The current market has seen an uplift in spend across many professional services firms. Many lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects etc., have seen work coming to them and therefore have had very little need to actively chase it. While some have found the economic climate less favourable and have struggled, those that are currently benefiting from an ‘up-market’ should, if anything, BD harder!
It may, of course, seem highly counter-intuitive to increase BD and marketing activity when it seems that to all intents and purposes, it is perhaps not needed as much as it previously was. However, this is one of the most dangerous conclusions any business can draw, let alone those within the highly competitive professional services market. If anything, there are more risks to your business or firm’s long term sustainable growth than ever, when work is simply landing in your lap.
The risks when work just comes in the door
Firstly, the main question is, are you doing the work that you should be, or simply the first work that arrives at your desk? If you’re billing a client and revenue and profits are up, you may be wondering why this question is important. Put simply, if you are to build a long-term sustainable pipeline of work, it is more beneficial to be working with those companies and those individuals who will be important to helping you achieve this over the next 5-10 years. This means it may pay to turn away short-term transactional work in favour of actively pursuing work with clients that you are looking to build a long-term relationship with.
The next big risk is everyone gets focused purely on delivery and billing. Great for the end of year figures, but not so beneficial for your long-term strategic relationships. While this is very understandable when everyone is working long hours and, in the last couple of years, doing so under difficult working conditions, it does mean that those all-important relationship building meetings and activities may potentially have suffered. Even if you have delivered great work for your clients, if your competitors are actively contacting them and investing more time in getting to know them and understand what’s important to them, you’re one slip up from potentially losing them.
Finally, your spheres of influence and recognition in the wider marketplace may drop. Which, if the market contracts at any point, again puts you at risk. This will happen if you decrease your marketing efforts, i.e., if you stop putting out quality content, or if you stop speaking at conferences and webinars. Adverts, while an important part of your brand or top of mind strategies, will only get you so far in the professional services world. On the BD side, if you’re meeting fewer people and having less meaningful conversations, then when you need them most those all-important referrals will dry up. It will also be much more difficult to pick up the phone or send an email to your clients to get a meeting when you aren’t engaged with them.
All of which means you will need to BD Harder! However, knowing how to do this will be key.
So how do you BD Harder, during the good times?
The first part of your plans to BD harder is to recognize that you need to have a BD client action plan that starts with recognizing what time you realistically have to spend on your BD activities. Before you even begin to plan how many conversations you’ll have, how many new clients you’ll target etc., be honest with yourself around what time you actually have.
Next, think about what work – be it projects, matters or other engagements that are coming up in the market in the next 6, 12 and 24 months – that you most want to be engaged on. From here, you can then focus on a capture plan for these opportunities and then really focus on your relationship building activities to achieve your goals.
The next piece of the puzzle is to be ruthless with your BD time. It’s precious, so value it highly. Use it to contact those people you most want to speak to and if necessary, consider passing on less valuable or desirable work to others in your organisation, or even to other firms. Your time is valuable making the most of it enable you to BD harder!
Finally, make sure you keep up your marketing efforts. If you have a marketing team, great, if you don’t, can you outsource this or get in a consultant to pick up this while you’re busy delivering paid client work? In fact, don’t just limit this to out-sourcing your marketing, consider other aspects around running your business that it may pay to out-source or even get new employees in to deliver, so you can focus on what’s important.
Conclusion – the need to BD Harder in the good times.
It can be all too easy to lose focus on your BD and marketing initiatives during the good times, when work rolls in. However, doing this is the main reason that many professional services firms have unpredictable or up and down revenue patterns. More than ever, if you are in an up market, now is the time to really invest in strategic and effective BD and marketing efforts to deliver a sustainable revenue pipeline for your business.
That’s why I coined the phrase “BD harder”. It encapsulates the need to really put the focus and effort in all the time, even when the work is rolling in, so that you never have to chase work, in a panic, when the market shifts. Therefore, when times are good, BD harder!