Sales is not about selling. Most professionals, trades and business owners aren’t taught about sales. For example, you may be a good cable maker, but you were never actually taught sales and marketing skills to run a cable business. You are good at your trade, but you don’t necessarily have the skills to market your business.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to sales where most business owners think its beneath them. The perception of the greasy haired salesman whose trying to sell you something you don’t really want comes to mind. But that’s not the way professional services works.
In this episode, our host Kym Heffernan was joined by Alistair Marshall from Professional Services BD. Alistair has over 30 years of experience in Sales and Business Development and his fast and proven solutions have helped law firms, accountancy practices, banks and household name corporates to quickly attract new clients and win more new business.
Alistair talks about why the Expert Model where he encourages people to think outside the box and focus on marketing your expertise. People will come to you overtime because you have demonstrated your expertise.
There is a platform that you need to follow to demonstrate your expertise and there are 5 steps that Alistair covers in the podcast to get there:
Strategy and Plans
Dedicated Time & Resources
Measurement and KPI’s
Creating a Sales Culture
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If you want more information from the podcast check out the transcript below.
Welcome to Marketing Show. The 20 to 30 minutes of marketing magic that will help you connect the dots with all the digital, social, and old school marketing and sales options available today. Our aim is to give you practical, effective tips and ideas so your business or professional practice can get more prospects and nurture those prospects to be coming long term customers.
This show is sponsored by the Marketing Strategy Company who help B2B organisations develop winning marketing strategies and sales and marketing automation systems to turn their sales and marketing efforts into new customers and dollars through their marketing.
Check out the Marketing Strategy Company’s planning and marketing services at themarketingstrategy.co.
Hi and welcome to today’s marketing strategy show. My name is Kym Heffernan, the founder of The Marketing Strategy Company and your host for today. The Marketing Show’s all about getting the right marketing and sales for your business. So, we pulled back the curtain with someone who’s either an expert on that topic or has been there, done that to give you some practical tips.
Today I’m going to build the into sales. Sales, you say? Isn’t this a marketing strategy show? Well, yeah, it is, but integrating sales and marketing activities has always been important. But these days with the way buyers interact with you, the blurring of line between sales and marketing is even stronger. You can’t do great marketing and not have great sales skills and processes. Equally as well, your kind of have great sales skills and processes without the right marketing support. So today we’re lucky to be joined by Alistair Marshall from Professional Services BD as your guest. Alistair has over 30 years’ experience in business development where you can just interchange the word sales and business development.
Kym: Today we’re going to tackle that knowledge and expertise to help us uncover what are five critical sales factors you need to have in place to be successful.
Alistair, are you there?
Alistair: I am indeed. Good afternoon.
Kym: Welcome. Welcome today.
Alistair: Thank you. Good to be here.
Kym: Look, we might start off a little bit of the Alistair story, perhaps not from birth, but maybe later to how you arrived at what you’re doing and what makes you so bloody good at sales and business development.
Alistair: Well, I started at the age of 20, Kym. So, I worked for a very large global brewing conglomerate and those people tend to be very good at skills training. So, I didn’t get into any bad habits because I was taught the right way from the start. So, for the first 20 years of my career I sold fast moving consumer goods or grocery products as people might know them, into grocery places such as Woolworths and Coles.
Alistair: So, you have to learn pretty well how to deal with pretty tough buyers in those situations. So about 10 years ago at the JFC, I identified that professional services firms had a real issue around these topics. So, I basically took what I’d learned in grocery and put it into professional services and rewrote it with the professional services edge and vocabulary, and it worked really, really well. In this time, I’ve probably worked with over a hundred professional firms through law firms, accounting practices, banks, IT providers, engineers, creative industries, all people really mainly focused on business to business around ways to help them attract new clients and win more business. So, in that time, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to put data together as you people call it here, where I’ve actually asked 150 professional firms how they’ve won new business, how many dollars they had to spend to win it, what they spent it on, what works, what doesn’t. So, I’m not guessing this stuff and I’ve got some pretty good datasets to prove it.
