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It can be challenging creating a consistent business development “language” and process throughout a firm.  This can be for all sorts of reasons: existing culture is not BD focused or is, but only in pockets; mergers which mean you are integrating two or more different approaches to BD; professionals who prefer to work on their own, or teams who work in a silo apart from others; professionals who just get on with BD and don’t ask for much support. For firms that do achieve consistency, however, the benefits are very clear. read more

If you’ve not made any ‘mistakes‘ in business development, you’re not doing enough of it.  I put ‘mistakes’ in quotations, because really, there aren’t too many awful things you can do.

I’ve had to learn how to do business development on top of my technical expertise, and like many professionals I’ve spoken to, I initially found it vague and frustrating.  An accountant friend of mine summed it up by noting that she likes a right answer to anything she’s working on.  Well, there aren’t really right answers in sales and marketing – more like a focused intention.  Within that, there are some best practice guidelines, but no absolutes.  If you wait for absolutes, you’ll  fall into the only real mistake – doing nothing.  Most of us are going to have to bring in business as part of our careers  if we want to reach more senior levels.   If you start building it into your daily, weekly and monthly efforts, it will become much easier.

As for ‘mistakes’, I’ve probably made them all, but strangely, these mistakes often lead to clients.  I’ve sent emails to the wrong person, forgotten who I’m calling between dialling a number and the call being answered, mentioned competitors name instead of the client’s, sent duplicate articles,  been late for a meeting and failed to recognise someone at a networking event I’d met two days before.   Basically, I’m human.   In every case, I have apologised, rectified my mistake if I could and quite often, actually deepened the relationship by being vulnerable and having a bit of a laugh.  I don’t think I’ve landed a client without having some hiccup along the way.

Remember our clients and potential clients are first and foremost human beings.  They will have their own pressures, insecurities, ambitions and frailties.  If you want to work with them in the future, you have to make yourself known to them somehow, then prove to them that you are someone they could work with.

If ever there was a set of questions that professionals fail to ask it is the ‘Commercial’ questions.  How do we know this?  On hundreds of seminars professionals tell us this is so.  These same people also give us anecdote after anecdote detailing the opportunities and clients they failed to win by failing to explore these issues.

There are five commercial areas to explore.  They are:

1     The Basis of Decision  (BOD)

2     The Money or Budgetary Issues.

3     The Competitive Situation

4     The Timescales

5     The Decision Making Process  (DMP)

Why do people avoid these issues? The most common reason we have been given is that people feel awkward in raising these questions.  There is a fear that raising these questions could be seen as being “unprofessional” or pushy.   read more

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As many of you have been experiencing over the last year or two, there are a lot of mergers going on! In the legal field especially, but also in other professional services and in the wider business world. Whatever the strategic reasons for them, there are some immediate things which the marketing and BD teams can help with. I am not, here, going to include the ‘people’ side of things. This is not to underestimate it; there are all sorts of challenges here to resolve. It is a big topic though, so my thoughts here will concentrate on some of the operational and strategic priorities, on a few of which the success and benefits of a merger can depend. From my experience of three mergers: read more

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I remember hearing this years ago on a training course, and it stuck with me as a truism.  Now that I’m involved in business development, it strikes me as being even more relevant.

Last night I went to a networking event which happened to be debating the case for Scottish independence, and I took my 17 year old daughter along.   Of course the content of the debate was interesting, but really I wanted her to start to experience how business people communicate. read more

Getting into the right mindset

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

“Doing business without doing marketing and sales is like winking at someone in the dark.  You know you’re doing it, but no-one else does.”

It can be frustrating, can’t it, to find you’ve spent years studying for professional qualifications, then providing expert advice, only to be told that now you need to do sales.

We have asked lots of professionals over the years what they think of selling.  There are some who love it but in the main they find it, at best, intimidating or, at worst, rather grubby and beneath them.   This is often because selling is associated with lack of substance, manipulation or the need to be an outgoing, ‘patter merchant’.  However, selling need never be like that in the professional services world.  In fact, behaving like what we might regard as a ‘typical’ salesperson is likely to be counter-productive in a world where we typically want to build trust-based, long-term relationships with our clients.   Our experience at PACE tells us that building business is less about ‘selling’ to others and more about motivating others to buy. read more

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Most professionals are expected to be business developers as well as experts in their chosen field.  So what does that mean on a day-to-day basis?  How can you be confident of future fee income even when the bulk of your time is taken up delivering existing client work, leaving very little left for proactive business development? read more

I recently conducted some research amongst some clients and contacts regarding the barriers they faced around cross-selling.  My research uncovered these firms faced three main challenges: mutual trust (or lack of) in their colleagues’ capabilities, the feeling of losing control and the client’s image of the firm.  But what can you do to overcome these barriers? read more

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That’s Too Expensive

Thursday, January 30, 2014 @ 09:01 PM
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From our research here at PACE and by talking with professionals all over the world, we know that fees/margin/profit (which all mean money) is being left on the table in almost all work instructions agreed between provider and client.

It’s true that when business conditions worsen the tendency to crumble increases when price is challenged and to some extent the opposite is also true. read more

Try a mystery shop for yourself

Thursday, January 16, 2014 @ 05:01 PM

How would your firm fare in a mystery shopping exercise?   It might seem like something done in retail outlets or visitor attractions, but I recently became a mystery shopper for a legal client and the results were interesting.

Most firms would claim to be ‘client-focused’,  ‘professional’ or ‘friendly’, but in fact the client experience can be something different.   More importantly, I suggest that many firms are losing out on sales opportunities simply by not thinking about each and every touch-point with a potential or existing client. read more