Business development (BD) should always be structured in a team-centric format. This is especially important in an industry where the fee earners only practice or apply their BD skills for a few hours per week. It is impossible to expect them to be great closers, writers, speakers, networkers, planners, strategists and marketers. High performance teams are collections of talented individuals with differing yet complementary skills, a common goal and approach and a sense of mutual accountability.
They need to be grouped in equal "weight classes" where they all can collaborate and compete with one another. Until you do so, you will never have more than a few rainmakers coupled with dozens of people with "high potential" who do nothing but continue to avoid uncomfortable client situations, hide behind their billable hours, and are always searching for some quick fix to becoming better at something they do not like to do.
Marketing and BD professionals who are tasked with rainmaker production should try the following techniques:
- Assign every fee earner to a "Performance Pod" of 3-4 people to go through training together, work on exercises, practice and work as a team to challenge each other to get better.
- Have Performance Pods engage in managed competition against each other that simulates real world based scenarios and situations. These are not games where they are collecting points for a free iPad or dinner. These are dynamic simulations as well as actual engagements using clients and prospects. Those teams where the best results from BD activities, proposals and wins are rewarded—because the stakes are real.
- Keep score and display it to everyone, but focus on proficiency. Make sure all fee earners know what level of BD expertise is expected and give pass/fail grades on how they are doing. If they need help, it becomes the duty of the marketing/BD department as well as their fellow members to help them learn the fundamentals they need and practice them on each other until they improve.
If you put someone through BD training and send them back to their office to figure it out on their own, we know what is going to happen. Don’t waste your time or theirs. Will they be slightly better than they were before? Perhaps, but think about it this way: would you get on a plane where the pilot was trained that way? For pilots, being "slightly better" than novices at landing a plane is not acceptable. That is why they train in a very specific way. And like all the performers mentioned in the beginning of Part 1 of this series, they train in teams. That is the only way to get the most out of people.
Stop making them go it alone.