Kym: So, these five strategies we’re talking about, they are drawn from that 150, aren’t they?
Alistair: They are.
Kym: So, while Alistair’s opinion over your experiences are no doubt invaluable, it’s also as you say, practical data as well.
Alistair: Yeah. This is all stuff that’s been put together in recent years. It’s all highly relevant for today’s market.
Kym: I think the other thing that’s interesting with this whole discussion as well, while it’s professional services, I see the charm with professional services, it’s the same with a lot of industries. You might be a good cable maker for example, or a good lawyer, but you’re never actually taught sales and marketing skills. So, you’re good at what you do, whether it’s being a law health professional, graphic designer, even manufacturer. Right? But you’re not necessarily good at sales and marketing.
Alistair: Yeah, very much so. I have huge empathy for people who go through professional training. For example, they go to law school or you go to do your accountancy exams and then the goalposts get moved and someone says, “Oh, well you’ll never make a partner unless you build your own practice.” But sorry, but this seems to be a gap in your education. No one ever told you what to do.
Alistair: I have huge empathy and many people think there’s a stigma attached to it and they feel as if it’s below them or beneath them or it makes them feel cheesy or any of these things. So, a lot of the work I do with individuals and groups is around up-skilling people and giving them the confidence to go out and talk to people and have a real good conversation and do yourself justice about talking about what it is that you do.
Kym: I think that’s probably also too, because there’s a bit of stigma, everyone’s got the perception of the greasy haired salesman who’s trying to flog you something you don’t want. But that’s not the way it works in professional services, is it?
Alistair: Not at all. The whole pillars around what I build my teachings on is what I call the expert model. Whereby I encourage people to do a number of things whereby you don’t really need to reach out and make cold calls or anything to anybody. But overtime people will actually come and search you out because you’ve demonstrated your expertise in a certain area of work and people find that really refreshing. So, the barriers go down. When I go in and say, “Guys, girls, be honest with me. Do you make cold calls? Because I’m never going to ask you to do that or in the main, I’m never going to ask you to do that”, and you can see the shoulders relax and thank goodness for that.
Kym: So, we’re not talking about putting a structure in place to have sneaky sales tactics that will magically convert people like the gurus online will tell us.
Alistair: No. Unfortunately, there’s no … is there a silver bullet? Not really. There is a platform and a system that you need to follow to demonstrate your expertise and to make sure you can charge the correct prices that you think that your service deserves.
Kym: Well, let’s jump into this. There’s five of those altogether and the first one is strategy and plans. I’m going to ask what do you mean by strategy and plans?
Alistair: Well, the way I like to start this conversation is if you think that every single person or business out there is a potential client, then that means every other lawyer, law firm, accountant, accountancy practice, bank, banker is your competition. So, I’m all about trying to become a big fish in a smaller pond. In 2019 people rarely hire the generalist anymore. They hire the expert. So, you really need to decide what your ideal client looks like and don’t try and be everything to everybody because that’s almost impossible.
Alistair: Lots of large firms who have full service offerings really struggle with this because they want to be everything to everybody. I keep telling them from a marketing perspective, it’s pretty dangerous and it’s damn expensive. So people really need to have a look at the 80/20 rule. Have a look at their client base and say, “Where does 80% of the profit come from?” And it probably comes from 20% of their clients. What do they look like? What do they have in common? What industry sectors are they in? What type of work is it? That should give you a starting point on what your best clients should look like.
Kym: Yes,100% from my experience as well, Alistair.
It makes it so much easier from a marketing viewpoint if you’ve got to define a target audience or target customer. I mean it could be based on industry, you say, could be based on people, it could be based on geography, it could be type of work. But you need to find a particular ideal customer. The other one that you talk about, which I love too as well, is how do you calculate what that ideal customer is worth to you?
