Sunny: Hello everyone. My name is Sunny McCall and I am Momentum’s Vice President of Content and Experience and Program Director of the upcoming Gro Pro 20/20 event. It is my great pleasure to be here today with Barry Trailer. Barry, welcome.
Barry: Hi Sunny. Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Sunny: Thank you so much Barry. By way of background, Mr. Trailer is Chief Research Officer and Co-Founder of CSO Insights, a sales effectiveness research and benchmarking firm. In addition to more than 30 years of professional selling experience, Barry has also been president of Miller Heiman, a respected sales training firm, and Goldmine, a well-known CRM application. Barry has conducted seminars with hundreds of companies, including HP, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and Hitachi. Mr. Trailer has also been a keynote speaker at dozens of sales events presenting Sales Mastery and is also a prolific writer.
So Barry, jumping in right here, I understand that in your current position, you are the Chief Research Officer and Co-Founder at CSO Insights, which is a division of MHI Global, specifically responsible for overseeing research into B2B sales effectiveness. Given your role and focus, I am curious to hear what the top two trends are that you’ve observed specific to sales effectiveness over the past few years, and then how these trends may or may not have evolved during that same time period.
Barry: Sure. Well, I think there are a number of trends that are worth at least mentioning, and two that we’ve been tracking for nearly a decade now that I will probably spend a little bit time talking about today. One of the ones is the implementation of higher levels of sales process from random basically everybody doing their own thing to informal to formal to dynamic which is not only focusing on process but also analytics and being much more tuned into collaboration. And we matrix that with 5 levels of relationship from the lowest level vendor to a preferred supplier, consultant, contributor and ultimately partner or today a popular term is trusted advisor.
And what we’ve seen over the years is as you have higher levels of process implementation and enjoy higher levels of relationships things get better. When we talk about things, the four metrics that we use to define the three performance levels are the percentage of reps meeting the quota, the percentage of annual revenue plan obtained, the outcome of forecast deals and overall rep turnover. And in terms of trends, what we saw is during and coming out of the great recession folks got really focused on process, really started to pay attention; because there weren’t as many opportunities, you needed to make most of every opportunity. And that carried on for a couple of years coming out of the recession; and then over the next couple of years we saw a relaxation, in our view, a complacency about those things and the numbers actually fell off again. In 2016, we’ve seen kind of a renewed focus. So, interesting to watch that overall and those are two really important areas that I think are worth talking about.
In addition to that, in terms of other trends, ramp-up time for reps – and I know we are talking about professional services here, so it maybe Biz Dev folks and it may be either principals or practitioners who are assigned some Biz Dev responsibility; I am going to use the term “rep” but I guess that the audience may not relate to that specifically – but getting folks up to speed has taken longer and longer and one of the reasons is – and this won’t be news to anybody – higher expectations, buyer expectations, higher competitive activity, the more complex sales, more buying influence involved in sales, more complex decision-making around projects. All of those things are making it a more complex protracted and competitive environment.
Sunny: Understood, thank you for that Barry. Now, taking your response there a step further, of those trends, were you surprised at all by what you observed and more importantly have you seen the professional services sector be responsive, if at all, to these trends.
Barry: Well, we were surprised when we saw the numbers fall off in 2013, 2014 and we actually wrote about what we really felt was complacency that had sort of raised its head again after the recession, rising sales [inaudible 00:05:07] and with the robust economy and everything coming roaring back we think the people leaned back rather than leaning in, with respect to implementing sales process. Beyond that I think professional services firms have been, I don’t know if – you know, I would want to go back and look at the numbers. I haven’t really revisited these in advance of this call, I will in advance of our time in New York, look at the levels of process implementation. But a couple of things, it seemed to me the training was an area that lagged when we last looked at this, and collaboration were two areas that seemed to be trailing. Beyond that, one of the areas in our sales best practices study that we are going to be releasing a week before the New York conference, we are seeing that world class firms have, are about two years ahead of all the other respondents in terms of adopting and leveraging social media. And my sense is that professional services are probably not leading the pack in that area. So those are a couple of things I probably flagged early on.
Sunny: Thank you Barry. And just one more turn of the screw now, building upon that response. Have you observed any specific commonalities among responses distinguishable by factors such as generation or industry? So in other words do older respondents provide one school of thought on sales effectiveness while younger clients offer differing feedback?
