employees are aware of the benefits that the new technology will provide (see #3 above) and offer training and support. Being transparent and communicative throughout the process will make onboarding users more efficient and effective in the long run.


Any system your firm implements will only be effective if your people use it. They key to getting a significant return on a tech tool investment is to ensure you have a carefully considered plan for encouraging user adoption throughout the process.


Ready for a tech tool that your people will actually use? Contact us for a free POUNCE demo.

3 Surprising Ways POUNCE Helps Our Team

You already know POUNCE is a professional resume and marketing material management tool that can enable your team members to easily find and distribute up-to-date collateral to prospects. (If this is news to you, check out our video.)

But after using POUNCE in our own firm, we’ve discovered a few other ways the system makes our lives easier. Here are a three surprising ways POUNCE has helped the P&N marketing team:

1. Quickly find outdated or prohibited language.

POUNCE’s search feature makes it easy to find words or phrases in user profiles or marketing materials that may need to be updated. Here are a couple of real life examples:

Regulatory Changes: Our firm performs a LOT of audits in the governmental and non-profit arenas, which means we had numerous marketing materials and resumes referencing the single audit standard OMB Circular A-133. As you know, this standard was recently consolidated into OMB’s Uniform Guidance.

With POUNCE, we were able to do a quick search of all marketing materials and resumes containing “A-133” so we would know exactly which pieces would need to be updated with “Uniform Guidance.” Without POUNCE, we would have had to individually go through each resume and marketing material that might contain “A-133” and that would have been time-consuming to say the least. POUNCE helped us quickly identify only those materials requiring updates rather than having to sift through each one.

Prohibited Language: The State Board of CPAs for our home state does not approve the word “expert” or “expertise” in advertising, marketing materials, or public communications.

However, our practice professionals have a tendency to describe their industry or service expertise in their resumes. (“Why shouldn’t I say I have expertise in state and local tax?”)

POUNCE makes it easy for us to perform periodic searches of these and other prohibited words and terms to ensure we are compliant with industry regulations.

2. Keep track of speakers and presentation topics.

It’s no secret that speaking engagements can be a powerful way to position your firm AND the individual speaker as a thought-leader and subject matter expert. But in our experience, it can become an administrative nightmare trying to keep track of each speaker and presentation.

POUNCE provides a place for your professionals to update and maintain their own list of past speaking engagements.


This information can be incredibly valuable for your marketing team (to understand who is speaking, where they are speaking, and so on), but can also be a huge benefit for your practice professionals as well. Why?

  • The full-text search feature in POUNCE makes it easy to see if others in your firm have presented on a specific topic. This means you can see if someone else has existing presentation content that you can leverage, which can save valuable time when developing a new presentation.
  • Your firm may have expectations of its practice professionals to participate in marketing and business development activities. POUNCE provides a central, visible place for users to document their speaking engagements that are aligned with these expectations.

3. Mitigate the risk of potential conflicts of interest.

Especially in the accounting and legal professions, potential conflicts of interest can arise before or during the course of an engagement. As an example, having a partner on the board of a non-profit organization would impair independence in performing that organization’s audit.

However, by performing a quick search of the name of the non-profit entity before investing time in the sales or engagement process, you can understand if any of your team members are currently serving (or have previously served) in a board member role.


Most firms have policies and procedures in place to govern how conflicts are identified and managed to ensure that client interests are not jeopardized and professional standards are not violated. POUNCE is not designed or intended to act as a conflicts management or client acceptance tool, but is has become a valuable reference tool for our firm.


When we developed POUNCE, we were not seeking to alter the way we find and share presentation content across offices or check for potential conflicts of interest. We simply wanted to provide our doer-sellers with on-demand accessibility to the resumes and marketing materials they need in business development.

But we’ve found that the adoption of POUNCE has helped us become more efficient in ways we had not intended.

For a free demonstration of these and other ways POUNCE might be able to help your firm, please contact us.


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