Business Development Coaching
In and of itself, will Business Development coaching alone for professional services be enough?
Yes, and no.
To a large extent, Business Development (BD) coaching will go a long way to addressing the fundamental shift in behaviour required for professionals such as accountants and lawyers to establish a routine of effective BD behaviours that will culminate in steady client work and the growth of a practice. Yet, there are a number of other enablers we have observed that impact the success of business development coaching which should be considered and addressed firmwide.
- Endorsement of non-billable BD activities
In many firms, lawyers and accountants are required to achieve a minimum number of billable hours each day. Failing to do so usually has consequences yet failing to invest time on business development activities typically does not. Consequently, what do you think these professionals prioritise? Until the firm incentivises non-billable time on BD activities as much as billable hours, BD activities will always play second fiddle and suffer at the expense of chargeable work.
- Foster firmwide BD culture
From grads to Partners, BD is everyone’s business. Professionals should be expected to engage in BD activities at each and every level of their career. Doing so enables them to build confidence and capabilities long before they are expected to generate fees. Yet all too often, junior staff are rarely exposed to any form of BD which is a missed opportunity for most firms to generate BD leverage and foster a BD culture firmwide. Business development should be embedded in each professional’s journey through their firm with KPIs discussed in performance reviews including the setting of achievable stretch goals.
- Team approach to clients
In many firms, the hierarchy often dictates that only Partners have conversations with clients. In our opinion, this is a missed opportunity to create leverage for the partners. When Partners introduce junior staff to clients and encourage them to develop relationship with their clients, they can better serve clients. This is in the best interest of both the client and the firm because professionals can better understand the client and identify opportunities to help. This team approach to client relationships exposes junior professionals to business development which helps also fosters a BD culture.
- BD mentoring
Possibly because it is seen as non-billable time, many Partners and Directors commonly don’t invest the time to provide the required BD mentoring support to junior people in the firm. Sharing personal stories, especially failures, goes a long way to helping junior staff to feel ok to try (and fail). By placing value on BD mentoring, and walking the talk, junior staff are exposed to valuable experience and wisdom which sends a strong message that they are valued. An important consideration that contributes to the firm’s ability to attract and to retain talent is the firm’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
- Client experience surveys
Understanding the client experience at your firm is critical. Yet, most firms do not have a third party consistently survey their clients to gain insights into the firms’ service and more importantly, determine what their clients actually value. The Net Promoter System (NPS) is the global standard in loyalty measurement. NPS also captures valuable client verbatim feedback; positive feedback on what they love about your firm’s service or alternatively important suggestions for improvement. Clients with a high NPS score are raving fans and have explicitly indicated they are willing to promote you and your firm. This is low-hanging BD fruit. A follow up conversation can quickly lead to a warm introduction to people in their professional network who may also benefit from the firm’s services.
- Client Relationship Software
Mapping and tracking the individual relationships that make up a firm’s key commercial relationships is key to managing the firm’s relationship capital. Real-time visibility across the client, contact and referrer relationships is sadly, non-existent in many firms. This can easily be addressed with clever software that doesn’t require professionals to manually enter data, such as that developed by Client Sense.
There is no question, Business Development coaching is superior to Business Development training in terms of return on investment.
In our opinion, Business Development coaching is a significant piece of the BD puzzle, yet the enablers discussed in this piece that will optimise the results of Business Development coaching and support the long-term adoption of sustainable behavioural change.
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