Barry: That’s an interesting question. We don’t track respondents by age. I mean they are certain, I guess, generalities you could make if you are looking at smokestack industries, traditional manufacturing, distribution firms that tend to have I think more established, more tenured sales reps; folks are a little more resistant to adopting technology versus many of the SaaS companies and a lot of the go-go high tech startups where you’ve got folks who are digitally native. I mean, you can make assumptions about the relative age distribution of those folks. But it’s interesting, I was in Orlando a couple of weeks ago speaking at IBM’s vision conference, which is about compensation and performance management, and one of the things that I raised at the session that I was speaking at is this whole notion of managing millennials and multi-generational teams, sales teams and I think in some ways that’s overwrought. I think there are things you need to pay attention to, but I also think that in terms of managing millennials what you are really managing is meaning. And that goes all the way back to the 60’s in Frederick Herzberg’s work on satisfiers and dissatisfiers, what really motivates folks, whether it’s hygienic or non-hygienic, quantitative versus qualitative, all of that stuff, it’s still very much in play. The thing that I’ve been saying to groups and you know I think it will be fun to be talking to with a group in New York is the technology is evolving like crazy, but our DNA really isn’t. It’s pretty well fixed. It’s not just fixed from one age group. I mean it’s pretty much fixed for all the age groups we are talking about. And there are five reasons that people will buy from you: No money, no need, no urgency, no desires, no trust; and that last one will kill more deals than the other four combined. And I think that’s especially true with respect to professional services.
And so the question now is how do you establish, maintain and elevate trust/creditability in increasingly high speed virtual remote environment. And I think that’s an important question, the one that I think will be fun to explore with the group. And the other thing is, I don’t think having meaning in your work is new to millennials. You know the old line about the 60’s: “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t there” well, that’s partially true. But I was there and we cared about meaning then; we cared about improving the world and changing the world and fighting the man and all that stuff. I think that what it really comes down to, and I am speaking to groups now about innovation and transformation is really, is the intersection of purpose and passion. And so I think that is where the meaning comes from. I don’t think people wake up one day feeling smart and say I am going to innovative today. I think it’s more kind of a dog with a bone that just you are so into something, you are so on it that you just can’t let go of it. I think that’s where the meaning comes from and that’s where the really good stuff comes from.
Sunny: Well, thank you for that Barry, and speaking of purpose and passion, at our upcoming Gro Pro Event in a few short weeks, we decided to take what we look at as a completely different approach to the event, dividing the content into chapters which we think will mirror the track of today’s CMOs, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officers, managing partners and other professional services leaders. Aside from the topic which you will be speaking on of course which we know everyone will have a very astute ear attuned for, I am curious to hear what sessions at the conference or maybe what part of the event or maybe all of the event you think would be most valuable for someone attending holding a similar role as yourself.
Barry: Well, I think that’s going to vary by individual and by their area of interest, in more particular areas that they feel that maybe they need to improve upon or bulk up on. The thing that I am interested in especially with this group when we get together is my background, you know a hundred years ago I was in engineering and became a registered civil engineer in California, and I know back then the kinds of things people would say you know I didn’t go to college and get license as an engineer or study engineering to become a salesman or a sales rep, and you know I don’t – back then you would call it feasibility or frontend work or marketing or Biz Dev, call it anything but sales – and I am interested in getting a sense of with this audience of how that’s changed and whether that’s changed and more particularly what bringing professional services and professional attitude to the area of sales might look like for these firms. So from that standpoint, maybe each of the chapters is going to have some of that, maybe none of the chapters. I know one that’s going to have that as a discussion topic.
Sunny: Well, Barry, thank you so very much. It’s been a pleasure chatting here with you today. Very much looking forward to you welcoming you at the conference and thanks again for spending some time with us. Looking forward to seeing you June 14 in New York.
Barry: Well thanks, I am really looking forward to it. I think there’s going to be a blast and I appreciate folks taking the time to listen to this and hopefully come up for the conference. Thanks for having me on Sunny.
