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BDMs hiding in your midst By David Smith on Aug 5, 2022


The concept of a team of business development managers running around knocking on doors to sell your firm’s services would be an anathema to most firm owners. We all also know that most new business in most firms, comes from referrals and personal relationships. Increasingly, some are having some success with digital marketing but for the majority referrals and personal relationships are still key to organically growing the business.

Often it is the extrovert leader who is out and about in the community who builds the relationships and is the driver of business growth. But there is another way. Every team member has the potential to bring new business to the firm by building relationships and having the right conversations.

The biggest mistake I made in my career was to not realise straight away when I started at age 18 the importance of building one’s own personal network. Fortunately, the network slowly built anyway, although I could have been better at it in those early years if I was equipped with tools to become an effective networker.

Everyone in your firm has the potential to build their own network and win business for the firm. They just need some guidance and a bit of a push to do some things that, at the outset, may make them feel a little uncomfortable. Yet helping them will not benefit the firm but will also be a key plank in their career development.

For me, some 50 years after I started in the profession, my network is invaluable. It doesn’t matter the issues that confront my clients. If I can’t help, I will generally know someone who can. I am fortunate to have many colleagues with whom I can discuss thorny issues.

So what is to be done? How can we assist the team to develop their networks and business development skills? Here are a few ideas:

  • Every team member should have a networking initiative. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a business oriented network, although there are many such groups aimed at young professionals. It can also be sporting clubs, volunteer groups, charities etc. the support team should be doing this too. Finding something that interests the person helps. Many will be shy so will need a bit of pushing. They will thank you for it.
  • Organise some training on how to network. It is such a shame that this is not taught at schools and universities. It is such an important skill. No one likes cocktail parties but those with the skills are able to strike up conversations and “work the room”. It’s all about having the courage to walk up to someone you don’t know and having in one’s head questions that you can ask to get them talking. Then the skill is to become an active listener to ask meaningful follow-up questions to get to know the person further.
  • When the conversation moves to you, it is important that you’re equipped with responses to questions like “what do you do?”, “tell me about your firm” so that the answers show enthusiasm and clearly articulate what the firm is about. It’s always good to get into the conversation that the firm continues to look to grow.
  • The opportunity for conversations of this nature are everywhere. Strike up a conversation with the person standing next to you when you’re at kids’ sport or sitting next to you at a sporting event. The more you do it the more confident you will become.
  • Of course, client referrals continue to be the major source of new business for most firms, yet few have a structured way of trying to develop these referrals. The most common reason why clients don’t refer is that they think their adviser is too busy and is not looking for more work. Demeanour is important. Looking harried and under pressure will give the wrong impression. Develop a way that communicates that you’re keen to continue to develop your business. When people ask me how I am or how my business is going I always answer with “It’s going really well thanks but I’m always looking for new work”. When you’ve finished an assignment you could also ask a client if they know anyone who’d also value your services. If a client does refer a quality client to you, consider a small gift / note of thanks.
  • Consider rewarding team members who bring new clients to the firm. Many firms pay a percentage of the first year’s fee (collected).

So next time you’re working on developing your team, consider how you can help them build their networking skills and become a small army of BDMs for your firm. This issue should also be part of every performance review.

Send them to our Young Guns Workshop in October where we will have sessions aimed at helping them develop these skills. Click here for more information.


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