Several years ago, this professional services firm invited me in to help build their Lead Generation and Sales System.
So in 2023 when they recruited a new Partner, my sales coaching programme came at the same time as his business cards. Less than a year later, everyone is celebrating.
Most founders start a business because you’re great at what you do, not because you’re an expert in sales. The same is certainly the case when it comes to Associate and Partner promotions in professional services firms.
So when Alejandro was promoted, his Partners trusted him to deliver awesome work and build a strong team. But they knew his practice would thrive or dive based on one extra skill: Sales.
Thankfully, they had awareness from their experience starting the business – they had seen their weaknesses, and recognised how consistent sales was the key to professional services success.
While the founding Partners didn’t need ongoing support to execute their system, they recognised others would benefit … and that expert, external coaching was a better investment than simple sharing their own experience.
Less than a year since his first day on the job, and from a standing start, Alejandro’s team have an annual run rate over $1 million of client work.
Here’s what we did, and how you can do the same.
Sales is straightforward – someone wants to buy something, they have a need, and you want to sell something, so conveniently have a solution.
But unless you’re selling a commodity (and each of the 100+ professional services firms I’ve coached is special in their own unique way) then your approach to sales needs more. Most often than not, a lack of sales is a consequence of a problem elsewhere in the business.
So that’s where we start:
Building a professional services business is about Value – creating, demonstrating, and delivering value to your clients so they pay your fees, tell their friends, and help you move towards your vision.
Understanding how Revenue flows through a business, and how many factors impact successful sales, gives context to a firm founder or business development team.
Sales itself is about Activity, Conversion, and Pricing.
Very few of the professional services Partners I coach would ever get work as a full-time sales person. So their critical need is systems to make the lead generation and sales process consistent and effortless.
That starts with Activity – who are you talking to about your solution. I’m a firm believer that Activity breeds Activity, and that building the business development habit is far more important than waiting for the right needle to fall out of the haystack.
All of my clients needs to be coachable, and the greatest joy with Alejandro was seeing his diary fill with coffee meetings so quickly. While the first new client still took months, those seeds he planted are increasingly sprouting for harvest.
A framework as simple as the Gratitude Sales Model takes one coaching session to understand … and a lifetime to master. I’m still improving after 17 years of my coaching business!
Many senior associates or new partners view their time as valuable (true), and too valuable to waste on unlikely sale opportunities (false!). Just as your team have a capacity to deliver client work, so too in his new role Alejandro had time set aside for business development activity. Not using that time would have been a mistake, and the lessons from prospects who were too small, not ready, kicking tyres, or clearly not a cultural fit … every single one of those experiences improved his skills so when the big opportunities arrived he was ready.
A great joy in my Sales Coaching programs is when we can shift from theory to execution, and the Gratitude Sales Model has a thousand nuances that show up in different ways, each small improvement increasing our conversion rate.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to professional services pricing, but the more sales activity you do and the higher your conversion rate then the greater value you are likely delivering to your clients … and therefore the higher price (and higher profit margins) you can charge.
Where you start with pricing depends on a number of factors. Alejandro was also in recruitment mode starting his practice, so there was a need to sell under-valued client work early to keep his team busy and engaged … and also cover some of those fixed expenses. That’s a different pricing strategy to businesses with a steady stream of new opportunities, where you are better served focusing on the highest value work from the start.
If you have multiple partners or associates in your business, do you permit them to run different pricing and packaging solutions? If not, why not?
In less than a year I’ve seen Alejandro’s proposals grow from thousands to hundreds of thousands – and combined with the consistent lead generation and nurturing activity and better sales meeting skills, those larger proposals are being accepted at a higher conversion rate than the smaller ones at the beginning!
Sales Strategy vs Sales Coaching
Alejandro had a standing start, as he was new to the business as well as new to the Partner position. The Sales Strategy could have been given to him in a powerpoint slide, but instead Sales Coaching personalised his focus (and addressed his challenges in real time). Armed mostly with a LinkedIn account and self-belief, he:
- Went wide creating new relationships
- Set targets for the number of meetings he wanted to conduct every single week
- Found the lead generation activities that worked best for his skills and interests
- Learnt how not to sell by proposing the wrong solutions to the wrong prospects
- Kept refining the focus – his target market, where to find them, how to build relationships with them, and then most importantly how to craft a solution that would help them
The actual coaching work looked like:
- Documented Sales Strategy, in Alejandro’s case personalised to his firm from their previous work
- Training Resource support, including templates, videos, and case studies
- Monthly 1-on-1 coaching sessions, moving Alejandro from inspiration to implementation of his new skills
- Constant availability – because coaching support needs to happen in real time, not just scheduled sessions. I’ve proofed LinkedIn connection requests, talked through bombed sales meetings, analysed proposals that worked and those that didn’t, and generally provided my client with confidence and courage to keep perservering even when the results weren’t flowing.
Investing money in coaching is a high risk decision for a business owner, and there’s a reason I don’t force my clients to sign long-term contracts: I trust my ability to deliver.
When you promote a key team member into a Partership / Director / Senior Associate position, you are taking a risk – and while ideally business development training linked to your Sales System began many years ago, I know in practice it’s often a new skill thrust upon these senior team members … alongside more team management and greater budget responsibility.
Your fear is “What if we invest $1,000 per month in Partner Sales Coaching, and the promotion doesn’t work out or they leave?”
Your real fear should be “What if we don’t invest to support our best talent … and they stay?“
Alejandro will soon start his first full Financial Year in the role, thankfully with two new recruits (now a team of 6) expanding his team because of the workload. While many professional services partners take the promotion with an existing $1 million book of clients, Alejandro accepted the role with nothing in place … and supported by this Sales System and Coaching Process will still deliver over $1 million in client work in the coming year.
From $0 to $1 million … and most importantly, with the business development system and habits supporting him to continue that revenue growth year after year.
Would You Benefit from Alejandro’s experience?
How is your Business Development process? Do you have a lead generation, sales activity, and pricing strategy that supports your existing and future Partners?
If you could use another $Million (or more) next year, your solution starts with a conversation. Let’s talk more about whether Sales Strategy or Sales Coaching could help your business.
It costs nothing to chat. Pick up the phone (+61 427 151 181) or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).