BEN: Greetings! This is Ben Greenszweig; Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Momentum and I have the pleasure of speaking with Doug Johnson; the Founder and Managing Director of Catapult Growth Partners; Momentum co-partner on hosting Gro Pro 20/20, taking place June 14th in New York City, as well as my fellow co-chaired. Doug, how you doing today?
DOUG: You know Ben, generally well, thanks. Appreciate it.
BEN: Well as I’m sure many in our audience know; Gro Pro 20/20 is in 2nd year, although it’s root certainly deep with both Momentum and your organization; Catapult Growth Partners from the Growth pro-program you ran for many years and the firm think at that Momentum has ran for a few years prior. And this is not the 2nd year of our mashed up event. So for those aren’t familiar with it; why don’t you share your thoughts Doug on what do you think makes Grow for 2020 different than any other event on market for the CMO, CMBDO, managing partners and this real executive driving the professional service of industry?
DOUG: Yeah. You know Ben, it’s interesting. A lot of came about 5 or 6 years ago really more from the market observation and what my clients are asking for. It really awhile we sort of seeing a lot more interest across professional services back there for CMO and network with CMO from other professional service firm. I think what’s really different about this is most the other copy of this — of this nature only focus on a single vertical, for you have, you know, the law firm marketing organization which you have accounting and building. But this is the only one that I’m aware of that has successfully pulled together: law, accounting, consulting and financial services. To the build-tech executives can really kind of share notes to see what’s going on the other sectors and see they can learn from one another. And the other thing that’s really distinguish us is the mobility of CMOs and chief developers officers that changed over that prior 6 years where, you know people are moving across from one professional sector to another in bringing ideas and best practices and try to figure out how is that adapt to their new environment. So I think that be a consultant is really one of that main differentiator; the other thing is we’ve intentionally kept this as a reasonably small manageable event so that people can truly network with one another. And also really try to keep it a very senior level, sea-level and in deal some of the issues that some of the larger firms are wrestling with as well. So I think if you put those things together; that’s really the unique aspect of Gro Pro 20/20.
Certainly the convergence of the professionals’ services is one of the biggest key takeaways and you know there’s a lot of conversation about how law firms are rapidly changing their model. Certainly their approach is it not their mindset and I think you hit the nail in the head about further aligning all professional services under one umbrella and one event.
Speaking of alignment; there’s a scene that you hear often among seasoned marketing professionals such as as yourself from this concept of storytelling. It’s not so much about marketing; it’s about how do you tell your story the right way. That’s kind of the approach that, that you took this year for Grow For is a with respect to your content — there’s story that you want to tell and it seems to be divided into a, I believe four chapters this year. Each chapter of course covers a very basic principle but clearly the content is not basic. Chapter one is about maintaining the business you have. Chapter two is about mining for new business. Chapter three is evaluating, benchmarking and measuring success. And chapter four is the fast forward.
BEN: Can you give us some of the insights on why you crafted this approach and how practical it is?
DOUG: Yeah. You know it also goes back to that first point then about differentiation. I think we all been to a lot of conferences where the firm typically has keynotes speakers, and presenters, and panels. And nothing wrong that but what we felt was to those that are leading grow strategy and firm brand from some position in the market place and for those who are responsible for your — for driving growth to business development really most effective way of doing that is presenting from into calling [indiscernible 00:04:19] fashion. You know it’s more and more CMO that talk to you talk about; you know how do you explain to a client — a potential client the capability of the firm. You can certainly lift those but far more effective to talk to a client about a couple of work you’ve done type of scenarios you’ve done for some more clients that comes in that industry. So really a story telling approach.
So we thought, let’s take that — that, that methodology and apply it to the conference. The other thing that I think that reason one that structure this way is the business really a conference form by, you know the CEO level executives? So we really like to hear the voice of the folks in the room that bring such depth and rich strength so that we learn far more from these practitioners that are dealing with the issues day to day. And we want to put a little structure right, you know in terms of what are the real jobs functions and their roles and responsibilities of a tech market business development officers and you, you know articulate it. Those four chapters; they really what the job is all about, it’s keeping the business you have, you know driving revenue, evaluating yourself against the best practice and benchmarks. And then, the final chapter is the past four, I think we all realized we’re living in a time of change and innovation. And what is that means for our organization and our industry and how can we always be on the cutting edge and try to think about what’s coming next.
