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Business Development is a Team Sport (Part 1)

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If you wanted to become a great violinist, you would not watch a few videos and practice by yourself in your room. If you wanted to be an elite swimmer, you would not take a couple lessons and then do laps by yourself in the local swimming pool. If you wanted to be a world class physician, you don’t become that way by studying a few textbooks and then figuring it out on your own. In all these cases, you may progress to a level of basic ability but you would probably never even reach a rudimentary level of proficiency that is necessary to compete with others. So, why do we INSIST on training fee earners on how to be great business developers this way?

Think back to the last business development (BD) session one of your lawyers, accountants or engineers attended. The format was probably one where there was little pre-work, hours of PowerPoint slides to share a few tips and tricks, no reinforcement after the session was over and few results to be seen. Information was relayed and shared. Behaviour and practices did not change. The fee earners may even claim the content was not that great or that the subject matter didn’t apply to them. However, when there is failure to improve in BD, like any other skill adults try to master, the problem is not what we are teaching them, it is HOW we are developing them. Research shows that no one achieves a level of proficiency much less expertise, by going it alone. They rely on teams of colleagues and competitors, supported by coaches, to continuously improve. It is time our industry realises this and changes its approach, because the stakes for losing have become much too high.

Teams develop high performing individuals. It is the ultimate performance tool. There are several well documented and proven reasons for this:

  1. Fee earners are not natural business developers. Even those that seem to have a natural ability to do so, lack some skills (e.g. a great networker and closer, does write well or follow up diligently) that are. necessary to maintain a long career of business generation. It is not fair to train each fee earner to be a BD generalist and then wonder why they don’t perform any of those skills particularly well.
  2. Individuals do not become better at any skill in isolation. They need peers of equal ability to collaborate and compete with to maximise their performance. You run faster when you are chasing someone---or you are being chased.
  3. Teams self-manage each other through their desire to reach a common goal. The reason they practice, do their pre-work, and complete the tasks they promised are because they do not want to let each other down - as opposed to letting down the trainer or marketing department.

If you want to produce "rainmakers", you need to develop them in teams. We will cover how to do so in Part 2 of this discussion.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:

Darryl Cross is Vice President, Performance Development and Coaching at LexisNexis; and an acclaimed inspirational speaker. A certified business coach with the Association for Talent Development, Cross has presented to over 10,000 fee earners and business executives from over 100 countries. He is also an internationally recognised author on best practices in the subjects of law firm profitability, coaching, strategic marketing, leveraging relationships, social networking, business development and competitive intelligence.

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