Our account structures and responsibilities are too general to be effective. Every firm I know approaches business development the same. Individuals are aligned to an organization or issue. People proudly say something like, "I'm the account lead for DOI" or "I track sustainability issues across government."
The problem with this approach is too vague to inspire the kind of connections and clear direction that make a real difference in business.
Instead, we need to get focused on the specific relationships. At the risk of weirding out our dear clients, bring the account team or functional group together and brainstorm a list of buyers. Conservatively, include all of the people you've worked for over the last three years. Ask the team to rate the connection with each and make some indications of the client's preferences. Then, assign each account team member (regardless of level!) to be the point person for a named client. Who has Bob?
This works well on existing contracts as well as rekindling opportunities with past clients. All of our strongest connections happen as the result of doing work together. Sparking meaningful relationships with someone simply over a series of coffee conversations is much harder. Level set your expectations on what can be accomplished with superficial marketing calls.
This approach ensure accountability is grounded in the belief that people buy ideas from other people-- not from your organizational structure. The most common mistake is aligning business development responsibilities by seniority (within your own organization- argh!) and not by the personality match with the client.
When we accept that all types of people, at all levels, are needed to connect with buyers, we are free to move past the artificial arrangements and ensure clear direction by naming specific target clients. I've got Bob!