So that’s kind of how we want to be position and make it interesting and interactive in a dialogue as opposed to just a sort of standard approach to a conference.
BEN: Actually. Let’s take a quick moment and talk about that approach. This event is very interactive. Everyone that we invited in to parts it almost as if each team is requires co-working to come up with a solution. How did this event rank in terms of interactivity from other events that you seen, spoken and attended and of course and your more recent capacity as interim CMO and drinker bitter. You had your fair share of experience with events. So how did that level of interactivity compare?
DOUG: You know I think in a lot of ways of stint is a result of what kind of audience we’ve had, the folks we’ve had there and the fight with which we have made this almost a round table; it’s mostly the conference where the ideas we are really going to kind of hear from the audience. We want them engage in the process. We designed it around that idea to bring in best practice of case studies. And really come and get go to get people sort of, you know interchanging throughout the day. And You know I can tell you from the feedback we got last year — the common theme I’d heard from a lot of people was there’s a lot more interactive conference that I’ve been to; I learned more, I got more opportunity to share ideas and really network to those people around me. And so part of it was my design for a lot but I think the combination of five and top x with people who have there. And you’re so sure, you know sort of staying a day off that this is really designed to be interactive. We could one discuss in that.
BEN: Now, we’re very happy this year to have a, well we have some phenomenal speakers of course but I’m particularly very excited by one of our speaker in particular; Chris Surdak. Chris Surdak of course is the Chief Field Technologist, Data, Analytics, Governance and Compliance for HP. And he’s speaking on data crashed; separating the hype from reality. And it’s really more a manner of how the tidal wave of information is creating new opportunities and disrupting the existing model but Chris isn’t someone that’s just talk about it; he’s of course someone whose practice therein multiple capacities. He is — he went to law school, he’s got multiple degrees, you’ve seen him in Siemens, you’ve seen him from Dell, and of course you’ve seen him from Accentor and HP. What are you — what are your expectations for you to get from Chris on the big data session?
DOUG: Well you know, one of the other things that we’ve tried to do with Gro Pro 20/20 in being another a differentiator is to bring from follow leaders and some people in from other industry that are doing very intriguing industry things in trying to figure out how is that adapt to the professional services that if I’m doing some instinct things around the big data and technology field; you want to see all that pretty natural for that area but you know does it really works in the law firm, does it — does it apply to consulting firm? But Chris’ background is in consulting and also in technology so he understands both side of the equation. And I think — I think that the perspective that he brings is very interesting. One is that there’s so much buzz and hype around data — big data. I think a lot of, you see, he talks to me in terms of his presentation. One or three we’ve know with that title really means. And what is big data mean, what’s real, what’s hype? But I think the other things he really wants to sort of present you know; what is really happen there, where are the companies hearing data in ways that innovative and where are you actually seeing professional services firms to trying to apply that? And we got a couple of candies that I know of that are experimenting with projects around data analytics and big data analysis that we’re going to try to weave into that so that we — now we have the theoretical perspective and the perspective from the other industries but we want some — a leading edge practitioners within the professional services that we talk about. How did they actually take you from these theories in trying — trying to put them to work? So I think, you know one is it will be interesting, it will be inspirational being sort of, you know open our minds to what’s going on in other area but then really the team is to how, you know — so what? How did that relate back to my job if I’m CMO for a large law firm or I’m driving this [indiscernible 00:09:41] large consulting firm? Does it apply to other lesson that I can learn from this type of input?
BEN: And finally, this event is also different in that it has very specific criteria for registration. We certainly know that there usually dozen of requests from solution providers to get involved in network with this very elite room of senior professional services executives. But can you talk a little bit about the criteria for registration and the thinking behind it?
DOUG: Yeah. The criteria; we really want to, you know have folks that are to senior leader for the marketing and business development functions within the firm or you know the number two in their organization that are really responsible so kind of waking up every morning and thinking about; how do we grow the organization, how do we really affect change, what we do around the marketing business development organization. And we’ve been very successful sort of having those criteria. I think that’s one of the things that’s law firm be very successful and it allows us to become, you know event that more and more people are putting in their calendars that sort of the must attend event. In really sort of keeping that — that focus of that level; you know there’s a lot of other big conferences that’s out there that are more for, you know middle level folks and more about, you know blockings, tackling issues. This is really where folks that is at the CEO level or VP level which come together; really kind of learn from the best and brightest in really so share, you know cutting edge ideas. And so, we sort of expected that — that’s it before, you know we’re not trying to drive a conference for, you know hundreds and hundreds of people but, you know seventy, eighty of the right people really make a difference in terms of the way we’ve done that.
