Morrison & Foerster's Michelle Elstein, (Director of Market Development & Strategy) led a fascinating Professional Services Marketing Group (PSMG) session yesterday focused on how to get the entire firm working on business development. It was an interactive workshop session, using individuals at all sorts of firms' experiences. Chatham House Rules were in effect but I did get permission to share some of the great tips surfaced. To be clear, unless stated that something specifically applies to Morrison & Foerster the experiences below could have come from any of the attendees.
Michelle kicked things off talking about how Business Development (BD) and Marketing teams need many capabilities but Resilience and Energy are key.
A BD culture is one where everyone across the firm contributes to and understands the importance of growing the firm. We discussed the key attributes that drive it and one that stood out was ensuring buy-in from across the firm by empowering people to understand it's part of their role and not something they do to appease the Marketing/ BD team. That's all well and good so then we discussed how to do that.
Michelle mentioned that Business Development is not purely the domain of partners and they've seen great results by focussing on how associates can drive business too. Everyone has a network that they can leverage if they understand some basic behaviours that facilitate business enquiries.
Marketing/ BD teams can't forget to communicate WIFM (What's In It For Me) when getting buy-in from individuals and to ensure you understand your audience. Consider whether the individual is motivated by job security or ambitious, looking to be promoted or as one attendee pointed out happy with where they are because it allows them to focus on activities outside work.
Michelle recommended three books to help achieve internal consensus: Start with Why, by Simon Sinek (handily summarised in his TED talk), Switch - How to change things, when change is hard by Chip & Dan Hard, which impresses the value of Bright Spots (story telling) and how by doing it repeatedly one builds momentum - "the more stories you tell, the better you sell" and You Are Awesome, by Matthew Syed (the ping pong guy), from which Michelle took the importance of accompanying Partners to meetings because of their combined skillsets help empower future BD efforts. We were also lucky enough to have author and consultant, Alex Moyle in the audience of Business Development Culture
We also took at look at attributes that prevent a BD Culture. One which seemed to resonate widely with the group was mixed messaging - associates are told they should be out meeting prospective clients, lunching and dining but when they check with their Partner are then told they need to be at their desks, billing hours and can't expense meals. Another was internal trust or said another way, office politics, particularly when firms have grown via a series of acquisitions with the ensuing differing cultures by office. Firms need to collaborate between offices rather than compete with one another.
There's only so many times you can take stakeholders through the benefits to themselves and the wider firm of doing BD, so Michelle gave us amazing examples of how she and her team have used experiential communications (fun events) to build consensus to drive BD. The attendees seemed thoroughly impressed with many of them talking about how they could change their approaches.
Finally, Michelle spoke about an award she and the firm won for marketing innovation called Becoming Ambassadors, which inspires a sense of ownership in all members of staff – not just partners – getting everybody invested in growing the firm as part of its MoFo in Europe strategy
My key takeaways from the session were empower don't instruct, remember to entertain not present and the key to success is (a lot of) non-visible time and effort ensuring that objections are addressed individually, ahead of joint sessions to ensure the consensus across the firm.
The greatest business development and marketing strategies may fail or succeed. What makes the difference? The answer: The ability to engage every person in the firm with that strategy. When it comes down to it, business development is all about making it easy for clients to choose your firm. That is not the sole responsibility of the partner or the BD professional. It is influenced by every person in the firm.