The key to winning baseball games isn’t banking on a home run; it’s consistently getting on base and advancing runners. Each time a batter safely makes it to first is a success, because getting to bases loaded is the first step in hitting a grand slam, and grand slams result in the biggest payouts.

In the world of business development, we often think of success as closing a sale — but that’s the same fallacy as judging batters by how many home runs they hit. The fact is that sales wins can be incremental. Moving the prospect along to the next spot in the client journey is like advancing a runner to the next base. The more you advance, the closer you are to your ultimate goal.

Getting on First Base

Just as a batter’s focus should be on simply getting to first base, firms should set realistic and achievable expectations when conducting their initial outreach to their audience or prospects. If you focus too much on hitting a home run, you may risk over-extending yourself and striking out. If you create smaller and more-attainable business development goals, you will be on second base before you know it. While you might want to close that deal after your first meeting with a prospect, a more-productive biz dev goal might be getting a second meeting on the calendar to keep the conversation going.

A business development base hit doesn’t have to be related solely to a sale; it can also amount to raising your profile as a thought leader in a specific industry sector that you are targeting. Incorporating other marketing tactics — such as PR, content marketing and branding — into your sales strategy can increase your clout and help enhance your reputation as a heavy hitter. 

Business Development, like Baseball, Is 90% Mental and 10% Physical

What stops most business development programs from succeeding? In most cases, it’s a lack of time and the fear of participation. Yet, there are other ways to get a base hit without ever having to take a swing. Think of it as using a pinch hitter. In the world of business development, this would be equivalent to leveraging complementary marketing tactics to help you win new business.

For example, you can use content marketing to share your knowledge with your audience and potential clients, or let the power of PR position you as a go-to subject matter expert. You can also concentrate on your personal brand. Creating an authentic, empathetic and accessible personal brand will improve your chances of getting that grand slam. To help promote your personal brand, make sure your social media and website profiles are updated and relevant to the needs of your industry targets.

Build It, and They Will Come

It’s not a ballpark, and it’s not cornfield in Iowa — it’s your firm’s culture and brand. To build a strong team, a successful business needs a culture that attracts committed and like-minded talent. Like all teams, you also want to build fan loyalty, and it is much easier to sell to those who love your brand. Aim to create a culture that empowers everyone to step up to the plate, develop a brand that draws in the fans and never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the business development game.

Need help with getting on base to build a strategic business development program? Contact me, Terry M. Isner, at