BEN: Couldn’t agree more Doug and it’s an absolute pleasure of speaking with you today. This and so much more I Gro Pro 20/20 on June 14th in New York, City. For more information of course, there’s a growpro2020.com. Doug, appreciate giving us of a few minutes of your time today. I for one, am very excited to see the phenomenal rooster of speakers and attendees continue to materialized and of course participate in the leading event for professional services executives come June. Thanks again from your time Doug.
DOUG: Absolutely. Thank you Ben.
Sunny: Hello everyone. My name is Sunny McCall and I am Momentum’s Vice President of Content and Experience and Program Director of the upcoming Gro Pro 20/20 event. It is my great pleasure to be here today with Gil Wolchock. Gil, welcome.
Gil: Hi Sunny, it’s great to be here.
Sunny: Thanks so much, Gil. By way of background, Mr. Wolchock is an established management executive with more than 20 years of proven experience in P&L, corporate turnaround and sales management areas. Currently Gil is director of sales for Lexis Nexis’ leading relationship client offering interaction. His experience spans across multiple industries within technology. He has served in various senior management positions. His strategic consulting background includes work with clients Coca-Cola, UPS, The United Way and Cox Communications.
Jumping right in here Gil, clearly you have a very interesting background having held sales and client-focused positions within diverse organizations including prior work in a general agency and a financial services institution. Now as the director of sales for interaction at Lexis Nexis, I am curious to learn how you believe each of your prior positions has equipped you for your current role?
Gil: Sure thanks Sunny, and diverse is a good term. So when I thought about that question, I’d say the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that change, like a lot of things, is inevitable. It’s also scary; but fortunately it’s usually good. And how good that is, is ultimately going to be determined largely on planning and leadership, both from a top-down and bottom-up inside an organization. And I’ve also learned one of the biggest things that will play a role is culture, and how culture plays in change and how it deals with stress inside an organization. And what I’ve found is interesting is I see that the legal marketing professional services space is very similar to the digital marketing space that I saw in the early 2000s. And when I tell people that they sometimes get a little shocked because digital marketing and advertising is fun and exciting and legal marketing might not be seen that way.
But where I see that confluence is back in the early 2000s, digital was on the forefront of creating an entire sea change and how marketing and advertising is done. Similar to the way the 50’s and 60’s saw television flip the dynamic of advertising; we saw the same thing in digital. And for me being on the cutting edge of that was exciting and rewarding, and I see a lot of the similar parallels and how marketing and business development teams are trying to create that same sea change in their organizations on legal, is very similar. So just like with digital, the proof will be in the pudding and that will come from strong data analytics and technology. So that’s been exciting to see.
I also thought about this question about what I kind of bring and I think the biggest value that my kind of background in being diverse brings is the level of experience and expertise in building sales and business development organizations that serve as the corporate world. One of the things I’ve also gotten to do is become certified in spin selling which is a consultative selling technique and that also lets me bring a unique skill set to not only my team but also to our clients when helping and working with them from a consultative nature in what I can do. One of my favorite things to do is to discuss an upgrade or have a discussion about what folks are looking at and kind of spinning those things back and taking a holistic, 360-view of things as opposed to just trying to talk about a specific software product.
Sunny: Perfect. Thank you so much for that Gil, and that actually gives us a nice segway to my next question which was, reflecting on your experience in your current role and then thinking also about some of your prior industry experience as well, what would you say two of the most surprising trends are that have been revealed to you, specific to sales strategy, within the professional services sector?
