Many firms when preparing for a pitch to a client spend all their time on the presentation part of the interaction and fail to prepare adequately, if at all, for the question and answer session. This is a shame and a massively missed opportunity as it is during this time that the client will get a real feel for what it is like to engage and work with you.
Preparing for the Q & A session read more
Your firm spends thousands on building its reputation to attract the stars of the future. You invest valuable resources in the ‘milk round’. Your highly competent HR team invests time and money in the most rigorous selection process. Your partners get involved to assess candidates to ensure that they will be both a great fit (and a high earner) for the firm.
Slowly but surely you entice and enthuse the very best candidates to join.
They say “yes” to your offer! You are excited you have recruited the best! They are excited and enthused about joining your firm. They are highly motivated, ready to learn and willing to sacrifice much of their young life to build a great future for them and the firm that they already have huge respect for. read more
Many professionals we work with admit to being nervous about asking lots of questions in business development settings. Intellectually they understand that finding out about potential clients is a great way to build and deepen relationships. However, they fear coming across as being a bit like an interrogator. Quite often they revert to talking instead – trying to impress a potential client into working with them.
In other cases, people simply haven’t been training in asking really good and progressive questions. We all did when we were children. If I had a pound for every time my daughter had asked me ‘why?’, I’d be very rich. But we lose this simple curiosity as we get older. And then we add on our professional expertise and the training in knowing stuff – being right. This doesn’t encourage us to appear like we don’t know what we’re talking about. read more
What are the best ways for marketing and business development people to work together to make the most of the resources available?
When they are writing proposals and preparing pitches I often observe a tendency in professionals to keep adding more and more to their documents and presentations. The rationale being the more they say, the more convincing their offer will be.
Yet the reality (from a client’s perspective) is very different. If you have ever had to read through numerous proposals or sit and listen to back-to-back pitches you will be aware that your mind drifts as soon as the message goes beyond what’s relevant to you. read more
The answer would seem to be so obvious – so why mention it? We accept that it is a real generalisation, but at PACE we have a huge amount of collective experience working in all manner of markets and that experience convinces us that professionals are among the worst time managers in industry! Even when it comes to making sure of arriving at client / business development meetings in good time! Strange for a profession which only has its time to sell.
The outcome is that lateness becomes habitual. Internal meetings never start on time, they never finish on time, people are perpetually behind the clock. The real problems start when this behaviour is visited on the client. One client we worked with some time ago is a large insurance company. A new MD joined the organisation and early in his tenure he and his fellow directors were kept waiting on one occasion by one of the Partners from the auditors. When he ‘sounded off’ about this behaviour, one of his fellow Directors remarked that their auditor’s people were always late and that they were forever sitting around waiting for them to show up to meetings. At this point the MD charged his people with counting every minute of management time that was wasted by the auditors. When the auditors sent their next invoice to the company for time spent working on various tasks, the new MD sent his own back in response – based on management time lost through the auditor’s tardiness. read more
Making business development happen is key to the ongoing success of any professional services firm. Implementation however by fee earners is often variable.
So what type of management and leadership approach achieves the best results: the carrot or the stick? read more
I was chatting to a solicitor friend who has recently left a traditional firm and set up on her own. She did this because she felt inhibited by the bureaucracy and lack of energy in the firm, and she is now enjoying being able to give her clients really proactive and personal service. In particular, she noted she had been waiting for a response for three weeks from her old firm, even though this was a client matter. We chatted about why this might happen, and really couldn’t come up with anything positive. Was it disorganisation? Arrogance?
It got me thinking about my experience of professional service firms as both a client and supplier. In PACE, we practise what we preach, and regularly stay in touch with both clients and prospects, sending items of value. While this is a completely unscientific analysis, I have to say that those people who regularly acknowledge these articles, seem to me to be the ones who really understand client care and business development. My solicitor friend used to be one of them, before she left her firm. Now I accept that acknowledging articles sent by PACE is not going to be top of busy professionals to-do lists. However, most of those that do respond are highly successful individuals. If they take time to send a quick line to me, I’m confident they are more likely to treat the most important people – their clients and prospects – with the same level of responsiveness and courtesy.
It is still true that people buy people. We all moan about those huge, faceless organisations that we sometimes have to deal with, where no-one takes responsibility for client care. It’s easy to make sure yours isn’t one of them. Just send a quick line with an update, or pick up the phone. Every touch-point with a firm leaves an impression.
I have just started working with a new client which I’m really enjoying. It serves as a good reminder that it is so much better to work with clients you like working with. All sorts of positive things happen as a result: you are more motivated to do a great job; you actually do a better job than you might for other clients; it’s enjoyable and the client enjoys it too; it helps to build a stronger relationship with them and increases the likelihood of future work.
This new client actually came from a referral – someone now there had used PACE before and brought us back in again to work in their new company. So to some extent it’s serendipity.
Conversely, I was talking to someone the other day who was working with a client they really didn’t like. They were difficult, demanding, sometimes rude and prone to give them work which doesn’t interest them. That was also a referral from another client, so it would have been difficult to say ‘no’.
But if I could picture what my ideal client would look like, what would I see and how could I make sure that the picture became a reality?
In building a profile there are a number of areas to think about, for instance:
- How big they would be
- What geography(ies) they operate in
- How they might be organised and what departments would they need to have to make them a good prospect
- What kind of work or projects they would give you (that will motivate you to want to work with them)
- What their culture and approach would be
There are also some fundamental questions to answer at a firm level. To what extent is the firm willing to ‘prune’, either now or in the future, existing clients who do not fit your ideal future clients? If you’re not, are you then willing to accept that some staff will be de-motivated by continuing to work with them? But if you are happy to prune, what plans do you have in place to make sure that any gaps in work are filled?