Alistair: Well, I’d like to talk about lifetime value. I’ve worked with so many firms where they just have an annual budget figure, so I’ll pick an easy one for mathematical purposes. Say it’s $10,000 and when they’ve spent the $10,000, that’s it. It’s gone. So, they might have spent it after eight months and then for the last four months of the year, the CFO says, “Sorry guys, it’s all gone. We can’t spend anymore.” Whereas I’d rather add some science to it and say, “Okay, let’s have a look at the profile of our ideal client. They might give us $50,000 a year and on average should stay with us three years. That’s $150,000. How much are we prepared to pay up front to start a relationship with the business who could give us that level of return?” So, let’s pick a figure. Let’s say it’s 10%. Or we might say, “Okay, we’ve got 15,000 to spend to try and build a relationship to win this work that will give us 150,000 back. What are our options?”
Alistair: When I go into this expert model, most people will be very pleased to hear that a lot of it is around speaking, writing, and networking. The majority of things that work don’t actually cost a lot of money, and counter to what people might believe the most expensive things in marketing and advertising are actually the things that don’t usually prove great in attracting new clients and winning new business. So, let me share a secret with you from the research.
Alistair: So, the top three wastes of money that firms spend money on, first one was brand advertising. So, the average guy in the street or business out in there might be able to tell you the top four accountants in the world. But my guess is they couldn’t tell you the top four engineering firms, they couldn’t tell you the top four law firms.
Alistair: So, there’s none of don’t get too tied up with brand. I love brand. I think there’s a place for it. But sticking a brand advert in a magazine or the common one, which makes me laugh every time I go to the airport, is putting a big brand outside the departure lounge at Qantas. It makes people feel good and rosy about themselves, but it doesn’t actually win any work. So, that’s number one. The second one really is around sponsorship. So, lots of professional firms love sponsoring things, whether that’s rugby teams or the kids’ teams or awards nights or dinners. Often in terms of showing a good return, it’s poor. The third one, and the one that most people hate me for saying is corporate hospitality. So, everyone loves a good go at the footy in the corporate box, but in terms of does it show a return of winning new work? It’s actually really poor.
Alistair: So, it might be good at cementing a relationship with an existing client, but in terms of bringing in a new one, it’s actually got a really bad press.
Kym: So, that is a business development budget, it’s a budget for looking after clients.
Alistair: Yes. I think that’s a good place to start.
Kym: Yeah. Absolutely. The other thing, there’s a methodology you have that I think is incredibly powerful in terms of how to actually start and getting this going, isn’t it? Why don’t you talk a bit about that?
Alistair: Well, I think you might be referring to the five, five, five.
Kym: I am indeed.
Alistair: This isn’t really revolutionary or such. It’s just common sense. I think over the years, BD people in professional services firms have had a bad rap because they’ve given people huge spreadsheets of potential businesses and said, “Here’s a couple of hundred, knock yourself out. Go and try and make a relationship with these people.”
Alistair: It’s too many people can’t just get the head round and come up like that. So, the five, five, five is each month dedicate time to five existing clients who if you spent more time with them, you could probably cross sell and get more work. So, on average professional services firms only sell between 1.7 and 2.7 services per client. Now if you look on most law and accountancy websites, they probably sell a dozen services, but statistically they only sell between 1.7 and 2.7 per each client. So, the opportunity to cross sell other services or to refer people in different geographies in the country or different offices is huge, and that’s a good place to start. So, that’s five existing clients.
The second part of the five is five prospective clients who match the ideal profit claim profile. So, for the sake of example, I’ll use dentists. So, I always have a laugh because I stick with firms and they go, “We want high net worth individuals, Alistair”, and I go, “That’s marvelous. Where do we meet them in groups?”
Alistair: So, we’ll take dentists as the example. I can build you a road map. So, you become the most go to person for dentists in New South Wales. I can do that, but we need to have a concept of what the ideal client is. So, that would be we have five clients who are dentists. We have five clients who are dentists, which currently don’t do work with. That would be the second block of five. The third block of five are referrers. So, these are people who you wouldn’t send an invoice to but might be very good for getting new referrals. This is where people need to think outside the box. So, if you go back a generation it all used to be about the bank manager and the accountant and the insurance broker and things like that, and that still has its place. But in the modern hyper competitive world, less people refer in those groups.
