Selling professional services was historically the role of key ‘rainmakers’ with the natural skills to win rather than manage client work.
Historically they were the three categories of fee-earners in professional services Finder. Minder. Grinder.
You could either sell to new clients, manage existing client accounts or do the technical work. The more talented may even have had the skills to do two out of those three. Although a massive over-simplification, there has been a traditional view in professional services that you were skilled in either ‘selling’ or in ‘doing’. The skills required for each were distinct and independent.
This perception has translated into how the larger firms particularly structure themselves, with dedicated business development staff distinct from those who ultimately provide the service being sold. Those in business development may either be in explicit sales roles, or simply Partners given that responsibility. Either way, the lines are drawn in many firms between those involved in selling and those who are not.
Of course, this trend has been exacerbated by the fact that many professional fee-earners do not see themselves as sellers. Either they do not have the skills or motivation to do so, or even because some feel it beneath them or not part of their role.
Fortunately, the growth of digital channels has meant that the distinction between those who sell and those who do not is disappearing. The growth of LinkedIn as well as other social tools such as Passle and Sales Navigator, are enabling a ‘social selling’ approach to business development, that can help those who were less skilled in business development in the off-line world, have a greater ability and opportunity to sell in the on-line world.
Used correctly, these tools can help these individuals identify prospects and engage in one-to-one communication with them which shows an understanding of their issues. They can demonstrate their knowledge and skills as individual experts in their chosen field. Communicating in this way is more tailored to the individual prospect and of considerably more value than corporate communications to an audience of many. By doing so, they build trust and nurture the relationship with the prospect before any off-line dialogue and remain front of mind to the buyer.
This ‘expert-to-expert’ approach to marketing and business development – so effectively described and advocated by the team at Passle – should enable professional fee-earners to play a greater role in the marketing and sales process. In doing so, it will extend the business development endeavour beyond a centralised few.
While there is still a reluctance to embrace this or even an ignorance of the value of this change in approach, in today’s world your experts should feel more empowered to ‘sell’, merely by communicating individually with prospects and clients in a way that demonstrates their knowledge and expertise.