If you want to create a strong business development (BD) culture in professional services, it is essential to follow these 7 tips. Without a BD culture, workflows and revenue in professional services firms can fluctuate.
The key to creating a successful BD culture is to get buy-in from the top, ensure alignment with the firm’s goals, keep your plan simple and clear, identify the resources needed, create an internal comms campaign, and provide continual training and support.
Remember, creating a firm-wide BD culture takes time and requires dedication from everyone in the firm.
Why professional service firms need a strong BD culture
All professional services firms rely on people buying their services, which means they need to cultivate strong client relationships. This requires legal, accountancy, engineering and architecture firms to develop a strong BD culture.
However, many practitioners and technical experts find doing BD and outward relationship building activities difficult. Some firms also don’t have a strong leadership focus on BD, and even if they do, their BD strategies, plans and initiatives are not properly supported.
This inevitably leads to a weak or non-existent BD culture which means workflows and revenue tend to fluctuate quite considerably.
If firms want to grow sustainably, it is essential to know how to develop, build, and support a business development culture. The below 7 tips provide a simple blueprint on how to achieve this.
7 essentials to creating a BD culture
1. You need buy-in from the top
“CX, being a client centric firm, or having a strong BD culture” will simply become buzz-words for failed BD & marketing initiatives if your Senior Leadership Team (SLT) have not fully bought in to these initiatives.
For any professional services team to truly embrace a change in behaviour, it is imperative that this is recognised at the top. It is not good to expect your BD, Client, Marketing Director, or department to simply create a new initiative and roll it out across your firm – if you have any desire for it to be successful.
The reason the majority of new BD and marketing initiatives fail is not because they are ill-thought-out ideas or the wrong solution…It is simply that the SLT, and then subsequently, the Partners/Directors (particularly equity partners) have not bought in to the initiative.
2. Firm-wide alignment
As with all things that require SLT, or even Board-level buy-in, they require alignment. This means, that whatever BD or marketing initiative you are looking to implement across the firm, it needs to be aligned to the goals of those at the top, have a clear structure, budget and reporting metrics.
3. Understand the firm’s goals
Essentially, the following things need to be understood:
- How the SLT see the firm looking in 3 to 5 years’ time.
- What their annual and 3-5 year growth ambitions are.
- Any areas of concern, i.e., underperforming practice areas, wider market concerns, retiring Partners/Directors etc.
- Any new practice/service line areas or innovations they plan to adopt during this period.
It is really important to understand this so that you can start to develop and build the need for a new BD and marketing initiative, and how it fits within the firm’s goals.
4. Keep the plan simple, and articulate it clearly
The next stage is to develop and build a clear plan, detailing how the initiative will help to embed a BD culture, and how it aligns to the firm’s goals. The plan will have clear deadlines, and detail who is responsible for delivering each part.
As a rule, if you can’t communicate it effectively on 1 page, then try again. It’s okay to have a more detailed project delivery plan behind the 1-page summary, but you should be able to lay it out simply.
5. Identify the resources needed
Do you need external consultants? If so, identify what they are needed for and engage them early. Consider who within your BD & Marketing team needs to be involved… and most importantly, identify which fee-earners within the firm need to participate, and what their roles are.
You’ll need advocates and champions within the business to drive your initiatives forward and develop a BD culture.
6. Create an internal comms campaign
In essence, this is a change management programme. Therefore, you not only need to communicate the how, but also the why this is important a firm-wide level. If you have town halls or other communication channels where the leadership team speak, get them to communicate this message to the firm. This is an essential part of creating a firm-wide BD culture.
7. Provide continual training and support
No doubt many people within the firm will be learning and developing new skills. That means it is vital to have targeted BD training for professional services people, that provides them with the tools they need.
For those key members who will need to be more active in the BD space, it pays to have some regular coaching or support sessions planned, which you can deliver using either internal or external resources. If you’re not sure which is best, this article published by nexl should help.
Conclusion – creating a strong, firm-wide BD culture
To create a firm-wide BD culture, it is essential that the SLT and key influencers within your firm are fully engaged and support the programme. Without this, you may make some improvements with individuals, but the results will be patchy – and the wider results across the entire firm just won’t be realised.
If it is seen as simply the responsibility of the BD & Marketing team, then the whole firm has not bought in to the initiative. It takes alignment, the key people and the majority (if not all) of the staff to create a firm-wide BD culture. It’s a big time investment, but certainly one that pays off in the long-term.