Alistair: So, if I was after dentists, I’d be thinking, “Who’s the guy who sells the X-Ray machines to dental practices?” Because they all have one, therefore they will have a relationship with all the dentists that I want to have a relationship with. So maybe I need to build a relationship with all the suppliers who supply into the dental industry.
Alistair: There’ll be a whole host of things. The other thing is people always tell me that they go the extra mile, but I’ve actually, found the extra mile to be quite a lonely place. If you want to be an expert in accountancy, for example, to the dental industry, read a book or two about how you run a dental practice. So, God forbid, 10 years ago when I woke up and decided lawyers might be my future, I read three or four books on how to run a law firm I learned all sorts of things about work in progress and things which didn’t really interest me, but I had to have an understanding of how the day to day operations worked if I was ever going to be seen as an expert in the field. So, that’s another hint or tip.
Kym: I love that little tip. So, whatever your ideal client is, understand their business, not just your business.
Alistair: Put yourself in their world, for sure.
Kym: Yeah. So, the second part of the framework is dedicated time and resources. So, we’ve got our plans in place, we work out how much we can afford to invest to get a new client, we have our five, five, five happening. But gee I don’t have any time to do all this stuff. I’ve got my regular work.
Alistair: Yeah. Well, this comes up a lot. What I would suggest to people is that they put two hours a week into them diaries and treat it with the importance of client time. So, what happens is, is that because BD tasks for the want of a better word, it’s never the top thing on most professionals to do list. They put them back and they’ll try and find anything in their in trade to do before they start doing the BD tasks. So, if you put it in two hours, and I would avoid Mondays and Fridays because there’s too many distractions. So, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and if you put in mid till two o’clock, that gives you a two-hour window and it allows you to get out from behind your desk and going to build a relationship in person with someone. Take them for lunch, take them for a drink, whatever it is. I think that’s important.
Kym: Yeah. This BDRs aren’t necessarily … though it’s maybe an important part of it, sitting at your computer writing a blog or … You have to get out and meet people or pick up the phone and call them, right?
Alistair: You do, but at least if you put that two hours in you can go to bed on a Monday night and know that you’ve got a two hour window, so if you haven’t written a blog this month, you’ve got the space to do that tomorrow. In the modern world, that is a cost. Doctor Google makes the rules, we don’t. So, if you want to get found for a certain expertise, you need to be blogging and writing articles about your topic of expertise.
Kym: Absolutely. And again, relating it back to the ideal client.
Alistair: Yeah. So, the time and resource, yes you should have a financial budget for it, but you really need to put some time in place. When I’ve seen this done well and stuck to, people make more progress in three to six months than they have in the previous three to six years just because they’ve told the secretary, “Don’t put any time in there. Leave me that two hour window free every week so I can progress these things.”
Kym: When you think about the opportunity of potential, two hours out of a 40 hour week is not much at all, is it?
Alistair: Well, it’s not, but I understand in some firms people do put pressure on to do 30, 35 hour weeks. You might also find in larger firms that you have one person who’s particularly good at this BD. So, I always encourage your managing partner or a senior person to cut their billable hours target down from say, I don’t know, 1200 to 900 and they’ll free up those hours so they can go out and be the dedicated person who’s got more time to build the business.
But there’s a need for it. People need to do it. It’s not going away. It’s tough out there. If you’re not out building those relationships, at some point it’ll come back and bite you.
Kym: So, it’s both a management job or a part in the job and also an employee job, isn’t it? So, as an employee you’ve got to do it, but as a manager or principal of the firm, you’ve got to say, “Yes, this is important”.
Alistair: It’s good management practice.
Kym: On top of what you do, right?
Alistair: Sure. We’ll touch on that in point five when we get to that.
Kym: Absolutely. So, let’s talk about the third measurement and KPIs. So, what sort of KPIs, or key performance indicators for those who aren’t familiar with the acronym, should they be measuring?
Alistair: Well, usually I start by saying that the financial position of a professional practice only depends on two things, which is operations times marketing, which in idiots terms is how good you are at what you do, multiplied by how good you are at what you do. Most professional firms are not great at the second piece.
