How do you get lawyers/accountants more engaged with business development?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is “how do you get lawyers/accountants more engaged with business development?”

Heads of marketing and BD in law firms and accountancy practices go on to explain their fee earners are reluctant to get involved in BD irrespective of whether this BD is about developing existing relationships or winning new clients.  The reasons for their reluctance generally break down into 5:

1. They don’t have time.

2. They are happy doing what they’ve always done.

3. They can only make time for BD when client work is light.

4. They genuinely believe doing a good job for a client is more than enough.

5. BD is someone else’s job, e.g. the marketing department’s, their PR agency’s, or in the case of junior fee earners, the partners’ job.

What can law firms, intellectual property firms and accountancy practices do to overcome these barriers and get fee ear more engaged with business development?

In most cases fee earners do not do enough BD.  Here are 3 ways to overcome this:

– Set targets for BD activity

– Measure actual delivery versus these targets

– Have consequences for non-delivery

Now look at what they are doing.  Is it not a lot or is it doing what they’ve always done, i.e. attending the same old formal networking events.

There has always been more to BD than just going to the same old events.  This message has to be driven home! It’s your job to open your fee earners’ eyes to all the different types of BD they could be doing then give them the skills to do what suits them best. 

BD training programmes that combine group workshops with 1on1 coaching is often the most potent way to build in-house BD capability.  In the workshops you can introduce alternative types of BD:

– Highlighting the many alternatives to traditional networking.

– Showing how to adapt their approach to BD in a hybrid working environment.

– Reinforcing the importance of follow up (and showing them how to follow up without being too salesy).

– Sharing the other ways to increase their visibility, e.g. writing blogs, producing podcasts, approaching the trade press and securing speaking slots.

Then in the 1on1s, they can work on specific real life examples, working out how to make an initial approach then build on this first meeting to convert conversations into bona fide opportunities.

Working 1on1 can also provide the perfect opportunity to address the fact BD needs to be continual,  It’s not just for when workloads are light.

BD time needs to be ring-fenced so it becomes a part of the normal working week and supported by slightly reduced billing targets so there is time for BD.

Why is a lawyer/accountants’ business development about more than just doing a good job?

Commissioning independent client service reviews will highlight new opportunities to improve your client service and confirm the need to engage with clients outside of live matters.

You don’t know what you don’t know.  Client feedback will shine a light on where there are gaps in desired service levels and give you a host of ideas you can use to add even more value to your key relationships.

Better still, if you act on the insight your clients give you, your research will become self-funding because it will generate new requirements/opportunities there and then.

Why business development definitely is part of a lawyer/accountant’s job

You need to reinforce the fact BD is part of everyone’s job.

To do this, ensure BD is included in every fee earner’s personal plans and ensure progress is reviewed periodically via the firm’s appraisal and/or mentoring process.  This shouldn’t be included as a footnote.  It must be an integral element of the evaluation of a fee earner’s performance and should be linked directly to their career progression and remuneration.

And these results should be transparent.  Share individuals’ BD progress and successes openly.  This is not only to show who’s doing what and how much of it they’re doing but also to promote new ideas and new approaches and highlight where fee earners can collaborate with their colleagues on relevant initiatives.

How do you get your lawyers/accountants more engaged with business development? Please do share them with Tenandahalf. You can do this by emailing Bernard or guesting on the Size 10½ Boots CoffeeCast by emailing Doug.

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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