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If you are challenging your consultants to support the business development function, are you also supporting them, asks Lars Tewes, MD of SBR Consulting.
Selling in the Consulting World
Are you supporting your consultants?
   If you are
challenging your
consultants to support
the business development
function, are you also
supporting them?
   In SBR Consulting’s
work with professional
services firms, we are
finding that consultants
are feeling more and
more pressure to achieve
their ever-increasing
business development
targets. The role of a
consultant is and always
will be about delivering
value to the clients;
yet the role is changing
to incorporate
supporting and winning
projects and many are
feeling a conflict of
   As the need for firms
to win valuable work
grows, many are choosing
whether to bring in
business development
managers (aka
salespeople) or whether
to tap into the strong
relationships and trust
the consultants have
already developed during
their years of delivery.
As a global sales
consultancy, SBR
Consulting believes
strongly that
consultants delivering
value have earned the
right to become more
proactive in advising
and influencing clients
about ways their firm
can add value, leading
to more mutually
beneficial work.
However, there is an
increasing danger that
the support is not there
to help consultants with
this transition.
Managers themselves are
 often not given the time
or the skills to lead
this ideal and incumbent
business development
   For many, the recent
round of appraisals has
seen a new addition for
the next year’s personal
performance – support
and involvement in
winning work. Many even
have a revenue figure
attached to it. However
many consultants are
telling us they are
being given a notional
figure with not much
thought behind it and
with no plan as to how
to achieve it. The
following considerations
are designed to help you
see what is required to
create a high
performance business
development culture and
to ensure that you do
not lose your good
consultants because
their role requires this
behaviour change.
   Put simply, where you
want a change in
behaviour that goes
against their emotional
conditioning, e.g. “I am
not in sales” or “I do
not have time for
business development”,
you must ensure that you
provide the right
support. A highly
challenging goal with
low support leads to
stress and often the
loss of a good
deliverer. Equally, lots
of support without the
right challenging goal
leads to people staying
very much in their
comfort zone of
delivery. As the table
below shows, only one of
the four quadrants is
desirable: high
challenge and high

   You cannot manage
what you do not measure.
As humans, we may fight
it but we do need
structure. Rather than
just giving out sales
targets, focus on the
behaviours and effort
required of the
consultants. Talk about
the number of relevant
contacts they have in
their network and the
number of meetings they
are having. Five
meetings a month is 60 a
year and if only six of
those result in work,
most people would be
happy. Encourage
meetings even if they
are not all with
decision makers. Focus
on effort above the
opportunity stage, not
just the results.
   3 – Skill

   Provide an
environment where
consultants can up-skill
themselves. Selling is
not a “black art”: there
is real structure and
process behind it, so
decide that business
development is going to
be a conscious
competency within the
practice and provide
training and coaching.
You would never expect
someone to become an
expert in another
profession without
showing them ‘how’ to be
successful first. Why
should sales be any
different to other
professions?Share best
practice around the
sales skills already
being used successfully
in your firm.
   4 – Will

   Ultimately, an
individual’s desire to
be proactive in business
 development or not could
be the deciding factor
as to whether the firm
scales. It has been
proved many times that
money is not the main
motivator for many high
performers. If it were
most would not be doing
what they are doing.
When we work with our
clients, time and time
again, we hear the same
key motivators that
encourage them to win
business and make it a
habit: recognition,
promotion, client
satisfaction, project
satisfaction, personal
development and
autonomy. Tap into ‘why’
an individual wants to
be proactive and help
them to have the number
of meetings and
conversations required
to achieve sales
   In summary, we must
start being consultants
to ourselves. None of
this is new, nor rocket
science, but if the four
key areas described
above are a consistent
part of the culture and
the right kind of
support is there, you
stand a real chance of
taking the stress away,
of the whole team
feeling involved and of
successfully hitting
targets. The top
producers always thrive
when they feel they have
the necessary support
while being pushed to
the next level. Take a
moment to look at the
business development
targets set for
individuals within your
firm and decide whether
you have the right
balance between support
and challenge –
remember, you need both.
 support. The other three
result in anything from
high stress to apathy,
to unrealistic comfort
zones, all ultimately
leading to poor business
   So, here are four
ways to support
individuals with real
potential when giving
them challenging revenue
targets. They are not
100% guaranteed, but
provide a strong
foundation for true
business success.
   1 - People not

   The most common
mistake made by managers
is not spending enough
time with their key
people. The latter have
the potential to bring
in more work than you
can imagine yet finding
time to support them is
not always in your plan
because you think they
do not need it. Make a
1-2-1 schedule with your
key people and stick to
it. Treat the meetings
as if they are as
important as those with
your top client. Make
sure that you give lots
of “hows” to go about
business development
correctly: if they are
finding it hard to build
their network, for
example, give them
specific suggestions on
what to do, and build on
this each month.
   2 - Track to run
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