Active BD coaching will ward off ‘death by agreement’, writes Ben Paul of The BD Ladder.
Introducing a fresh sales approach or implementing a new CRM system across your firm, while essential, won’t create a truly client-centric culture on its own. These changes may not immediately translate into substantial revenue gains. Having a solid go-to-market strategy and a robust CRM system in place is crucial, but maximising their potential requires additional support through engagement programs. One highly effective approach is to integrate active BD coaching.
The rationale behind this is that shifting a culture, especially within a professional services firm, requires guided and sustained effort. In the world of the billable hour and time recording, investing effort into non-billable work needs to be clearly explained, and the long-term benefits of doing so need to be articulated and understood across the firm. An effective way of doing this is through active BD coaching.
But what exactly is ‘active’ BD coaching?
There are many forms of coaching, and a key part of employing what I term ‘active’ coaching, is that it means in coaching sessions actions are not only set, but they are also often carried out. I found that when working within professional services firms for the first time and trying to coach and mentor senior people to improve their client relationship and sales skills, I was often met with ‘death by agreement’.
What was happening was we were agreeing actions in the meeting, and then I’d come back for the next meeting 3-6 weeks later, and nothing had been actioned. I quickly learnt that when trying to build in new ways of working and approaching clients with those I was working with, while they saw the need to do it, their fear or lack of desire to change, was holding them back. Many were skilled at avoidance behaviour and agreeing to do something meant I left, and they could get back on with their day-to-day work.
To break this pattern, we began executing actions during the meeting wherever possible. This might mean writing a client email, or an email to a prospective client to get a meeting together. It may mean reviewing an email before sending it, or even updating a LinkedIn profile during the session. Of course, not all actions can be carried out in a meeting, but by simply getting some done in a sort of ‘show, tell, do’ style of coaching, progress was made.
While not all actions can be completed during a meeting, adopting a ‘show, tell, do’ coaching style helps to produce substantial progress.
BD coaches are like personal trainers
To get fit you don’t need a personal trainer. It’s simple really, eat a bit less and move a lot more. However, much like improving fitness with the assistance of a personal trainer, BD coaching facilitates progress and ensures that planned actions are executed correctly and consistently.
Regular coaching sessions and check-ins prompt individuals to carry out their planned actions, helping them establish effective habits. Once you have habits in place, you are now a regular BD practitioner. In a nutshell, that is how you get BD fit, with the help of a BD coach. And put simply, that is how BD coaching helps a law firm to create a client centric culture.
Support is vital for cultural shifts
To make organisational changes, your people need support and encouragement. In the context of a professional services firm, which comprises diverse practices and essentially functions as a mixture of separate businesses lines/services within a business, this need for support is magnified. An effective coaching program is often fundamental to realising and actioning cultural shifts.
The need for the right coaches
Of course, to ensure success, it’s imperative to have the right coaches. These BD coaches could be external consultants or individuals within your business—or even a combination of both. Identifying the appropriate BD coaches is a critical determinant of your program’s triumph.
Ben Paul is the CEO The BD Ladder, a consultancy specialising in helping professional services firms grow their revenue and build effective BD and marketing strategies. He has held senior BD and marketing roles in leading professional services firms and has over two decades’ experience in business development and marketing.