Addressing and Sidestepping Uncertainties in Team-Based Selling
Over the past few decades I have seen a marked increase in team-based business development, especially now in my role as executive director of a leading law firm network. Interestingly, in many ways it’s easier to support our network-based business development teams who come from diverse, independent firms in jurisdictions across the globe than it is to support a pitch team from one firm, particularly one with lawyers from multiple offices.
As I tried to figure out why that is, I realized what works in the network setting offers important lessons to any law firm focused on collaborative business development. Here is a short list of some of the leading challenges in team-based selling and some ideas on how to overcome these challenges.
- Who’s in the Lead?
Someone has to take the lead and call the shots. This is simply good group dynamics. Unless a team has worked consistently together for a while, assume any pitch team will be in the early stages of group development. In this stage, it’s best to have a “command and control” leader who ensures everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and has enough information about the prospect to play their role well. Business development professionals can really help here by guiding the leader to be sure there are no uncertainties for the team. They can do this by creating meeting schedules, clearly delineating roles and responsibilities, and communicating a good understanding of the prospect, their industry and the opportunity.
- Where Is Credit Due? And How?
A key uncertainty that needs to be clarified is who gets credit and in what format? In a network, any partner who is a member of the team can get origination credit in their firm, and that might provide lessons for individual firm teams. Is there a way to divide credit among the key members of the team? If not origination credit, can each member get a significant amount of credit in other ways to make their participation worthwhile? For business development professionals, it’s important to understand your firm’s compensation system and how that can either incentivize or hamper team-based efforts.
- How Can We Get on the Same Page?
Particularly when teams are not all in the same office, using technology can really help with team-based business development. For example, project management software allows a team to plan out the steps in their process and follow through more easily. Intranets for the team help memorialize important information, such as the prospect’s industry information, key deadlines, drafts of deliverables for review and comment, and more. Videoconferencing is also a good idea for team meetings so no one can easily hide behind the phone — it helps each team member become a more active participant.
- What and How Do We Communicate?
Unless something is highly confidential, the team should share any and all information. For instance, if someone learns of an important industry development that would enhance the approach to the prospect, it is important to have a mechanism for that information to be shared. Listservs, chat boards and team meetings all help facilitate better communications. The team leader can also improve full-group communication by demonstrating strong and consistent communication.
Group projects are notoriously difficult. That can be magnified tenfold when working in a law firm setting — increasing uncertainties and challenges. Hopefully, however, my experience in this area can help you anticipate roadblocks so your team can excel.