What firm doesn’t want to be successful?

Which organization doesn’t aspire to adopt a growth-oriented mindset?

All of them (of course)!

Now, how many of these companies expect to measure a real return on their business development investments?


For those of you who regularly read my posts, you know that I am a staunch advocate for growing smart.

I aspire to “fight the good fight” on a crusade to dispel the myths that deplete coffers and tarnish credibility.

I want to help folks avoid the BD hamster wheel, plain and simple.

It is in this spirit that I compiled a list of the four of the worst offenses (and most common mistakes) that firms make in their effort to achieve sustainable growth.

1) Hiring a high-earning, ego-centric, hot-blooded salesperson.

Professional services firms are fueled by people that share their intellectual capital with others. Their “product” is often complex and not easily transferrable between practitioners.

In many cases, even the most well-trained, seasoned sales professional will likely struggle to perfect the magical combination of nuanced technical know-how, relationship development skills and ability to close.

The risk in hiring these folks is that, by the time their inability to “pay for themselves” becomes apparent, they have either moved on or, in some cases, threatened the credibility of the firm.
Instead, consider investing in creating your own business development ambassadors inside your firm. Incentivize and empower your team to take ownership of the firm’s overall growth strategy.

Exponentially more effective, much less risky and way less expensive.

2) Signing on to sponsor an expensive organization or event series.

Speaking of salespeople, who can resist a compelling pitch to align their name with a sports franchise or well-publicized event?
Sounds like a business development slam dunk, doesn’t it?

Rule of thumb: if a promotional opportunity commands big money because of how cool it sounds, it is likely not going to provide a good ROI.

Name recognition is one thing, but if your firm doesn’t have the marketing budget of, say, Geico or McDonald’s, then it will likely seriously diminish your budget and provide little in return.

3) Expecting team members to grow the business with no motivation to do so.

One of the most difficult challenges entrepreneurs and equity partners face is understanding that their employees will likely not be as fiercely committed to the success of their company as they are.
It’s the concept of having (or not having) skin in the game.

No motivation = no movement.

If firm leaders are out of touch with what is important to their team, how will they properly incentivize them to contribute to the firm’s success?

Additionally, asking unmotivated employees and managers to face their two worst fears (having to sell AND talk to strangers) could be considered sadistic by some.

4) Hiring a sales trainer to teach non sales-oriented employees how to prospect and close.

The sales training industry is BIG business. As the beneficiary of several sales training programs myself, I am a believer in the effectiveness of these programs—for salespeople.

If the objective is to inspire sales-allergic professionals to come out of their shells and develop their own “footprint” in the community, teaching tried and true prospecting and closing techniques is definitely a “square peg” approach and is unlikely to create long term results.

The traditional road to growth is paved with the very best intentions, but is often filled with numerous roadblocks and follows a circuitous route. To ensure that we reach a real destination in a direct and efficient manner, designing—and following—a strategic map is the best method to grow smart.

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