Alistair: So, when I ask them to mark themselves out of 10 for financials, most people will sit on the fence and say six or seven. “We’re okay.” And we’re talking about profit per partner. We’re talking about cash at bank, we’re talking about data days, wip, margin, all these types of things.
Kym: They’re all measured well.
Alistair: Yeah. So, when I go, “How good are you at what you do?”, people get a little bit silver gorilla and beat their chests and say, “We’re nine or 10 out of 10.” Now, if that’s true, the only way you’re going to get more money or revenue back is not by getting better at what you do, but it’s getting better at telling people about how good you are at what you do, which is the marketing and BD story. So, this is really important and it’s no surprise to me that the people who do more of this type of work, funnily enough, become more successful.
Alistair: So again, going back to the research people told me that they did on average 250 hours a year, roughly an hour a day. I’m not sure how much I believe that, but when you scratch away at the surface and you looked at the activities that were taking place there, only 30% of that time was client facing. 70% of it was behind a desk doing social media or writing, which is important. But the real result will happen when you’re out having face to face meetings. So, one of the measurements I always try and get is external meetings in a week. So, there’ll be people listening to this who perhaps don’t get out that often or do it once a month. So, years ago I wrote a blog called Eat Your Way to Success and I’ve put it back up on the new website because it’s something that resonates with people.
Alistair: So, if you went out and had a breakfast meeting, a lunch meeting, and an afternoon meeting on the way home for a drink or whatever, 15 meetings a week with external people in the five, five, five pots, I will guarantee people double digit growth for their practice next year. If you can get better at the messaging you deliver when you’re in those meetings, you’ll go through the roof. Now people are listening going, “Alistair, you’ve gone mad. We can’t do 15 meetings a week.” And you’re absolutely right, you can’t. But if you did two or three, that’s 100 to 150 business meetings next year that you didn’t do this year. That’s huge.
Kym: Absolutely. Practice makes perfect, doesn’t it? With the right direction, but I mean the more you get out there, the less fearful you are at getting out there too.
Alistair: Yep. And activity, I can’t stress enough how much it is around activity. So, you need to think about how many meetings have you been to? How many networking events have you been to?
How many articles have you written, how many speeches have you given? There’s a whole host of things around activities that you can do to help build your practice.
Kym: Have I spoken to five existing clients, have I spoken to five ideal prospects, have I spoken to referral partners?
Alistair: Yep. That’s not a bad place to start. It’s very simple.
Kym: Yeah, and also too, I guess that applies to both at a personal level, but also at a firm level too. So at a firm level, you want to be making sure the people in the firm are doing those activities as well.
Alistair: While we’re on measurement, and I’ll just throw this in the mix. People in Australia, and I don’t know why, have a limited use of client feedback. So, the other measurement I would do is a net promoter score or asking clients. So many people are heavily reliant on referrals, but when I ask them, “When’s the last time you asked for a referral?”, people are staring at their shoes. So the best time to ask for referrals when someone’s just giving you a nine or 10 from the last job or a piece of work or project you’ve done. But if you don’t ask that information, you’re never going to have that trigger event in your business life to ask for a referral or a testimonial or a case study or whatever it needs. So for those of you who are listening who don’t have any client listening. I can’t stress enough how important that is.
Alistair: And whilst I’m on, if you really want good scores in from the client, you probably should be, once every two years, doing a staff satisfaction score. Because disengaged staff do not do client service at a level that’s worth referring. They’ll just do a job six or seven out of 10 and that’s not worth referring in the modern age. People don’t judge net promoter score based on their experience at another bank, another law firm, another accounting practise. They judge you based on what happened when they went to Amazon, what happened when they went in an Apple store. So people’s expectation levels around service has dramatically changed in recent times.
Kym: Yes. They’re not comparing you to anyone else in the firm or other accounts. They compare you to every other service and product they buy.
Alistair: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Kym: Yeah. So number four is skills training. So what skills do you need to be successful in BD?
