ARTICLE WRITTEN BY BEN PAUL OF THE BD LADDER
“CX, being a client centric firm, or having a strong BD culture” will become simply buzz-words for failed BD & marketing initiatives if your Senior Leadership team is not fully brought into these initiatives.
For any law firm to truly embrace a change in behaviour, it is imperative that this need is recognized and accepted at the top. It is no good to expect your BD or Marketing Director or department to simply create a new initiative and roll it out across your firm, if you haven’t implemented the behavioural change necessary for it to be successful. Put simply, the reason new BD and marketing initiatives fail is not because they are ill-thought-out ideas or the wrong solution, it is simply that the Senior Leadership team, and then subsequently the Partners (particularly equity Partners), are not bought in to the initiative.
This lack of top-down buy-in is particularly true of any BD coaching initiative. It can be tempting when new Partners, Associates or even existing Partners are struggling to build a sustainable pipeline of billable work to instantly ask the BD team, or even your HR and Learning and Development team, to go out and get some training or coaching for these groups. There is no doubt that doing this will, at the very least, be appreciated as helpful and supportive to those receiving it. And it is also true that small improvements in performance may be seen in some cases.
However, it is unlikely to help see dramatic improvements or even create a true client-centric BD culture, as firm-wide involvement hasn’t been asked for, or achieved. It can also be counter-productive as, without an agreement within the partnership to key deliverables on BD, e.g. time commitment, use of LinkedIn, non-billable meetings with clients (relationship building ones) etc. then internal blocks can stop the great work of the BD coaches ever being implemented by those they coach.
So how do you get buy-in from the top?
The answer to this is, it isn’t easy, but it is definitely achievable. As with all things that require Senior Leadership Team or even Board buy-in, it requires alignment. This means that whatever BD coaching programme or other BD or marketing initiative you are looking to implement firm-wide, it needs to be aligned to the goals of those at the top.
Understanding the firm’s goals from the top
In essence the following things need to be understood:
- How the SLT see the firm looking in 3 to 5 years’ time
- What their annual and 3-5 year growth ambitions are
- Any areas of concern i.e. underperforming practice areas/wider market concerns/retiring Partners etc.
- Any new practice areas or innovations they plan to adopt during this period
It is really important to understand this so that you can start to develop and build a BD and marketing initiative, which aligns to the goals of the firm. BD coaching through this initiative is an integral part of delivering on this plan to bring about action and accountablity to achieve those goals.Show the plan to the top clearly
The next stage is to either work with an external consultant or internally to develop and build a clear plan, detailing how the BD coaching programme will be a key part of delivering the firm’s goals. The plan will also include who will be coached and by whom, what the expected costs will be, and the tangible results that can realistically be committed to. By all means include some desired outcomes too. It must also include one final key piece of information too:
The role the top plays in getting the BD coaching culture embedded
After approving a plan or initiative, the SLT cannot simply sit back and hope that the firm adopts it. It requires active involvement from them. That is not to say that they necessarily need to undertake BD coaching, but more that they need to actively support it being used and adopted. They need to work and engage alongside the BD & marketing team with the practice leaders and senior partners, and make it clear in messages to the firm how the programme is an important part of them building a client-centric law firm culture which will help the firm to continue to grow.
To create a firm-wide culture of active coaching, particularly in the BD space, it is essential that the SLT and key influencers within your firm are fully engaged and actively support the programme. Without this, no doubt you will get some improvements with individuals, but the results will be patchy and the wider results across the entire firm won’t be realized.