The golden rules of effective business development

By David Scott, senior and founding partner of Vestra Wealth LLP

Winning new business isn’t easy, especially from cold calling, but we often make it harder than it should be. We overcomplicate the process when consistent success requires the opposite.

By remembering some golden rules it’s possible to demystify business development and become more effective.

1) Listen, don’t present

It’s amazing how often professionals think about things from their point of view rather than the potential client’s.

They turn up to meetings with long presentation scripts and the urge to show off how bright and experienced they are.

Do not fall into the trap of trying to prove how lucky your client is to have you.

If you were the client, would you prefer to be listened to or talked at by someone who presumes to know what you want?

I turn up for a first meeting with a blank notepad and an open mind. Your first job is to find out the things that are troubling your client and offer solutions.

However, I’ve sometimes cold called people, met them and pulled out my blank notepad; they’ve said: “No, you called the meeting, you tell me what we should be talking about.” You have to be prepared for that and if it happens you’re into a new scenario and will need to go outline issues that may be relevant to them based on your previous experience with similar clients.

But the ultimate aim is the same: to obtain the information that will allow you to add value to your client most effectively.

2) Ditch the jargon

Professionals use business jargon all the time without thinking about it when talking to each other, but it is not designed for clients’ ears. It doesn’t make you sound clever or prove you know what you’re talking about. At best it’s confusing and at worst it’s used to disguise lack of ability or knowledge.

Your clients know what they want to achieve and can articulate it without jargon, so why can’t we provide the solution using the same universally clear language?

3) Have unshakable belief that you can help

If you are truly passionate about wanting to help a potential client, and believe wholeheartedly that you can and will help, then picking up the phone becomes a whole lot easier. If you have the confidence that you can and will help, then the prospect will see that for themselves.

Instilling your own passion and confidence into your workforce is challenging and can ultimately be done only through example.

Many years ago I was in a role that involved managing a team who were more senior than myself. I remember wondering how I could prove my credibility and add value to them. In the end I asked my new team to take me to their five hardest-to-crack potential clients. I eventually won some of their business and thereby demonstrated some added value to the team.

I did this by asking questions of these tough prospects and listening rather than telling them what they should do.

I had unshakable believe that I could help, which gave me a rock-solid foundation to work from.

4) Use the 10:7:3:1 ratio

Of course you’re not going to win every potential client you call so I use the 10:7:3:1 ratio. I say to myself that if I make ten calls, I’ll receive seven no’s, three agreements to meet and, ultimately, win one conversion.

But I also always say to myself that no is just a deferred yes, so I rarely give up on a no.

5) Secure the next meeting

With cold calling, the sole purpose of the telephone call is to get an appointment, nothing else. And the sole purpose of the first meeting is to get the second meeting. So at the first meeting all you need to do is demonstrate somehow that it’s worth meeting again. But I don’t know what that person wants, so I need to find out (of course, you can do a certain amount of pre-meeting research too).

6) Think like the client

Throughout all the advice I’ve outlined above, there is one golden rule that overarches it all: put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. By doing that you’ll listen more, avoid the urge to be prescriptive and showy, strip out jargon and make your belief that you can help even more unshakable.


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