Alistair: Well, I think there’s a skills training around how many routes to market people have, so they’re less reliant on referrals. So I train people or encourage people to have 15 or 20 routes to market for lead generation. So that could be around speaking, writing and networking. They’re the big three and there’s various things in that. So how well do people use social media and LinkedIn. On its own, it won’t be enough. But as part of a wider programme of things, it’s a necessity in this modern age. So professional people have two challenges essentially. First one’s visibility, second one’s credibility. So your visibility is hugely helped if you’re constantly online posting good stuff. So that’s why the social media becomes important. And in professional world, we’re not talking Facebook, we’re talking about LinkedIn and Twitter, probably.
Kym: Yes, it is.
Alistair: There’s things to learn about that. There’s things to learn about what goes on at networking events. For me, and what I spend a lot of time with people is up-skilling people on what you do when you go to your flat white meeting. So lots of firms are … they think they have a BD problem, but when they actually look at it, the marketing’s not that bad in many cases. So the staff get many opportunities to go and talk to people at flat white meetings. But it never turns into billable work because they’ve never been trained what to say when they get there. So I’m going to use the S word. So for all of you listening there, sit back in your chairs, it’s a sales problem.
Alistair: Now some people will sit there and go, “Well I’m a professional. I’m an introvert, I can’t do it.” So I eradicate the word can’t and allow people and even some really quiet people I’ve worked with become very successful at this because I’ve given them a framework of a sales conversation and they can hang their own vocabulary over it and it works really well for them. So best people are always taught. The natural Richard Branson thing is a little bit of a misnomer, really. The best people I’ve met are taught, and I’ve taught thousands of them.
Kym: Yeah. So if they feel uncomfortable with the sales conversation, call it the BD conversation. But the reality is when you see that having coffee with someone, you’re not having a coffee. No one’s just going to have a coffee for the sake of having a coffee. Both parties this. Very often, you’re right, and so many times I hear, “Oh, look, I meet lots of people for coffee but nothing comes of it.” I think you’re right. Start with the conversation and how you structure what you do and what the process is afterwards. Right?
Alistair: I think that’s particularly a problem when you sit with referrers. If you sit with a potential client, that’s one thing. You might get lucky. On the day you’re there they may have a need for what you’re offering.
Alistair: Sure, and when referral partners are there you need to do an almost a better job on a referral partner because they’re not thinking of you the next time the opportunity arise. You need to give them as much help as they can. So no, in all cases you need to be prepared to say, “We’ve already got a lawyer”, so how do you handle that? Or, “I think you’re going to be too expensive.” How do you handle that? Unless you’ve been taught what to say prior to going, I can understand why people get nervous before they go there or try and avoid the incident. But these are not big issues and no coaching and help. People get over this quite easy.
Kym: But I mean, you raised this too, the point about visibility and credibility as well. You said right, I mean you can’t really expect the very first time you sit down with a referral partner, all of a sudden the floodgates are going to open and you get 20 new leads. It takes time to build relationships, doesn’t it.
Alistair: Yeah. A lot of the process that I put in place, if I’m being honest, will take six to 12 months to sort of show, unless … some people get lucky and within three months it might start happening, but realistically six to 12 months. But if you take that against people who were throwing thousands away on AdWords and all these different types of things at the moment without seeing a great return, I would really argue, let’s have a review of what you’re spending your money on because if you’re not getting a return, it’s time to stop and look somewhere else.
Kym: I think building a good network of referral partners does take time. It’s invaluable, isn’t it? Instead of having to chase five new prospects, your one referral partner can give you five new leads. It’s a much quicker way to market, isn’t it?
Alistair: Yeah. So having that referral base is huge with people who you don’t compete with but might want a similar market to yourself. So I’m very fortunate. I have banks who play in that space. I have accountants and law firms who want to be with other accountants and law firms. I have lots of providers of different things, whether it’s HR services, website builders, all who are good in professional services, who I don’t compete with, but we’re all essentially playing in the same pit. So that means I can build a wealth of things that … but as I say, you have to be really good at the credibility piece to get a referrer to refer you because if they hired you themselves, the embarrassment sits only with them if they don’t think you’re that good.
