Unfortunately, most professional service firms expect their people to be competent at business develop yet they rarely are given adequate professional development to foster strong BD skills. Frankly, many professionals are not set up for business development success at all. Let’s face it, with a few exceptions, most people in professional services never anticipated they would be required to engage in business development activities and win work for the firm. Early in their career they are given work, and, in most cases, they’ve never been asked or shown how to build a professional network let alone effectively utilise that network to generate opportunities for the firm.
In most firms, senior professionals are required to put a business case together, demonstrating their ability to generate fees amongst other critical skills in order to be eligible for a promotion, especially to partnership. They are typically highly regarded subject matter experts yet commonly they are far from experts at business development. Sadly, a lack of business development acumen is often the achilles heel that holds back many competent lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects and management consultants from reaching the next level of their career. This results in anxiety, frustration and disappointment for them and the firm.
To add insult to injury, many accountants, engineers, lawyers, architects and management consultants hold a negative association with the concept of business development and the ‘s-word’ for good reason. They often recoil at the thought of having to “sell” to a client or potential client. Do you blame them? Consequently, the majority of professionals are resistant to the notion of ‘doing’ that to their clients or potential clients. Yet, at some point in their career, they are required to win work and this frequently creates cognitive dissonance, frustration and anxiety when they are asked to build a practice.
Disappointingly, there are many people in (and outside of) professional services who perpetuate traditional stereotypes of “selling” which are aggressive, manipulative, and not appropriate in a professional services context. These techniques might work in door to door sales but are completely wrong and inappropriate for a professional services environment. Consequently, many accountants, lawyers, management consultants, engineers and architects either avoid or reluctantly engage in business development, typically achieving lack lustre results.
Yet, year after year, professional service firms invest thousands on business development training programs that do little to actually create sustainable business development habits for their people. Many training organisations and consultants pedal business development training programs as a panacea to solve a complex problem. Not only is business development training ineffective at changing behaviours, it is ineffective at helping professionals to foster the necessary BD mindset, BD skills and arguably the most critical piece, making business development part of their daily routine.
To create lasting change, lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects or consultants have to make business development part of their daily routine. Just like brushing their teeth, it can and should become something they do daily. And consistency compounds. Doing the right BD activities on a consistent basis is what produces extraordinary results. There is no silver bullet. A successful practice is not made in a day, it’s made daily.
Professionals need to be committed to an effective BD process, a daily discipline to invest a little time each day. No one day, no one week or even month of BD activities will build a successful practice. Its consistent effort, over months and years that compounds and culminates in extraordinary results. Like compound interest, it adds up over time. American author, John C. Maxwell says “You only get the compounding on the backend because you were consistent on the front end.”
The end game then is strong business development habits. We know good habits drive good outcomes. Unfortunately, habits don’t change overnight, and that’s why a coaching-based approach is proven to be the most effective methodology. It is the act of effectively facilitating a mindset shift, so the professional eventually sees themselves as the kind of person who does business development.
The strategies and approaches for different industries can vary, however the principles of core behavioural shift apply to all business models across industries and can be delivered in such a way as to make any professional an effective advocate for their business or firm, regardless of their background or expertise.
In summary, we believe there is a compelling case to rethink future investments in business development training for professionals. A paradigm shift from business development training for professionals to business development coaching will deliver results.
Collective Intelligence specialises in building high performance BD habits. Contact us today to learn more about our flagship programs such as: