BD tips and insights

By Alistair Marshall

Selling professional services? Not my job!

August 10, 2016 | Posted in: Business Development Skills

When selling professional services, you can’t simply leave it all to the marketing manager. For any marketing program to work properly, it needs to be supported by an appropriate business development, practical marketing, or sales program (call it what you will).

Converting a prospective client into a new client, and potential work into actual business, will involve some degree of selling – even if that’s not what you call it.

Most professionals feel uncomfortable with the concept of active personal marketing, and want to avoid becoming “salespeople” at all costs. However, those same individuals usually want to deliver great client service in the environment of a successful practice.

Sell yourself

We know that Australasian law firms, for example, under-invest in upskilling their lawyers with marketing and BD training (download our free research report here). These front-line team members regularly interact with clients, referrers, prospective clients and industry contacts, and are your firm’s face to the world. Yet most do not have individual marketing and BD plans or KPIs.

The most effective techniques to stimulate enquiries and business are people-based. So having professionals at all levels develop strong interpersonal skills will help your firm stay competitive, as will investing in upskilling up-and-coming professionals, and conducting client research to better understand what they actually want and truly value.

Success in personal marketing starts by working with your team to identify benefits: for the firm, and (even more importantly) for the individual professional/fee-earner, and (of ultimate importance) for your clients. Effective personal marketing can produce a big pay-off for all.

Not everyone is good at everything, but with training and coaching, everyone can develop better and more effective skills to win work. Here are some of the basic skills all professionals can master:


Making contacts and networking is a good starting point at all levels of your firm, not just at partner level.

Lots of early-career professionals will benefit from coaching in how to introduce themselves and how to network, even in simple social situations. Everyone can learn how to network on and offline, with whom to network, and even how to “work a room” for business results.

Establishing credibility

Clients don’t want to work with someone they don’t trust, or with a person who doesn’t know about their business. And if you discuss your service or price before you have established a good level of trust and credibility with a prospect, you will kill the sale.

Learn techniques to establish credibility, including learning to use the right terminology, and looking and behaving as though you “fit” with your client to win new business.

Gaining commitment

“Gaining commitment” is sales talk for “closing the sale“.

Things can be going just fine, and all the signs can be right with your client, but knowing how to ask for – and obtain – commitment to proceed will improve your success.

Questioning effectively

Effective questioning is really about discovering the problem, surveying needs, and learning to get to the core issues with your client.

Effective questioning also means dealing with the important question of price, and knowing how to bring it up with your client. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about price, but with coaching and guidance, you can confidently and constructively deal with pricing issues.

Presenting with confidence

You can improve your presentation skills with coaching and practice. In most cases, preparation, design, and structure can make a bigger difference to the success of your presentation than the actual delivery.

Proven personal marketing techniques like these will help you and your firm become more successful in winning new clients, and increasing business with established clients – even if they aren’t natural salespeople.

What now? Download our free guide, Coach yourself in better business development behaviours (PDF) and make a start on improving your BD skills.

Or if you could benefit from some help applying this advice to your firm or practice, why not get in touch with us?

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