Alistair: But for someone to refer you, their professional sort of opinion is on the line with someone. If they refer you in and you don’t do the job that they asked for, they feel that pain and the embarrassment that goes with it. So you really need to understand the sales message and where your credibility comes from if you’re going to expect third party referers to do your job.
Kym: You’ve got to find a way to reduce the risk to them. I guess the other thing I’ve always been taught with referral partners is don’t go with an expectation of receiving, go with an expectation of giving as well, right?
Alistair: That’s massive. I find it quite funny if I go and sit and work with bankers, they’ll say that all their referral partners are awful and I’ll go work with a different type and they’ll go, “Well, the bankers are the worst of all. They never give us anything”. So they’ll sit there, but most of them, to be honest with you, don’t actually keep score, which is bad because you should keep score and then you reserve the right at the end of a 12 month period to go, “Historically our firm or I have always referred that type of work to you, but if I look back this year, I’ve given you six pieces of work, which I suspect is worth $60,000 and you’ve given me one piece worth $3,000 and if that continues, I reserve the right to go and put my referral work somewhere else.”
Kym: Yeah, and that makes sense.
Alistair: Well, people tend to not relish those difficult conversations but they are worth having.
Kym: So we need both those skills in terms of different channels to market, conversation skills and those sales skills. The final thing is culture. We touched on that a little bit as well. What do you mean by culture?
Alistair: Well, allow me to use a consultancy phrase, which is culture eats strategy for breakfast every day. So I go to lots of firms and they have a big document that says this is what they’re going to do this year. This is the strategy playbook that they put together on the partners away weekend and they blow the dust off it and they realised that it said 10% on it. I don’t know why. They must be bad at maths. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that hasn’t had 10% on it and it talks about how they’re going to achieve all this, but then it’s the putting it into action is where it becomes difficult. So this is where our culture kicks in. So there has to be some incentives for people to change their attitudes and behaviours towards BD and there has to be some consequences of non-achievement and you need to train people to take the anxiety away.
Alistair: If you’re going to ask people to do new skillsets, you need to coach and train them before they’re ever likely to go out and make the best of it. Otherwise people are just going to be too scared to go out and do new things. I also think the expectations of the firm should be written and given to people in job descriptions. So this is your expectation when you join this firm that you’ll be expected to do A, B, and C and join it. There’s so many different ways you can contribute. It’s not like you have to be the world’s greatest rainmaker. I would be saddened if there were people listening to this thinking, “Oh, this all sounds too difficult”, because in actual fact it’s not as long as you get a plan in place and you know who you’re going after and how you’re going to get there.
Alistair: It’s so important, and I got to talk to so many businesses that talk about we want to transform our business. We want to be a transformational business. But to do that you need transformational human capital and they need to be motivated and highly trained to get the best out of the It’s competitive in professional services. Everybody wants the best people. If you want to attract and retain the best people, you really need to be taking an interest in their careers and their development is humans and putting new skillsets into them. This is one way that that can be done.
Kym: I think you touched on it. We were talking about measurement and KPIs and don’t just look at a net promoter score for your customers. Look at a NP score for your staff as well, because if your staff don’t have the culture of looking after the customer and caring about the firm and caring about customers and don’t believe in what you’re doing, it’s never going to happen, right?
Alistair: Well, I tend to say that professional firms are 80% people and 20% everything else. So if you get the 80% of the people wrong, it’s a real uphill struggle. So you’ve got to win the hearts and minds of the staff before they can go and win the hearts and minds of the clients. Oh, that’s my belief. So as I say, lots of people know what they should be doing, but for whatever reason to come and get people to do it. So if you think there’ll be people listening today who go, “Oh, well I know all about BD, I’ve been trained, I’ve read the book, I’ve been to the slide deck presentation”, but it’s all about action and implementation. So think about all the skills that people know but aren’t actually implementing today. It will be huge.
Kym: So go back and do a staff survey, make it anonymous to see what staff actually think and you might find there’s some problems there.
