During my time working in Professional Services recruitment, there seems to be two common critiques following the interviews of Business Development and Marketing candidates. The first is the somewhat woollier ‘team fit’ story, the other being not having demonstrated the requisite ‘stakeholder management’ credentials required to survive and prosper in a professional services partnership.
As the ‘team fit’ comment can mean a number of different things at a number of different firms (sometimes it can even mean nothing at all) I shall focus this piece on ‘stakeholder management’ - what this actually means and how, as a Business Development or Marketing candidate, you can master it.
In essence, stakeholder management is all about demonstrating gravitas, credibility, value and gaining trust/respect amongst one’s partners in a law or accountancy firm. Although Partners are often revered for their technical and academic ability, they may find it more challenging managing marketing /BD personalities and working with them to fulfil their own personal career aspirations.
Marketing and BD professionals are often given the hard task of adding further demonstrable value to someone who may already be at the top of their career as well as gaining the trust and respect of such an individual who may have been a partner at a firm long before Marketing or BD even existed.
So what can a Marketer/ BDer do to win over the partners and be indispensable?
Set Expectations From The Outset
Partners, Business Developers and Marketers all need to be aligned with common expectations. Partners should be made aware of what Marketing professionals do, how they do it and, most importantly, the value they can add to the business. The value must be translated into an understandable process with roots that lead to a fee or tangible ‘win’.
Translate Metrics Into Business Value
There are methods and frameworks for Marketers to use which can help to translate stats into business value. Find out which suits your business the most and which of these are most important to the partners. Avoid using technical language and marketing speech. Talk commercially about people, clients and prospects, not clicks, views and open rates.
The importance of internal PR is all about the boomerang back to partners. External relations can be useful in building an internal reputation. If a client compliments your efforts to a partner then it’s done its job in valuing your efforts. Make sure you are just as focused on your external reputation as your internal one and vice versa as one will certainly help influence the other.
Walk The Floors
Get to know people at all levels. Really understand what they do, who their clients are, what their issues are – show an interest in their area and successes.
Don’t Be Afraid To Demonstrate Your Value
If you’re a BD professional, set up a new meeting and take a sceptical partner along to see you in action (you may need to recruit the help of a partner who is already ‘on board’). This can be transformative. They will see what marketing does and how it adds value.
Understand The Financials
Buddy up with finance and gain a clear understanding of the financials of the business. This allows marketing to understand who is under pressure, who is performing and where to allocate time and resource.
Know When to Challenge And Do So In The Right Way
Challenge the status quo, remembering that when it comes to marketing and BD you are the expert. Be sure to have a view but make sure you are able to back it up with facts and figures. Being able to provide the facts will make it a lot easier to influence. It will probably take a number of attempts to persuade a stakeholder as influencing cultural change can take time but the results are often long lasting and incredibly rewarding.
Marketing within a law or practice firm can often be challenging but it also indisputably rewarding. Taking on board these key pointers and using them within your working environment will help your career in Marketing & BD flourish and help make you indispensable within the Professional Services space.
For more helpful tips on Marketing within Professional Service or on how to win over partners please feel free to get in contact with me.