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If you want to grow your firm, you’ll need a clear BD plan

With economic downturns, the rise of AI, the proliferation of online meetings, and the increasing and ever-changing nature of competitors there’s a huge amount happening in the professional services sector. There is, writes The BD Ladder’s Ben Paul, a greater number of firms vying for the attention of your clients and prospects.

This means it is harder than ever to remain relevant and top-of-mind. Many professional services providers find that what used to work for them, no longer hits the mark. The old notion of ‘simply doing good work, and the next job will come’ is quickly falling by the wayside.

Now clients have a plethora of choices. For larger corporates, multinationals or government organisations, procurement is actively involved, creating barriers between the firms and the users and traditional purchasers of their services who traditionally relationships would be built.

With all this in mind, many professionals are discovering they lack the necessary knowledge and skills to attract and retain clients in today’s dynamic marketplace. But beyond any knowledge or skills, what’s really lacking is a clear plan for building and developing better client relationships.

This is where a well-structured business development (BD) playbook comes in handy – like the one you can download here. Below are some of the key aspects for professionals to consider when creating their own BD playbook.

Efficient time and resource allocation
It is important for those in professional services to plan around the time they have available to do outreach and BD. We know these individuals face time constraints due to high demands and the need to prioritise client work/commitments. But, by building a plan around their available time (even if it’s only 15-30 minutes per week), practitioners can focus their efforts on activities with the highest return on investment. This enables them to achieve sustainable growth, without sacrificing their billable work or practice.

Understanding clients, referrers and targets
Contacts need to be collated and categorised into buckets, such as: ‘clients’, ‘referrers’, and ‘targets.’ That way, in their allotted weekly BD time, professional services practitioners can reach out to these contacts, engage with them, and ideally meet with them – either online or face-to-face. Each category of contacts will require a slightly different approach.

With clients, finding a reason to meet up outside of the project or matter is key. This requires an understanding of what’s important to each client and reaching out to help them with their thinking. Most referrers will share common interests, which makes it easier to initiate conversations with them. Lastly, pursuing targets will take the most amount of time and planning. Practitioners will need to map out the challenges and opportunities their targets face, and who in their firm or network might know them, which helps determine the best path forward.

Strategic client acquisition and retention
Having categorised their contacts, following a BD playbook will equip professional service practitioners with the methods and tools to effectively gain and retain clients. This means, practitioners can ensure consistent pre and post-meeting communications with their clients, typically via email. It also helps practitioners to prepare for meetings, think about the right questions to ask, build rapport, qualify potential opportunities, and ultimately generate agreed outcomes.

By implementing a systematic approach, professionals can enhance their networking skills, develop compelling value propositions, and differentiate themselves from competitors. A well-designed BD playbook ensures professionals are ready to deliver exceptional client experiences and build long-term client relationships that lead to repeat business and referrals.

In today’s complex and competitive professional services landscape, professional services practitioners are best served by following clear business development strategies to help them grow their firms. A structured BD playbook provides professionals with the necessary framework and tools to adapt to the changing marketplace, acquire and retain clients, manage their brand and reputation, and allocate their time and resources effectively. It’s clear that in the current climate, whatever worked before, won’t necessarily get these professionals where they want to be – in the short-term, or even further afield.

Ben Paul is the CEO The BD Ladder, a consultancy specialising in helping professional services firms grow their revenue and building 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.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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