Alistair: Well I’ve done a number of these in quite big firms and the response has been fantastic, but you need to have the courage as a management team to take your time because there will be some issues raised and the worst thing you can do is take it on and then as a management team not be seen to address the issues that’s raised. So if people have an issue and you’d be surprised, most of it is not financially based. It’s much more about opportunities and management and the way they’re treated and being able to work remotely maybe and how up to date is the technology they’re being asked to use at work. There’s a whole host of things that come into play. It’s not just a financial thing or rarely is it just a financial thing.
Kym: Yeah. So it’s not enough to say go out and do five, five, five, dedicate two hours a week, upskill yourself and if you turn up and every day you hate being there. Right?
Alistair: Yeah. And even that might be a thing. Quite often in the modern world now people are told that they have to sit in open plan offices and it might not suit them. Conversely, they might be sociable people who want to be an open plan and they’re told they have to go and sit in their own glass office. So the environment comes into play. There’s a whole host of things. But if you don’t go … I think the survey I give out, there’s about 40 questions on it. It’s pretty in depth in terms of asking people how motivated they are in a huge number of areas. But it’s always been a brilliant exercise for getting the staff into a really positive place.
Kym: Yeah. So where would you start with that, Alistair? Would you start with strategy and plans, or would you start with culture? That’s an interesting question we haven’t discussed before.
Alistair: Well, I suspect one probably goes with the other. So the strategy and plan has to be put in place. What are we trying to achieve? How are we going to get there? How long is it going to take? What resources do we need in place? What human resource do we need in place? How will we know when we win? So in other words, when we get there, how do we know whether we’ve won or lost? What’s the measurement? So that’s four or five key phrases there. That’s pretty key. The culture thing-
Kym: Yeah, so I guess just in summary, make sure you’ve got the right strategy in place and plans, make sure you’ve got the time and resources, make sure you’ve got the right KPIs in place and you’re measuring them of course, make sure you’ve got the right skills training. But overarching all of that is make sure we have the right culture.
Alistair: Yeah, the culture is key. You can’t underestimate how important individuals are in a professional services firm. We’re not selling widgets. You’re really selling people’s time and intellectual property and the outcome and result for the client and you need people who are in a good head space to make the best effort of that every day when they go into the place of work.
Kym: Alistair, thank you so much for your time. I think those five key points are fantastic. Now, if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way to reach out to you to find more about Alistair, the services you offer?
Alistair: Well, I play mainly in three parts, which is the strategic part, so how you can be seen as different to your peers. So I do lots of workshops around strategy development and what it takes for you to stand out versus the competition. Part two tends to be for people who are overly reliant on referrals and I share with them these 20 groups to market that they should all try and introduce into their business profiles. I spend been a lot of time around that and how to get the best out of marketing spends. The third part is more around sales training and working either one-on-one or in the larger groups with how to really make a difference at the flat white meeting or the proposal or the presentation meeting. So those are the three main generic areas.
Alistair: In terms of reaching out to me, you’re probably best starting by going to professionalservicesbd.com.au, and you’ll get a more of a feel for what I do and the results and who I work with there. I also do quite a lot of public speaking and it talks about that on there. Or you could just send me an email direct to [email protected]
Kym: I’ll obviously put those links in the show notes as well. Alistair, thank you again so much for your time. Been a great discussion and I’m sure if people, even if they just take one thing out of that, make sure they get their ideal clients, strategy and plans, but most of all I think just do the five, five, five. I think that is my nugget of gold for today.
Alistair: Awesome. Glad to have been of help.
Kym: Thanks, mate. Greatly appreciate it. Bye-bye.
Alistair: Cheers now. Bye-bye.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of Marketing Show. We hope you got some practical effective tips and ideas so your organisation gets more prospects and nurtures those prospects to becoming long term customers. Just a reminder, the show is sponsored by The Marketing Strategy Company, who help B2B organisations develop winning marketing strategies and sales and marketing automation systems to turn their sales and marketing efforts into new customers and dollars through their marketing. Check out the show notes for this episode and The Marketing Strategy Company’s planning and marketing services at themarketingstrategy.co. That’s themarketingstrategy.co. Until next time, happy marketing.