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I’m going to be honest… I’ve always been a Pace Partnership sceptic.  I know that the professional services sector has taken them to their hearts over many years.  I also know that they have totally transformed the business development practices of a whole host of firms.  The problem is that I have always found them rather “preachy” and “robotic”.  Fine in theory but what about the real world… sure, they talk a lot of sense but what do they actually DO to help you (as a marketing manager) make a difference… surely they’re only relevant if you’re a magic circle firm with the internal resources to manage a BD programme like that… I’ve actually been quite outspoken on it… That was, until last night.

At the Bristol PM Forum event on New Business Development, Rachael Wheatley (from the Pace Partnership) took us through the very basic theories of developing new business, using their well known (and respected pipeline process).  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to declare my undying loyalty to the programme… but my leopard-ish spots are most certainly changing.  I was really, really impressed.  Given that Rachael didn’t say anything that I hadn’t heard from Pace already… something has to have changed.  Either I am mellowing in my old age (unlikely) or the changing market has forced us all to think differently about business development (and that includes me).  I think that now, more than ever before, there is a huge benefit to having a formal, theory-based strategy for how you are going to develop new business in your firm.  For the first time I can see real relevance in what Pace promotes to ALL firms, not just the big ones, as before.

So, what did Rachael have to say (btw – she’s well worth talking to.  You can find her on Linkedin)?  Well, I’m not going to go through every slide (and you’ll have to contact them to see the pipeline image that we were shown – that takes your contacts through from prospect to utterly wonderful client that is always going to instruct you)… but I am going to pull out the 5 things that I jotted down as “worth remembering”:

1. What do you need to make the pipeline process work?

  • A good centralised support system – not just IT but also personnel
  • Targets – you need a vision of what success looks like
  • You need a profile of what your clients should look like so that you can target specifically
  • You need a process to work to… a pathway (or pipeline) to follow so that you can see at each stage how well you are doing
  • You need a way of managing and allocating time to it
  • You need the process to be consistent so that there are no peaks or troughs of activity
  • You need a clear, transparent communications system, so that everyone can see what they are meant to be doing at what time

2. They recommend a 5 step process for approaches:

  • Start by doing your research.  Understand what the key issues are that worry/interest your prospects.  Understand where and how they are talking about them. Get to know your contacts.
  • Write an up-front, honest approach.  Tell them that you really want to work with them and you therefore want to demonstrate why they should want to work with you.  You are, therefore, going to send them 4 pieces of useful information, over the next 4 weeks.
  • Produce your content and send it out – one per week.
  • Follow it up with a letter/email that says that you hope that they found it helpful and useful.  You will call them on a specific time/date to follow up.
  • Make that call and stick to your promise.  If you said 2pm on Wednesday, do it.  The way you behave now is a blueprint for how you’ll behave once instructed.

3. Set up a “buddy” system internally to allow people to go through this process in pairs.  They can help to motivate each other and share the load.

4. Always work to a really targeted prospect list.

5. Use your blog to share your business development successes (if appropriate) as well as your knowledge.  You could even set up an internal blog (or Twitter) to allow people working through this process to communicate about frustrations, successes, concerns, questions etc.

This seminar only lasted for 45 minutes but it got me thinking more than any other has in recent weeks.  It’s easy to get distracted by flashy and exciting marketing opportunities and forget that without a structure and process you have no point to it all and no hope of measuring success.  I’m not necessarily saying that Pace is the only way to go but I have changed my spots sufficiently to suggest that they might be worth consideration.  As a bare minimum I think we could all benefit from a bit more targeting, a little more directness in our sales manner, following an agreed process and actually sticking to doing what we say we will.  I plan to give it a go!