Business Development is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: The Top Five Skills Seller-Doers Need to Win

At Ackert, knowing selling professional services is much more a marathon than a sprint, we have long been strong proponents of a Systematic Approach for Business Development. Recently we discovered a valuable infographic that supports many of our findings from The Rain Group, a fellow firm that offers sales coaching to professional service firms and several other industries as well.

The infographic, aptly titled “11 Sales Skills to Help You Cross the Finish Line,” presents data from a recent global study of more than one thousand sellers and sales managers. While some insights are more suited to selling outside of the professional services arena, there are still very important nuggets for you and your seller-doers.

Below are some of the skills highlighted in the infographic, along with our own related insights and findings:

1. Sales Coaching

“Managers excel at motivating sellers for high productivity and performance.”

 According to the infographic, 50% of Top Performers strongly agree managers motivate sellers for high productivity and performance. We know this to be true based on many years of offering both sales acceleration technology and coaching. Seller-doers need not only the right tools but also quality coaching to optimize success.

And because they typically dislike the idea of selling their services, they need not only the skills but also the motivation to succeed at business development. It’s essential for a marketing and business development team to meet its goals.

However, not all firms have the time or resources to offer quality business development coaching programs. We suggest that when unsure whether or not to insource or outsource your coaching initiative, marketers and business developers consult the simple decision tree you can find in our blog post, “Internal vs. External-Business Development Training: What Can We Take On? What Should We Outsource?”

2. Account Growth

“Find and capitalize on maximum cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.”

Not only do many seller-doers resist the idea of business development, but they’re also especially averse to the idea of cross-selling. This can be for many reasons, several of which are referenced in the infographic.

But seller-doers’ failure to effectively cross-sell leaves significant money on the table for firms. We expand on the importance of cross-selling in a blog post targeted at law firms that’s also equally applicable to any professional services firm “Do You Have What It Takes to Make Collaborative, Cross-selling Teams?”

In addition to providing seller-doers with the right conditions to make them feel more at ease with cross-selling, you can also make the work easier for them using technology. Our deal acceleration platform PIPELINEPLUS helps identify cross-selling opportunities for marketers and seller-doers and makes it easy to collaborate with groups across the firm.

3. Referrals

“Get referrals from buyers and other relationships.”

Prospects and clients are only two-thirds of the targets in an effective business development program. Referral sources are invaluable for seller-doers acquiring prospects outside of their regular networks. They also allow seller-doers to establish reciprocal relationships than can benefit both parties over the long term.

Seller-doers at the Top 10 Performing Firms that use our sales acceleration platform PIPELINEPLUS are targeting an almost equal percentage of clients, prospects, and referrals in their business development efforts at any given time.


4. Sales Conversations

“Lead conversations with the right balance of asking questions and talking.”

Many seller-doers loath the idea of business development as they think it mainly involves rubbing elbows with prospects and aggressively promoting their services. But the infographic shows that Top Performers are 62% more likely to lead conversations with the right balance of asking questions and talking.

Leading professional services business developers realize, they must provide value before asking for business and ascertain their clients’ and prospects’ needs to present them with a service that will be valuable to them and their organizations.

As we noted above, relationship-building takes time. It’s never one call, pitch your services and then ask for the sale.

Then, when a seller-doer does get to the point where they should ask for the business (which many actually fail to do), there are several successful approaches, also involving a balance of talking and asking questions, that make the exchange easy. You can read about them in our top downloaded white paper, “A Systematic Approach for Business Development.”

5. Time Management

“Maximize time spent on activities that drive the best results.”

Time is everything for busy seller-doers who live by the almighty billable hour. As noted at the beginning of the post, though, business development is a marathon, not a sprint, so a certain amount of patience is necessary.

Firm marketers and business developers can help seller-doers identify the activities that result in the most ROI for their efforts, thereby helping them with their time efficiency while also justifying and quantifying marketing and business development efforts for leadership. The way to do this is to track KPIs.

Only with accurate, accessible data can marketers and business developers learn what’s working and what’s not, not only overall but for each individual seller-doer. In our deal acceleration platform, you can find this data in Viewer and in our KPI dashboards.

Access to this data can also help inform how you design and present your in-house or outsourced coaching program. You can find details on the key metrics to track at the end of the blog post, “A Complete Guide to Implementing a Successful Business Development Coaching Initiative.”