Gil: That’s a great question. I think the first thing that came to mind is I started looking at the professional services space and specific with legal, was just how much growth and opportunity there is from a business development and marketing standpoint. There’s such a strong appetite to figure things out when it comes to selling and I will put quotes around the word selling, especially in the professional services space, and however you want to define that word. But whether it’s from consultants offering different services to the amount of technology that you now have at your fingertips, how all of those things will be optimized and used by the firms is going to be very, very exciting to see; and how they mature and how they get the time and how they mature is kind of the first thing that surprised me from a trend standpoint.
The second one was a broad range of acceptance or adoption techniques when it comes to the business development side in this space. There’s so many different opportunities and different firms taking different ways to envision it and it’s an exciting spot to look at where the integration is strong between a marketing sales as well as a delivery mechanism per se in lawyers, where you’ve got a really strong cohesive unit. How amazing those results could be and how well you can replicate that learning across a firm, and then on the flip side you can also see where the time is not given for it to mature and kind of take hold that firms will tend cycle and spin. So how things are accepted and adopted have also been eye-opening for me.
Sunny: Perfect. Now in response to your prior answer Gil, could you describe how Lexis Nexis has thus been able to remain agile in responding to or meeting the demand triggered by that trend?
Gil: Sure. I think there are two things that we look at when we try to stay agile and work with our clients. The first one is people and trying to make sure that we align the right folks on our side, with the right teams on the client side. And one of the biggest things that we’ve done in the last year and a half to really focus on that is creating what we call the client success team. And that’s pairing two professionals on my side to essentially run the account side of the business. One of those is a client advisor who is very focused at a strategic level and is pretty much coming from either working inside the legal space or working inside the CRM space as an industry expert that can be there to help guide and work with a client to maximize their investment that they’ve already made in CRM. And the second side is having an account manager on the back end who’s there for the day to day that can help with surface level support. Obviously we have full 24-hour help support for our clients as well, but this is a great one-on-one relationship that our clients can have with our team.
And the second thing that goes along with people is tools and technology. And I think we have recognized the need to continue to innovate and not rest on our laurels. I think what we have seen in the last six months and what we will see over the next 12 months is a really nice innovation cycle to our interaction product, whether it’s in modules, IQ, or business edge which are there for helping with reporting and getting you the data that you need as the client. Also some really unique features around mobility and always constantly updating. We have also moved in this agile work environment to an agile development cycle, so that we are constantly updating so no longer do you have to wait annually for an update but essentially quarterly we are releasing new components to the software.
Sunny: Perfect. Thank you for that Gil. Now shifting gears just slightly, there’s been some talk recently of the emergence of a new role there is a bit of a hybrid cross between marketing, BD and sales function, commonly referred to as the Chief Commercial, or even within some organizations, the Chief Client Officer. What are your thoughts on this new role and how it may or may not impact sales strategy within the professional services sector?
Gil: Selfishly, I love it. I feel like, given my experiences, it fits perfectly for the world of selling and influencing inside the professional services sector today. I think it really allows for that level of office to take the understanding that business development truly fits inside the C-suite and belongs next to those other folks that run the business. With that said, I think the impact can be extremely terrific but I think it also has to be understanding that that person also does have, for lack of a better term, the juice that goes with that office. They have to be a leader, and have autonomy and control and be given the opportunity and time to do what they need to do from a business development standpoint. Selling and business development is very much both an art and a science, and that certainly takes time to be able to take hold inside an organization.
Sunny: Perfect. Thank you Gil. Speaking a little bit about this year’s upcoming event, we decided to take a completely different approach to the content, dividing it into chapters that we have crafted to mirror the track of today’s CMOs, CMBDOs, managing partners and other professional services leaders. Aside from the chapter in which you will be speaking of course, Gil, I am curious what sessions of the conference you think will be most valuable for someone attending the event holding a similar role to yourself.
Gil: So for me both selfishly and actually as a vendor, it’s really all of them. I am fairly new to the space within the last two years, so I spend a lot of my time listening and learning from my peers as well as our clients. So I am excited to get to participate, not only to speaker, but be able to be there and listen and learn. And one of my favorite selling clichés, if you will, is you have one mouth and two ears and you should use them in that proportion so I am looking at the day as my opportunity to, while I get to speak for half hour, I really want to have my ears open and be able to soak in all the great content as well.
