By Darryl Cross
The biggest challenge for business development (BD) at law firms for the past 10 years was the same as it will be over the next 18 months: producing success at scale. The difference in the defined time frame is purposeful. As the pace of innovation accelerates and client expectations compound, the need to deliver results becomes more time compressed. Clients have problems, and they have unlimited options. It is critical to bring the discipline of sales enablement to law firm BD departments.
What is sales enablement? The Association for Talent Development (td.org) defines it as:
“the strategic and cross functional effort to increase the productivity of market-facing teams by providing ongoing and relevant resources throughout the buyer journey to drive business impact. It encompasses sales training, coaching, content creation, process improvement, talent development, and compensation, among other areas.”
BD executives have always strived to implement 1-2 of these components at a time, but it has been a challenge to tackle them all simultaneously. However, expecting sales to occur with a patchwork of initiatives and cohorts is hopeful at best.
BD departments without a holistic sales enablement function are reactive in nature and precedent driven. They are constantly cooking to order and little institutional knowledge is gained from each challenge. And, they are only training and coaching a couple dozen lawyers at a time, which is a method that will take decades to complete.
It is called a discipline of sales enablement because it requires discipline to implement it. BD executives must resist the urge to take on 1-2 components per year (e.g., “This is the year we will train our lawyers on business development…” or “Let’s put together some client teams…”). It is a better approach to combine the entire sales enablement suite of services and focus it all on a small subset of clients.
This extreme focus is a refrain that is more respected today. Firms are building strategic account teams to pay attention to the needs of their most valuable clients. Industry groups that monitor trends specific to clients with similar issues. Some firms have created “Client Index Funds” that are diverse selections of 20-30 clients across practices, offices, and industries that represent their most profitable engagements.
If this task seems daunting, technology can help. Choose a robust sales enablement software platform such as Seismic (www.seismic.com) that can bring marketing, sales, and operations together. Use a video role play software such as Rehearsal (https://www.rehearsal.com) to allow lawyers and BD executives to practice and coach together. Leverage your CRM system to share everything about a select group of clients and prospects.
By creating a complete sales enablement approach, the results will follow. Your department will be able to scale their efforts over time, better predict client needs, and enhance collaboration. Most importantly, it allows the BD function to demonstrate results. Happenstance BD management, methodologies, and processes are no longer valid. Run your BD like your clients run theirs. The discipline of sales enablement creates momentum. Hop on board.
Darryl Cross is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and 20-year veteran of the legal industry who speaks at law firm and corporate events on cultivating high performance cultures. He is now with Amazon Web Services where he is building and inventing their worldwide Sales Academy.