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Building a Powerful Development Machine

Professionals in law, accounting and similar are technically brilliant but often lack the capabilities required to win work – the rainmaking skill set. It’s not their fault – it’s usually stuff they’ve never really been taught. Thankfully this is coachable. Progressive professional firms are increasingly seeing the benefits of upskilling their people to win work and build professional networks.

Blair Enns, author of Win Without Pitching and someone whose thinking I respect greatly, calls this feeding the machine – the feeling that you’ve got to be focused in winning work every day in order to hit your targets and justify your employment. The need to constantly win work puts pressure on your activities. As Enns says, “When the machine is hungry you feed it anything, like smaller sized jobs and less sophisticated clients who don’t value your thinking. The work becomes increasingly tactical and price sensitive. You put up with poor client behaviour and lower profit margins all because the voracious monster demands sustenance.”

WHen it comes to BD and winning work, having to feed the machine can make you anxious, fretful and short term in your thinking. You begin living day to day and week to week with your BD approach. If you’re showing any of these symptoms, you’re in trouble:

  • Anxiety looking for the next piece of work
  • Wondering where the next client is coming from
  • Stressing about how you’ll hit your targets
  • Worrying about paying your bills
  • Being ground down by price sensitive clients
  • Being disillusioned by the volume of low value work you’re doing
  • Not doing the kind of work you really like doing
  • Having to take on clients you’d rather not (you can’t afford to say no)

Contrary to your optimistic outlook, things will not get better until you get better. The competition is becoming every more fierce. Clients are developing ever higher expectations. Markets are becoming ever more commoditized. In short, things will get tougher unless you get tougher. The answer to your BD challenges is not taking on more low value work. It’s not about winning the next pitch. Or even about becoming more productive and using your time better.

The answer that Enns proposes is a machine to feed the machine. You will serve one machine until you build another that serves you. A machine that generates work for you, drives value for your clients and frees you up to actually enjoy what you’re doing. He calls this a sustainable revenue-producing business development machine. If you run a professional firm, or are responsible for BD and growth, I call it an army and a battle plan. Or a BD savvy team with the skills to win work.

Without this ‘army’, how will you generate the growth you desire? A vibrant marketing department will create some noise, but do you want to be in a competition to shout the loudest? One BD ‘gorilla winning a few marquee accounts’ won’t do it. Do you want to put all that power and responsibility into one person?

A few seasoned partners with good reputations and ‘years in the bank’ might be expected to win the business you need, but really what are their networks like? Do they have the necessary skills and confidence and appetite to get out there and leverage that network? From my experience training service professionals for almost 20 years, the established are often no more equipped than managers and associates lower down the food chain to generate in new business.

Better to have a cadre of committed, BD savvy professionals who possess both the technical skills of the profession and the work winning skills of a BD expert. Competence breeds confidence, which is vital because in high value professional services, people buy confidence and certainty. It gives you succession. It gives you scale. It gives you leverage.

If you’re a professional within a firm, you want to be in this team. You should see that nothing beats an army of confident, effective and empowered work winners. Professionals with strong technical skills and powerful business networks. That’s the dream ticket for growth. That’s the machine that will feed the machine.

Of course, such a machine needs building. Every vision requires provision. Every successful team needs coaching and training. Which is going to require an investment. In time, money and effort. It’s possibly going to require a culture change. It will certainly necessitate a mindset change.

Your business and your opportunities will be good or bad in 6-12 months based on what you do in the next 1-3 months. The BD Academy offers you the true mechanism to get ahead of the game. To develop the work winning capability that will help you exceed your revenue projections for the next 20 years. Let’s chat to see if it’s a fit for you and your firm>>