Sunny: Perfect. Well, thank you so much Gil. We are certainly looking forward to hearing more from you at the event and I am sure that you will be able to obtain that value as an attendee as well. Thank you so much again for your time here today. We will look forward to hearing more from you in a few short weeks, June 14, at Gro Pro 20/20.
Gil: Yes, Thanks Sunny, looking forward to being there.
Sunny: Hello everyone. My name is Sunny McCall and I’m Momentum’s Vice President of Content and Experience and Program Director of the upcoming Gro Pro 20/20 event. It is my great pleasure to be here today with Jill Weber. Jill, welcome.
Jill: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Sunny: Thank you, Jill. Jill currently directs marketing and business development initiatives for Stinson Leonard Street, which is a 500-attorney firm with 14 offices. Jill’s responsibilities include strategic planning, business development, training and coaching, lateral integration, client service, client interview, branding, media, social media and advertising. Jill is also actively involved in the Legal Marketing Association and currently sits as President-Elect of the association. Jill, we’ll just go ahead and jump right in here – I see that you come from a very strong background in marketing and communications. I imagine that in a law firm environment the role and responsibilities of a chief marketing and BD officer can often overlap, or even merge, into one role as is current with your position. Thinking a bit about you current role and background in legal and professional services space, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you think these two specialties complement each other to drive strategy within your firm.
Jill: Well that is a great question, and the key from my perspective is really to establish a mutual goal that aligns to the firm’s strategy and then you define how each functional discipline, both marketing and business development, support achievement of that goal. Just by way of example, if the marketing and business development department established a goal of growing revenue profitably, then the business development function of the team would help to achieve that goal by effectively supporting practice groups and attorneys in developing and implementing business plans that target clients, prospects and referral sources. Or another role of the business development team would be to support effective responses to RFPs that meet the needs and would help us to grow revenue profitably.
The marketing team would also help to achieve that goal by creating, for example, content marketing strategy that raises visibility and connects with those same clients, prospects and referral sources. We have seen with the advent of social media that we can actually connect the dots and see direct results from content marketing as well social media in delivering new clients to the firm. Another example would be to create an effective event strategy that would include pre- and post-event activities to maximize the opportunity to convert prospects to clients. So perhaps in a traditional marketing role many years ago, the marketing department function might have been simply to arrange the hotel and send out the right invitation and make sure everybody was in the room. Now, it would be a more strategic approach to targeting exactly who the right people are, where it is quality over quantity. It would also be making sure that the attorneys are prepped well in advance with biographies of all the attendees and know who knows whom and determine what the appropriate post-event follow-up would be.
Sunny: Jill, taking your response to the prior question one step further, how would you say the Chief Marketing and BD Officer’s role has evolved over the past five years, particularly within the law firm environment, and then any thoughts on how you think this role may further evolve in the years to come?
Jill: Yes, I’ve really seen the role become increasingly strategic, as our department can help drive top-line revenue. If you look over all of the administrative support that we provide to law firms, some of the financial and operations departments are very focused on setting the appropriate billing rates, improving realization, managing expenses to increase margins and therefore profitability. In addition, the rise of legal project management and pricing helps us to be more efficient on how we deliver those services. The role that marketing and business development can play, and particularly the Chief Development Officer, is to be strategically focused on sales. You really need both components, the astute financial management and the increased revenue, to achieve results.
I do wonder if eventually the Chief Business Development Officer may have more responsibility for true pipeline management. In a traditional company, a sales force usually has very targeted revenue goals and they look at specific clients to see how much that client has bought, how much might they buy in the future and they establish quotas for people in the sales force. While I’m not recommending that law firms be establishing quotas for partners per se, actually looking at some pipeline management around key clients, particularly institutional clients, or significant business generators, could be an evolution in the Chief Business Development Officer role in the years to come.
Sunny: Thank you, Jill. There has been some talk recently of the emergence of a new role that is a bit of a cross between Marketing, BD and Sales Functions. The role that I’m referring to is the Chief Commercial Officer. What are your thoughts on the creation of this new role and how it may or may not be different from roles like yours or others that currently exist within the professional services sector.
Jill: I think this role is really intriguing. I was doing a bit of research in preparing for this interview and as I saw some of the companies that have a Chief Commercial Officer and looking at what that job description is, it’s going even beyond Marketing, BD and Sales to include product development and customer experience management. Essentially, the Chief Commercial Officer is finding out what the clients need, how to improve that client service experience, and then making sure that the company is producing the right products to deliver on those client needs.
