Marketing StrategyHere is another dangerous trait I saw working with a professional services firm this past year. In a part of the organization, some 30+ partners have the title and a preponderance of the responsibility for delivering the work. Yet less than a handful of the partners are actually bringing in the work! The rest are simply latching onto the engagements the few rainmakers bring in.

If You Build It…They Will Come. Wrong!

As part of my due diligence process, it became very clear rather quickly that both at the individual level and, in large part, at the firm level, the overarching mentality is that if you simply do good work, new business will come in. These people actually think sales is demeaning and beneath their professional pedigree. They refer to business development as ‘‘marketing’’ and have built a rather large—and ineffective, I may add—marketing department so that they don’t have to do any heavy lifting.

Keep Your Firm’s Reputation From Eroding

Their particular kind of work doesn’t lend itself to up-sell or cross-sell opportunities. That means when this engagement is done, this particular client doesn’t have an immediate need for them to continue. So they’re counting on (1) this client remembering their good work and referring them to others and (2) key members of this organization going to other firms and remembering them and their good work. Guess what? Neither is happening. My client certainly has built a strong reputation over the past three decades, but as the market gets soft or as many of their clients retires and new economic buyers take the reins, my client’s good reputation is heavily undervalued.

It’s painful to watch. Make no mistake about it—these are very competent, capable, seasoned professionals who are very good at what they do. They’re simply very bad at putting themselves out there, nurturing relationships, and bridging those relationship creation efforts to relationship capitalization. So, I’ve made it a personal mission to take a handful of the 30+ and mentor and coach them one-on-one to create the right behaviors, insert the appropriate skill sets, and help them measure and analyze their progress to prove that without net-new relationships, very few net-new customers will come in the door. One of the partners actually introduced me to the managing partner of a law firm they work closely with as ‘‘Hitch for Companies’’—referring to the hit movie with Will Smith where he plays a matchmaker.

To learn more, read the revised and updated Relationship Economics paperback edition with 40 percent new content, including an all-new chapter 10 on social media and business relationships (Wiley, Feb. 2011).

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