Oct. 30, 2021

Mike Duffy Outlines The Business Development Habits That Set You Apart

Mike Duffy Outlines The Business Development Habits That Set You Apart

Mike Duffy shares his insights into business development and creating relationships that move the world forward. Find out how Mike transformed his career in sales with one fateful and shocking conversation with his sales manager, why Mike’s...

Mike Duffy shares his insights into business development and creating relationships that move the world forward. Find out how Mike transformed his career in sales with one fateful and shocking conversation with his sales manager, why Mike’s philosophy on asking questions is what allows him to always add value to his relationships, and why treating your profession the same way that a doctor does theirs is the key to sustained success.


Mo asks Mike Duffy: When was the moment that you decided that business development was important and you needed to get great at it?


  • Mike’s dad started in sales so he had a front row seat on making sales from the very beginning. He started his sales career by  selling ad space in a travel magazine, and once he got out of college, Mike started selling ladies clothes in California.
  • He took a $500,000 territory and in 18 months turned it into $2.5 million. He won salesman of the year at the age of 24 and ended up having a beer with his sales manager which led to a conversation that changed everything for him.
  • Mike took a deep dive into discovering what really makes a good sales program and he became a student of sales for the rest of his career.
  • Mike teaches lawyers business development now under the assumption that he has to sell the idea to his students. The goal is to help them understand that adding value to a relationship or closing a deal is sales by another name.
  • If we want to live the life we want, we have to get great at growth.
  • Start with the people you are going to call and how you can have a conversation that creates curiosity. That allows you to learn about what they need. Business development is about helping people.
  • Business development habits set you apart when it comes to employment as well. It’s hard to ascertain someone’s technical expertise in a 30-minute interview, but it’s obvious when you care, listen intently, and make the conversation about the other person.
  • You always have to be thinking about the long game. Some prospects may not turn into clients for years, so you need to focus on just moving the ball a little bit further each day.
  • Be transparent, have humility, and be honest. Tell people when they are your #1 target and allow them to shape the relationship in a way that’s valuable for them.


Mo asks Mike Duffy: What is your personal definition of business development?

  • Simply put, business development is helping others, connecting dots, and developing healthy and long lasting relationships.
  • When you understand who your client is, whoever that happens to be in the moment, and add value for them, that's how you get stuff done.
  • Where is the value chain and how are you adding value? It doesn’t end with the person you are talking to right now.
  • Servant leadership is the foundation for Mike’s relationship philosophy. He’s always asking himself internally about how he can be helpful to not only his client, but also his client’s clients.
  • When you ask the right questions, you get some interesting answers. Questions allow you to understand what motivates and drives someone, what concerns them, and what brings them joy. When you’re in a dot-connecting mode, all of that info helps you know who to link up.
  • Helping people when there is no chance of commercial gain is your moment of truth. Connecting dots for people is how you leave a legacy.
  • It’s worth the fight. Choose your attitude every day and build your resilience over time so you can keep pushing forward.
  • If your definition of business development is helping people, getting a no every once in a while is not an issue.


Mo asks Mike Duffy: What is your favorite science, step, or story that you learned from GrowBIG Training or The Snowball System?

  • Mike has a top 4: “Walk Around the Brain”, “Build It Together”, “MITs”, and “Give to Gets”.
  • Mike has writing pads all over his office to help him write down questions that cover all four quadrants of the brain and to make sure he’s prepared for every meeting. When he’s in the meeting Mike always makes sure that the client has their fingerprints on the plan.
  • MITs help Mike move the ball forward every week and Give to Gets allow prospects to get a sample of what it’s like to work with him.
  • The four quadrants of the brain consist of the why, the what, the how, and the who. When Mike is getting ready for a meeting, he develops two or three questions for each quadrant and then he pays direct attention to the language the client uses so he could build those words into the plan.
  • He’s always looking for questions that someone else hasn’t asked so he doesn’t sound like everyone else and can differentiate his firm.
  • You can have a great idea or product, but if you don’t engage the client, there is no guarantee they will want to take you up on your offer. A client’s engagement during a meeting is a good measure of how good a job you are doing.


Mo asks Mike Duffy: Tell me about a business development story that you are particularly proud of.

  • One of Mike's top business development efforts happened after a major company went under and all the audits they were doing went out for RFP. Instead of going into a presentation around pitching for the audit, Mike and his team just acted like they were starting the audit right then.
  • The preparation was in understanding their business inside and out, interviewing their people and learning what it’s important in their world, and building the audit in front of the client. This approach led to winning 87% of their pitches.
  • That story stands out for Mike because it showed him exactly what his team was made of and how they could excel together. He was also able to look back and analyze the reasons for his success, and those bold moves became the basis for much of Mike’s foundation for growth later on.
  • Covid was a godsend to sales people and professional services. This was the perfect opportunity to figure out how to be creative and add value to people. You could outsell your competition by not being the same and providing a bit more.
  • Mike was once asked how he has survived in professional services for so long, and his answer was, “Giving away all the credit and taking all the blame.” That’s Mike’s philosophy in a nutshell.
  • If Mike was forced to admit one of his qualities, it would be being willing to be blunt and honest when the project is going down the wrong path and pulling people back on track.


Mo asks Mike Duffy: If you could record a message to your younger self about how they should think about business development, what would it be?

  • Mike’s message would be to essentially to cold call for a couple months right at the beginning to get used to hearing no.
  • He would also tell himself to feed his brain. Read books and consume information that keeps you moving.
  • Treat your profession like a profession. If you treat your profession the same way that a doctor does and invest in continuing education every year to be a better leader and sales person, you will be successful.
  • Mike invests in programs that he’s heard about on podcasts and consumes books referenced in other books that have made an impact on him. You have to invest in yourself if you want to get better.
  • Mike also builds relationships with people that are learning themselves and is curious enough to find out more about them. He’s always thinking about how he can add value to a conversation or relationship, and thinking about the questions that allow him to dig deeper.
  • When you ask questions, you learn. When you learn, you connect dots, and when you do that, everyone gets better and the effect can snowball. Asking the right questions is instrumental to Mike’s ability to grow.



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Mike Duffy on LinkedIn