Business Development for Professionals - a top-five list of sorts...

About a month ago I was fortunate enough to attend some professional development training online. To my surprise, most (if not all) of the participants queries centered squarely around the issue of business development (BD). How to go about it? Where to learn the necessary skills? Options for online training?

It just so happened that I also attended a BD/sales training webinar earlier that week. At the end of the call, I stuck up my digital hand and asked if there were any books the presenter would recommend? His answer sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole.

To caveat this article, I feel it is important to clarify upfront that I am not a seasoned BD professional - rather, like many of you (I imagine), I am very much (enthusiastically) at the beginning of my BD journey.

Despite my beginner status, I reasoned that if I was looking for key text’s others might be (1) equally interested in these same books , and were possibly (2) in a position to offer up recommendations of their own.

That said, when faced with a challenge it is in my nature (rightly or wrongly) to immediately turn towards the recognized and recommended literature. In doing so I quickly began to appreciate that while there is certainly no magic BD formula that works every time BD is an area of business that can (and arguably should) be carried out with surgical precision.

Swiftly then onto the primary problem.

The Problem Statement

Entrepreneurial companies frequently try to grow based on the talents of a charismatic, instinctive salesperson, often the company owner or founder, who has a rare talent for finding and closing deals. To outsiders, this person’s abilities may seem almost magical. A start-up company can be hugely successful with this “rock star” in the lead. However, as a long-term growth strategy, this technique of relying on one person does not hold up.

Source: "Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company" by Barbara Smith, Tom Searcy, Vanessa Hart.

The Goal of Business Development

Rather...

The goal is to develop a permanent asset within your company that is independent of particular individuals and that you can duplicate successfully to provide a wealth of future sales growth.

Source: "Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company" by Barbara Smith, Tom Searcy, Vanessa Hart.

How then do we go about creating such an asset?

The Books

What follows then is a list of books that have rapidly ushered along my own thinking of how to approach BD in a professional service context.

*In the interests of transparency - the links provided below are affiliate links.

(1) How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services:

A must-read and my personal favorite. Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher do a phenomenal job of crystalizing the problem that is sales within the world of professional services, while at the same time suggesting a model which walks the reader through the process of how clients buy services (as opposed to products).

Available at:

How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services

(2) Never Say Sell: How the World's Best Consulting and Professional Service Firms Expand Client Relationships

The follow-up to “how clients buy” focusing on the expansion of single engagements into long-term business. If you are interested in how best to go about expanding commissions and securing more work from hard-won (initial yet limited) engagements then this one is for you.

Available at:

Never Say Sell: How the World's Best Consulting and Professional Services Firms Expand Client Relationships

(3) Professional Services Marketing: How the Best Firms Build Premier Brands, Thriving Lead Generation Engines, and Cultures of Business Development Success

Rain Sales Training is an award winning training company with a significant focus on selling professional services. Their approach is based on research conducted by the company over many years. A must read for anyone that is keen to understand the relationship between marketing and BD.

Available at:

Professional Services Marketing: How the Best Firms Build Premier Brands, Thriving Lead Generation Engines, and Cultures of Business Development Success

(4) The Lost Art of Closing

Easily my second favorite, Anthony Iannarino advocates a structured approach which lays out the “sales cycles” as a series of commitments that need to be obtained i.e. the first commitment being the commitment of time to hop on a call. Anthony shows how each  commitment can be obtained through the provision of value; with the underlying guiding principle being that if you are not getting the commitments you need you are not providing enough value.

Available at:

The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales

(5) Eat Their Lunch

The follow up to the “Lost Art of Closing” – exploring how to win clients who are already serviced by your competition. If you are working in a arena which is mature and overcrowded then Eat Their Lunch is certainly worth a read.

Available at:

Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition

(6) A Request for more...

The above is a list of the top 5 books which have shaped my thinking of how to approach BD in a structured and process driven manner.

No doubt if you have made it to the end of this list you have likewise come across books which have shaped the way you approach BD.

If so, please drop a comment on this post or send me an email and I will add your recommendations to the list.

Chat soon,

Dawson Jenner