What firm doesn’t want new business? It’s a key desire of most and one that forces many to invest heavily in business development training for their people. But once back in the office fee-earners sometimes struggle to apply their learning. How can this be avoided and how can your firm ensure its investment in business development training does result in new business?
‘Just in time’ and real situations
Professionals have so much on their plates. In addition to applying their technical expertise, they are required to attract new clients and new work from existing clients as well as protecting and developing their client relationships. Many also strive to understand their clients’ businesses and organisations to deliver greater value.
The success of any training and development improves dramatically when it is delivered ‘just in time’ and targeted on a particular challenge the fee-earner is facing. This means ensuring all the working examples and case studies in the training programme focus on real life issues and specific clients. This transforms the exercise from an academic to a ‘problem solving’ experience, with new skills, processes and behaviours being adopted along the way.
The implementation of business development training dramatically improves when there are obvious ‘champions’ in the business leading the initiative. These individuals are there to give inspiration to others. This involves reassuring colleagues that the initiative is important and demonstrating how it can work and bring benefits. Successful firms also use champions to keep the newly found skills and development at the forefront of fee-earners’ minds, following up on individuals’ progress and changes. As these champions are typically members of senior management, they have the authority to take decisive action if a professional is struggling to implement their learning. A word to the wise, though. To effectively inspire and motivate others to action, champions must practise what they preach and be exceptional in the field.
A matter of time
All too often we see people being called upon to implement business development training on top of everything else they have to do. The more successful firms recognise this, and realign individual’s day-to-day priorities to factor in the time needed to build their new skills into practice. They also ensure the firm’s performance appraisals with those individuals take account of their newly developed business skills and reward success accordingly.
Coaching is the best way of helping individuals assimilate their learning into real life situations.
A question of support
Fee income generation can be enhanced when firm’s support systems are also focused on the training initiative. Examples of this include:
- Sharing target client lists within the firm to amass greater knowledge about individual prospects;
- Refocusing marketing initiatives to appeal to the interests of particular clients and prospective clients being targeted;
- Involving the firm’s market research to identify the key decision makers, issues of importance, industry challenges etc of specific target clients;
- Communicating, sharing and celebrating success to the firm as a whole.
Whilst it is important to measure the outcome of any expenditure in training and development, it is better to set tangible measures (which can determine whether the programme is a success or failure) at the start of the programme. What we mean by this is to set specific, measurable, achievable, responsibility-assigned and timed objectives about what the firm hopes to achieve from this investment of fee-earner time. Firms must factor in all the other demands being placed on their people’s and bear in mind that, where professionals are subjected to one new initiative after another, the likely success of yet another new development will be significantly lower.
In short, firms that are:
- Specific about the results they want to achieve
- Set out their definition of how they feel those results can be attained
- Help fee earners fit these targets into their day job
- Track the success of fee-earners in meeting these targets
- Give people support along the way to overcome any obstacles
are far more likely to gain the success they aim for.