When it comes to business development, professional service firms typically have extremely tight parameters on who in the firm should be empowered to sell. Historically, this industry has suffered from the illusion that those who sell must be good at two things: projects and golf. Those parameters – in addition to the one where you must be a flaming extrovert – greatly inhibit a firm’s ability to sell work. The fact is that every person in your firm affects the brand and thus affects your ability to generate new business.
Although it is important to train and motivate those who interact with clients on a daily basis, it goes far beyond that small group. The firms that make marketing and sales a part of the culture, involving everyone on staff, can greatly outperform their peers. You see, everyone from the person who answers the phone all the way up to the CEO has a profound impact on how your firm is perceived. Those perceptions drive the brand and greatly influence your competitiveness. You are fooling yourself if you think that your glossiest, high-level licensed professionals can single-handedly shape a client’s perception of working with your firm. To expand the effectiveness of sales, you should consider these steps:
- Assess where you are. This could involve several methods, all aimed at painting a picture of how you are perceived by your clients. The common approaches include a client survey and internal tests of your people. An initial client survey should be conducted by a third-party and should gather information on how well your firm is living up to the client service promise you are making. Ongoing client feedback can then be gathered using internal people or tools. Additionally, internal assessments need to be made to analyze the service delivery quality on things such as phone answering, speed, and ease of reaching people. Internal assessments could include things like a secret caller program where you assess how easy it is to contact people your clients are calling. You will likely be shocked at the information gathered here.
- Define where you want to go. Having a strong and compelling mission and vision are more than just buzzwords in a strategic plan. If they are articulated correctly, they can be a powerful driving force that the entire firm can get behind to produce real results. The key to success here is everyone in the firm must know what they are. Additionally, they must understand the benefit and importance of their participation in that pursuit. When the entire firm is energized to grow and build the business, they all can see their role in the plan.
- Start being the firm you want to be. Take the good, the bad, and the ugly of the self-assessments and be intentional about correcting the deficiencies. Train everyone in the firm to reflect the desired brand attributes in their respective roles. All employees need to understand that no matter what their role, they ultimately affect the way the firm is perceived by clients and thus how the firm prospers or declines. There is no such thing as a completely internal role that does not affect the brand. Tell all employees that growth and selling is everyone’s job and make sure they have the proper tools and training to execute that mission.
Too many firms have too few people thinking about selling services and growing the firm. An entire company that is focused on projecting a unified and clear brand is a company that will sell more work. A company that is aligned with their clients’ perceptions and constantly working to improve service in every category is a company that will thrive in good times and bad. Good luck!
Chad Clinehens is Zweig Group’s executive vice president. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is from issue 1168 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.