Business development is the biggest use of non-chargeable time at partner level. In fact, most partners are indirectly or directly measured on their ability to win business. Here are five ways in which many firms and partners prevent themselves from being more efficient with their business development.
1. Lack of a proper fact find
Selling professional services is not like selling groceries. Our clients may have a perceived shopping list, but in reality what they think they want is sometimes not what they actually need. Unless you do a full fact find, how else:
- Are you to discover that they actually need some tax work done at the same time as the audit work which you quoted for?
- Will you find out that they haven’t got an up to date will, which will need to be re-written as a result of their impending divorce?
- Will you avoid agreeing to a fixed fee arrangement for a "simple" job, which you find out is anything but simple?
How are you helping your staff explore fully their potential clients' needs and how your firm can help solve their problems and fully eliminate their pain?
2. No reciprocal referral arrangements
Not every firm can handle every single piece of work that comes their way. It may be that you don’t have the particular specialists in-house, or that you are conflicted out of the work. Or sometimes the client just isn't a good fit for your practice. Most firms happily recommend another firm. If you are not recommending another firm, then why not? It’s good client service at the end of the day.
Do you have a list of recommended referral partners? Does all your staff know how to access this list – including the receptionists and secretaries? After all, your gatekeepers will be fielding calls from "unsuitable" clients all the time.
But more importantly than having a list, do you have strong enough relationships with these referral partners so that it's a two way street? It’s no good wasting a valuable referral on a firm which is never going to return the favour.
3. Sharing relationships
You’ve taken the time to win that client and nurture the relationship. Why should you introduce them to other members of the firm? After all, you don’t want them to nick your client, do you? No, no, no, no, no! This commonly held attitude amongst partners is counter-productive.
Our big clients often have many different needs that a different part of the practice is better placed to service. This introduction actually strengthens the relationship with our client, as we're giving them a better client experience.
What happens if we don’t make that introduction? Well, the client will go eventually go elsewhere for these services, and often take his whole business with him. D’oh. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face.
4. No training on business development
It’s the partner’s role to win work, and the staff responsible to service that work, right? Wrong. If you don’t take the time to help your staff learn how to win work, how are they meant to learn? Wouldn’t it be great if more of your fee earners were bringing in work than just the partners? How much easier would it be, if you could trust and empower your team to "sell" the everyday stuff, and leave you free to chase after and win the big juicy contracts?
5. Lack of follow up for leads
So your potential clients didn’t get back to you. Bad luck. Did you follow up? No? Well, how do you really know whether you were successful or not? Often it is this lack of prompt follow up which stops us converting an enquiry into a new client. If you can find out what’s stopping them from buying, often you can do something about it. Not just for this potential client, but for future ones as well.
How could your firm become more efficient with its business development?
Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your experiences.
Heather Townsend, Britain's queen of networking, is the founder of The Efficiency Coach, a company that helps professionals achieve better business results for less effort. Follow her Joined Up Networking blog for more useful tips and tricks. She has just been commissioned to write the FT Guide to Business Networking.