Now that times are tough, many firms seem to be taking the (somewhat short-sighted) view that non-fee earning functions ought to be the first to be cut back. On the other hand, the recession provides an opportunity for strong and effective Business Development professionals to prove their worth to their firm. In the current circumstances:
- The imperatives for change are usually driven by costs, rather than by service.
- The demand for new services (for the potential client) has fallen.
- The normal response is for clients to stay with what they know, rather than exposing themselves to the risk of unknown and unproven suppliers
- Fee earners now have more time and less money for business development.
- In a recession, Economics must overcome Politics.
A New Priority
The role of the Business Development team therefore changes from being one of developing new business to keeping existing business.
Firms can no longer afford for individual partners to keep personal clients, at the expense of other departments or teams within the firm.
Therefore, the primary function of any effective Business Development department must be client service and team building, thereby protecting the firmís key recurring client activity.
The Role of Management
This focus should be driven and supported by the senior management team, and they of all people should lead by example. There should be a detailed plan in place for the firmís development.
This still means that a firm should be investing in seminars and targeting clients, but the emphasis has changed. Targeting opportunities to sell new services to existing clients is the priority, ensuring the protection of the client base from matter-hungry competitors. After all, if clients were happy the first time, they should be extremely receptive to further contact.