top of page
  • Writer's pictureBen Paul

Why Business Development isn’t “a numbers game”

Roll the dice...Why Business Development isn’t “a numbers game”

Lovely phrase “it’s just a numbers game.” It is used a lot in professional services firms. However, the idea that the more generic activity you do, the more success you will get, is simply not the case. For those in professional services firms who need to get the attention of business owners, the C-suite, or senior executives, it is highly unlikely to be an effective winning work strategy.

So, what is the “it’s just a numbers game” theory?  Simply put, the idea is that the more people you contact, the more people you will meet, the more opportunities you’ll get, and the more proposals/capability statements you’ll get to write, and eventually you’ll get more business. Simple idea? yes. Effective and clever way to run your business? No. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, sending capability statements is not an effective way to do BD, nor is pitching your business in a repetitive manner.

To give you an idea of why this isn’t such a great way of working, we’ll look at the component stages.

Sending out a generic email asking for a meeting.

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of this approach. It happens a lot on LinkedIn, and if your email is easy to find, you get a ton of these direct into your inbox. Once the salesperson has a way to contact you, they send you a message which is clearly cut and pasted, saying that they need to have a meeting to show/demo their product/service which will save your business stacks of money. Sometimes, they even pitch you the very services that you do!

This doesn’t work, their value proposition falls flat. Quite simply because it is way too early. They know nothing about your business and have spent no time researching you. More importantly, they’ve told you what solution you need without asking you a single question.

Most of us don’t respond well to this approach. So, if you don’t respond well to this, why on earth would your clients or prospects?

If you really want to meet someone, see if you can get a referral to them. If you can’t, then do your research and spend time thinking about an initial approach. What might compel them to meet with you? Answer that effectively, and you’ll have the tools to make an approach that will secure a meeting.

Filling your diary with as many meetings as possible.

It has been common practice for organisations across all industries to run campaigns to get their people out there. A ‘meetings competition’ campaign can seem like a great idea for the internal BD team in a professional services firm.

In a highly competitive environment, with lots of people who like “winning,” and thrive on “peer/company recognition,” the motivation for some to make meetings is certainly there.  As a consequence of this, the number of meetings your firm makes, will most likely increase.

If the aim is simply to get meetings, then the first trap is set.

Trap 1: Filling your diary with coffee and chit-chats

Around the world, on any given business day, cafes are full of people meeting. While there is nothing wrong with talking business over a nice drink, be careful – the setting can easily lead to a nice conversation that is more along the lines of a chit chat, rather than a business link.

While it is great to build personal rapport, if your conversation remains in this area it can become awkward to shift it back to business. The only value in these meetings is in making a social connection, and taking a break in both of your busy days. Which means you are socialising, not doing any real BD, and also not delivering any billable time. Which is really a waste of time for anyone in a professional services firm.

Trap 2: Making meetings to talk about your offering

Your company wants you to have more meetings so that they get more work, they’ve made it clear to you that’s the reason. So, you’re keen to get out there and start promoting what your organisation does.

This will, of course, impact on your chance to build great rapport with people you meet, and to understand more about them and their goals. Put simply, people don’t like being pitched to. I urge you not to take a slide deck or prepare a presentation to these meetings.

If you pitch too early, it is highly unlikely you’ll build any rapport, and your chances of a second meeting are slim, at best.

Trap 3: They’ll get no value from meeting with you

If you’re making meetings just to fill your diary, or to simply increase your pipeline, then ask yourself, “what value will the person I’m meeting get from their time with me?”

If you can’t find what that value is, then you are about to waste the other person’s time. If you want to build strong business relationships, that isn’t done through wasting people’s time. This is even more important with prospects and people you meet for the first time. You may have informal ‘catch-ups’ with clients you have known for years. This is more of a social catch-up than a BD meeting. However, on a first meeting, if you waste the other person’s time, it is highly unlikely they will meet you for a second time.

A simple check to see if you’re providing value in your meetings, is if people agree to meet with you a second time. If they request the meeting, that’s fantastic, you must be delivering value in your meetings.

Why Business Development isn't “a numbers game”.

A precise targeted approach pays dividends

Clearly, playing the “numbers game” is not a great tactic for winning work. Sure, you will have the odd success, much like you will if you play the lottery. However, the odds aren’t great.

Instead, think more strategically about who you want to meet. Spend time thinking about what’s important to them, their industry. Then think about what value you could give them, should you get that meeting.

Once you know how you can provide them with value, you can then work on how you will articulate this to your client/prospect. This will lead to a great chance of success in getting the meeting, and then in delivering value in the meeting.

Therefore, remember, whatever you hear, BD for professional services isn’t ‘a numbers game’. It is better for you to have fewer meetings, with a clear purpose, that offer value to the person you’re meeting.


bottom of page