What do partners really want from a business development team?

This is a question that has long been deliberated, and whilst the obvious answer is “leads, of course!” I think there is disconnect as to what defines a lead.

In other, more product led sectors, a lead will be generated via an online or telesales campaign, but this wouldn’t work for the more complex sell of legal services.

We meet many business development professionals who we think do an excellent job of building a platform for a lawyer to “sell”, effectively generating leads. This comes in a variety of guises from organising events at which partners can show clients they have a deep understanding of their issues and challenges, to developing key client plans that help them get closer to clients and build strong, broader relationships. 

None of these things are a quick money spinner, and it can take many months or even years to see the fruits of your labour, and I wonder if partners sometimes expect a much quicker result? 

One of the key things in business development and relationship management is consistency and tenacity, and that’s what the support of an excellent marketing and BD team can provide. A client wants to hear from you on a regular basis but lawyers sometimes feel awkward if they feel they don’t have something meaningful to talk about. 

This is where the thought leadership, events etc come in as they give the lawyers a reason to call and engage. The BD team will also be there ensuring leads aren’t missed when a client or target makes an announcement that could be an opportunity to engage.

We hear many examples of revenue generated by the opportunities created by a marketing or BD team that may well not have happened, had it not been for their efforts. Yet partners don’t seem to recognise these things as leads, why not? And could people change this perception internally?

I think the answer is yes, and whilst nobody wants someone waxing lyrical about their endless achievements, the profile of a business developer does needs to be proactively changed. 

Here are some tips on how to make this happen:

  • Be proactive – make sure you are going to the partners with updates on their clients and ideas of how to use that information. The more you proactively promote yourself, the more the partners will automatically view your insights differently
  • Network – make sure that you connect partners with potential clients at events and also afterwards to ensure that new client meetings happen
  • Measure things even if the firm don’t. By being able to demonstrate that the event you held generated meetings, or that your idea to send an extra secondee to a client in the moment of need strengthened a relationship, you’re able to give tangible examples in appraisals (and interviews) of achievements
  • Go above and beyond when it comes to providing your stakeholders with client insights. Research, map and follow clients religiously for nuggets of information that you can share to demonstrate to the partners that you’re more than just an order taker

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