Development: Establishing an Effective Client Business Development Programme

Synopsis

Development, the ninth element of the Client Management Model™, explains:

• the importance of a business development culture;

• prospecting, targeting, contacting, meetings, listening;

• how to structure the BD operation;

• how to establish effective, strategic Client relationships with your firm;

• metrics - sales pipeline measurement;

• strategic Client planning and management;

• aspects of BD planning;

• the importance of leveraging alumni relationships.

THOUGHT STARTERS

• How effective is our business development?

• To what extent is there a business development mind-set across the firm?

• What BD targets should we set?

• What is our sales pipeline worth?

• How well does BD integrate with our marketing and PR activity?

The Growing Importance of Business Development

Best practice business development can be defined as the approach used by a firm's people to identify Client issues and create solutions. It is often said that marketing has the role of analysing markets and targeting strategically important sectors and prospects, thus 'opening doors' for business developers to follow up and 'close' on a commitment from a prospective Client. The business development function and culture are still relatively new to professional services firms but is growing in importance. Some firms have a team that is dedicated to business development. Its purpose is usually to focus sales resources on specific target Clients or prospects. Experience shows that in some professional service sectors there can be a potential 20 per cent 'churn' rate among the Client base. It can take up to 10 productive meetings over an 18-month period to win a new Client. This means that adopting a coordinated and sustained approach to business development is essential. The most enlightened firms have stimulated and developed a business development mind-set and collaboration across all Client-facing functions.

Strategic marketing plans are prepared to attract these prospects and Clients through various tactical activities. The leads generated by these marketing activities are then followed up and qualified by business development people. Prior to a meeting with the prospect or the Client, many firms sets up an internal meeting to discuss their potential and agree a plan of action to convert the opportunity into business. The person responsible for business development then helps fee earners to retain and grow business with the Client. As mentioned in earlier chapters, the aim is to develop a portfolio of loyal Clients who consider the firm as its trusted adviser.

As it is not possible to resource a business development programme to cover all of your existing Clients, it is important to have distinct programmes to grow existing Clients and to pursue new Clients. With existing Clients it's best to focus on those that are most likely to yield the highest returns for the time invested. Some firms call these key or strategic Clients. Members of the business development team are expected to be well-versed in consultative selling which involves a detailed analysis of the prospective opportunity prior to contact and preparation of an agreed pursuit plan.

A focused programme requires some form of strategic Client planning and a managed pipeline that shows the flow of opportunities from initial enquiry to conversion to business. Recent research by the UK Financial Times revealed that key account planning was considered most important by 68 per cent of managing partners and by 56 per cent of Clients in the professional services sector. When the business development function is operating effectively it stimulates collaboration across the firm to seek out new business opportunities in a planned and managed way.

 
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