When you first started your career, it is unlikely you were expected to generate new work. So, it often comes as a shock when you have to start selling your firm’s offering.

But, the truth is, Business Development is an important (but challenging) part of a lawyer’s career. Your willingness towards BD can be the difference between becoming partner and, sometimes, leaving the profession.

This expectation often invokes fear, anxiety and panic. This is because many people are introduced to BD through cold calling, awkward networking events, uncomfortable public speaking, or the confrontational approach of other more aggressive sellers. These are the examples we see when we start out, but BD is so much bigger than this.

At ODG Solutions, our philosophy is simple. All professional services people can do business development. We need to find what works for each individual, not simply copy someone else’s strategy that might not work. We discourage forcing people into the cookie cutter, otherwise it’s probably going to validate what they already believe – that they are ineffective at business development.

Here are some important steps to get a professional services team selling.

1. Use personal motivations to find your BD sweet spot

Everyone gets out of bed for different reasons. Some are motivated by social contact, others by delivering client results, others are motivated by being alone, some are motivated by growth, climbing the ladder, others by wealth and possessions.

I promise, we can find a business development strategy that is consistent with your motivations and personal drivers that will get you results.

Start by realising there are business development techniques for each and every person.

2. Shift attitudes in order to take action

Do you find excuses to get out of BD?

On of the biggest barriers I see is having the right headspace. There are hundreds of excuses for why people are pessimistic about BD. This a significant hurdle, especially when it becomes the view of a whole team.

I’ve recently coached a team who agreed to take on BD responsibilities with their management. And, despite just starting, some individuals in the team aren’t doing it. They’ve come up with excuses: the overarching BD strategy is flawed, they shouldn’t be the person selling, they wouldn’t know what to say, nobody would want to meet within them, they have no credibility, or that there is a BD Manager who should be generating the work.

Shifting your attitude towards who can do BD is crucial. Here’s a hint: anyone can do it.

3. Boost confidence to prevent procrastination and inactivity

You are probably good at your job, receive great feedback and maybe even awards or commendations. Yet, I bet you don’t feel confident to sell what you do.

A lack of belief and confidence is very common. This problem is multifaceted, and there are a number of key areas that need to be constantly addressed:

Reward and recognition for results
Encouragement for BD effort and activity
Managing the workforce to ensure that contracts can be delivered on
Improvements in products and services to ensure that what is being sold to market, is the best possible version of itself.

4. Find YOUR strategy, not someone else’s

After working with businesses for 15 years, we have seen literally thousands of different BD and marketing strategies you can apply.

It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. It doesn’t matter if you are a keynote public speaker, or prefer to be in a back office.

We love seeing someone who has been applying the wrong strategy switch to one that fits them. To see the weight off of someone’s shoulders and the immediate success of a new strategy is very rewarding.

Have you been trying something that isn’t converting as much work as you like? Have you critiqued aspects of this strategy? Does this link to what motivates you?

5. The right skills, time, and mindset

While this list isn’t sequential, some steps need to come before others.

For example, years ago a client of mine had gone down a very expensive and unrewarding path. He had engaged a sales trainer for all their technical people. The problem was, no-one wanted to sell. In fact they passionately rejected the trainer

Skills development has to come at the right time. Culture change had to happen first. We have 3 rules for skills development:

  • Ensure your culture is right – get everyone thinking about selling in a positive, optimistic way
  • Deal with individuals who are struggling. If they are against selling, we might need to do some more work on them or, in some instances, find another place for them.
  • Develop skills that are relevant to the individuals. Blanket sales 101 approaches are not always helpful. Small group, short session training, group coaching or individual coaching is often more effective.

6. Find ways to Leverage Each Other

In many firms, we still find lawyers are going it alone. This is incredibly limiting because it’s not playing to the strengths of the team.

If you can find places for each person and see it as a strengths-based approach, you can have everyone playing an effective role, and you can train or hire where there are gaps.

If the team is out working for the team, then the business benefits long term. A firm-wide approach leads to sustained pipeline and a sharing of effort. And our work has continually shown that in our work culture, we generally prefer a group celebration rather than a focus on individual accolades.

One last thought

You might have read this and wondered where the information was about closing sales, or other skills most commonly associated with selling.

Obviously these skills are important. But you must start with a willingness for people to go to market, apply strategies fit for them, develop skills on the back of these strategies and then play to each other’s strengths. Closing and other skills are easy, once we get the important things right first.

About the author

ODG Solutions profiles lawyers and other professional services industries in business development potential. We offer facilitation of Business Development Strategy as well as training and coaching around professional selling. Ultimately we aim to create an a-ha moment for people, that there is something that makes sense for them, then we watch them execute their new tactic. Results follow.