Many professional services firms invest a great deal of time and money recruiting and employing exceptional BD Managers. This is of course a great idea! Good BD Managers help identify and execute the firm’s winning work strategies.
However, many professional services firms under utilise or even incorrectly utilise these experienced BD Managers and they end up doing a role, which wasn’t what they initially thought they had signed up for. In fact, they become bid writers, administrators, and are asked to be the silent ones taking meeting minutes, that (if we are honest) pretty much no-one ever reads or refers to again.
This of course is why there is a pretty high attrition rate in the profession, many BD Managers don’t remain in their roles for longer than 2 years and many move into completely different sectors or roles. For many, the motivation isn’t the good salary they receive, but job satisfaction. For individuals who look to develop client relationships, help build key client programmes and enhance the firm’s CX strategy, being asked to take minutes in internal key client meetings is a massive let down.
To unpick this a bit further, let’s start by examining why you shouldn’t ask your BD Managers to take minutes in meetings.
Why your BD Managers shouldn’t take minutes
When I first joined the crazy world of professional services I was advised “whatever you do, don’t take minutes.” I’ve stuck to this, only breaking it on the odd occasion, when in small client teams we have had a roster where we all took turns. In smaller organisations sometimes, everyone has to chip in. Of course, doing it this way, does create a better team dynamic.
The reason why BD Managers, shouldn’t take minutes come down to a few key things:
1. The note -taker doesn’t contribute.
When you’re focused on what everyone is saying it is really hard to then also add meaningful contributions. Let’s focus in on the main times BD Managers are asked to take minutes, which is typically in an internal key client meeting or in an internal bid response meeting. These meetings have multiple participants who all talk, quite often at the same time! To capture everything requires amazing listening skills and, also fast fingers to either type or write everything down.
If your BD Manager is doing all of the above, are they really going to be able to make meaningful contributions to the conversation? My experience of having seen BD Managers in this role, is that at the end of the meeting as everyone is packing up their equipment with one foot out the meeting door, someone asks them if they have anything to add. Put yourself in the BD Manager’s shoes, that’s pretty demotivating.
2. It creates the wrong impression internally.
Professional services firms are hierarchical in nature and if BD Managers become the easy ‘dumping ground’ to do tasks the fee-earners don’t want to do, then it is difficult for them to then elevate themselves into role of BD Advisors and coaches.
Most BD professionals sit in BD & Marketing teams. There’s real confusion in most firms as to what the difference between BD and Marketing is . Alongside this, most of BD & Marketing teams sit in what professional services call ‘Support Services.’ I’ve even been in a team few years ago where overall alongside finance and HR etc., we were referred to as the “Admin team”.
For me personally, my job title or team name has not defined my role within a firm. However, it creates an impression. It’s why some fee-earners in professional services see their BD Managers as the people to ask when they need an umbrella or a tote bag!
3. Minutes – do you really need them?
In most key client, bid response, or other client development meetings you have internally, do you really need minutes? They aren’t often referred to and in most cases they simply focus on what’s happened in the past.
Instead, the team should be responsible for updating the key client records and notes wherever you hold them – CRM system, spreadsheets etc. before the meeting. Your meetings should then be action-orientated focusing on what each member o the team will be doing in the next few weeks to help you develop your relationships with the client further.
This allows not only for BD Managers to recap the next agreed actions, but provide advice in and outside of the meeting to work with the fee earners to help them successfully deliver those actions.
4. You’re not getting the maximum value from your BD Managers.
This is what it all boils downs to. The firm and the business owners (partners/directors) aren’t actually getting the best return on their investment in their BD Managers when they put them into these administrative roles. It fulfils a short-term need but it doesn’t unlock the full strategic and client-centric advice that these business development professionals can provide.
If you want and need administrators, then hire them. If you want internal BD advice to grow your firm, then absolutely hire BD Managers. When you do hire them, work with them to really define their roles and responsibilities. If you work together on this, you’ll start to develop a strategic winning work function that will be one of your firm’s biggest assets.
Summing it up.
If you’re experiencing this disconnect with your BD Managers or you’re a BD Manager experiencing this disconnect with the firm you work in, then start to make changes in what you do immediately. Have the internal conversations with the people you need to and start to re-define the BD Managers role. For this to change both the BD Managers and Partners/Directors need to work together. It is easy to slip into these ways of working and once that’s happened it becomes a habit. The only way to break these habits is with open and honest conversation.