So how that role could be in a law firm would be significantly different than what marketing and business development are currently doing. It could involve advising the firm on developing new services or offerings – which could be technology platforms – or it could be a different way to deliver a service so that it is more cost effective. The delivery model might change for a highly commoditized practice, and many law firms are starting to do this, sometimes using more staff attorneys than partners in delivery of a particular service. But I think that this role would go beyond that into really defining how we best meet the client needs. As you see in many of the surveys, client service is increasingly important and it isn’t just “did we deliver something for the right price?” It is, “are you understanding my business, understanding my business objectives and truly being focused on me, even when you are not working on a matter for me?” I think that’s a really critical component that would be part of the Chief Commercial Officer role, to keep those clients front and center of the partners and firm leadership at all times.
Sunny: Jill, for this year’s Gro Pro event, we decided to take a completely different approach to the conference, dividing the content into chapters that mirror the track of today’s CMOs, CMBDOs, managing partners and other professional services leaders. Aside from the chapter in which you will be speaking of course, is there particular chapter segment that appeals most to you? And if so, why?
Jill: There are a couple of chapter segments that appeal me. One is the discussion that we just started around the role of the Chief Commercial Officer and the evolution of our function within law firms because it has certainly has changed dramatically over the past five to seven years. I am also especially interested in digital innovation and how we can learn from best practices from other professional services firms and even companies outside the professional services realm. We’re increasingly finding that clients and prospects are constantly evaluating our attorneys online and the attorneys aren’t aware of it. An attorney might say to me, “I’ve never gotten a client from LinkedIn.” But the truth is, many clients and prospects are looking at their LinkedIn profile before they decide to pick up the phone and if they don’t see the right keywords or the attorneys haven’t included those keywords, when someone is going to Google and typing in those keywords, that attorney isn’t coming up early in the search results, and that could impact their ability to build business in that space. How are people effectively using social media? One of the things we’ve found is that by using a couple of news aggregators to send out clients alerts to a broader audience, it’s really fascinating how certain subtopics draw more and more eyeballs. You can see that certain topics might get 200 or 300 or 400 readers in a very discrete industry segment whereas other articles that are broadly based may not even have a hundred readers. So all that digital information – big data – really gives us a lot of information. The key is how we harness it and use it to be most effective in communicating with clients and prospects.
Sunny: Jill, in our upcoming Gro Pro 20/20 event you will be delivering a case study presentation of your highly acclaimed Fast Forward program. Without giving too much away, can you share with our listeners today a brief snapshot of exactly what this program is and more importantly the level of results you’ve been able to see from its implementation?
Jill: Absolutely! Fast Forward is an integrated business development program that was designed to help younger partners, typically those who have been partners for 10 years or less, to accelerate revenue growth through a rigorous and systematic approach to business development. This program started at our firm over 12 years ago. We are now implementing our sixth two-year program. What this program does that’s different from others is that it selects partners to be included, it includes both an an individual business plan and a personal coach as well as a group component, bringing people together, both for accountability to their peer group but also assisting with cross-selling. In our inaugural program, many years ago, we had 20 attorneys in the program and they grew their practices $7.5 million over a two year period based on a $150,000 investment.
But that immediate success over two years to me is not the full story. The key is that 9 of those 20 partners have sustainable $1 million+ practices and several of them have gone on to become some of the biggest business generators in the firm. So what we see with this program is that it really addresses what I call the “Valley of Despair” that happens to new partners. When you’re a very successful senior associate and you become a partner, suddenly the work that was assigned to you goes away because you no longer have the title of associate and your partner peers are expecting you to generate your own business. We often see drop-offs in workload and fee receipts for young partners and they don’t know where to turn. What Fast Forward really does is put business development at the forefront, teaches them sustainable habits that will help them both build their own practice and help provide work to other associates, now that they are no longer an associate, for the years to come.
Sunny: Jill, thank you so much for spending some time here with me today. It’s been a pleasure and I am very much looking forward to hearing more from you at the conference.
Jill: Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with you. I am very much looking forward to the conference as well.