Business Development: It is Everyone’s Job

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Business Development. Sales. Client Management. Client Retention. Customer Service. No matter what you call it – developing and maintaining relationships with prospects, customers, and clients is the key to getting and keeping work in any industry. While this activity usually falls under the marketing umbrella of activities, it is not a Lone Ranger job that can be delegated to a marketing coordinator or even assigned to your most talented VIP. Developing and maintaining the relationships needed to keep business flowing in the doors is EVERYONE’s job.

Here are a thoughts for your consideration:

1. Receptionist/Secretaries/Administrative Staff. Often the first impression a client/prospect has is from the person who answers your company’s phones. This person should not only be friendly and accommodating, but should have a basic knowledge of the services and products offered by your company, who the clients are, and where to direct certain types of questions. This person can keep relationships with current clients positive by knowing which project managers are assigned to which projects and by handling client calls with priority.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your receptionist know what your organization does?
  • Have they been instructed where to forward questions?
  • Do you keep them aware of the current clients/projects and which project manager is assigned?
  • Do they know who the current clients are and address them in a friendly manner (by first name, if appropriate)?

2. Staff Engineers/Architects, Legal Secretaries/Paralegals. The professional staff are generally not thought of having marketing assignments, but they do have frequent contact with clients during projects. Since much of the work in professional services firms is repeat business, the contact that staff has with clients can enhance (or harm) your chances for more work.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Have the staff level personnel been trained in client relations’ techniques/communications?
  • Do they know enough about the clients they are working with to know who the contacts are and what the client’s goals for the project are?
  • Have they been briefed on the company’s marketing plan and the importance of repeat business from current clients?
  • Are staff personnel recognized and rewarded when they assist in furthering client relationships?

3. Accounting & Billing Department. Surprisingly, clients will often tell the accounting and billing personnel things they will not tell anyone else in your organization. The accountants are often assigned collections duties or follow up after invoicing and hear what the client “really” thinks of the projects success or failure. Ideally someone else in the organization is following up with clients, but the accounting staff should be aware of this possibility and should know where and how to forward business leads and comments about the firm’s performance. Knowing and observing client’s requests for invoicing format and frequency is also important, not only for collecting money in a timely manner, but for building the overall relationships.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the accounting department kept “in the loop” about what projects are in process, the invoicing procedures and who their contacts are?
  • Is the accounting staff encouraged to interface with the Project Managers about client comments?
  • Does the firm encourage those calling about collections to find out how satisfied clients are?

4. Project Managers/Principals/Partners/Senior Partners. No one doubts that PMs, Principals, Partners, and Senior Partners play major roles in acquiring and maintaining clients.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • But is your Business Development effort intentional?
  • Do you have formal BD goals, assignments and procedures for tracking efforts?
  • Do PMs, Principals and Partners know enough about all services to be able to cross sell?
  • Do they know your target markets and strategies?
  • Are they encouraged/required/rewarded for maintaining contact with clients beyond project/matter communication?
  • Do they receive training in networking, client relations/customer service and business development?

Developing new business, from either prospects or existing clients, is difficult work. Because it is outside the realm of training many technical people receive, the tendency is to delegate it to a “sales” staff. Regardless of whether or not your organization has staff hired specifically for business development, your firm will be more successful if everyone develops a Business Development mindset.  So, shake everyone up at your next staff meeting when you announce that BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT IS EVERYONE’S JOB.

If you need help with training your staff , your business development strategy or you just want to chat about where you currently are in your efforts let me know.