A profound shift in professional services will shape the marketing and business development teams of tomorrow. Simmons & Simmons has developed a best-in-class model to equip its team with the knowledge, skills and tools needed, writes Luc Delauzun.

In the dynamic landscape of professional services, the role of marketing and business development teams is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Once predominantly immersed in administrative tasks, marketing and business development professionals are now stepping into the spotlight as advisors, engaging clients directly and bearing greater responsibility for generating revenue.

Amidst this paradigm shift, firms must grapple with the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into their marketing and business development operations, which has the potential to reshape the very fabric of their teams.

However, beneath this technological turbulence, a more profound challenge lies in the need to equip teams with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in this ever-evolving world. The winds of change are sweeping across professional services, and those firms that resist adaptation are already finding themselves at a disadvantage.

Historically, professional and financial services have been perceived as slow to embrace new technologies. However, behind the scenes, a quiet revolution is underway, driven by innovation and the relentless march of digital progress. The introduction of new systems and technologies is creating an imperative for training and development, which is integral to keeping marketing and business development teams relevant and effective.

To confront this challenge, our strategy at Simmons & Simmons revolves around dissecting the development of our global marketing and business development function into three distinct areas: our offer, tools and technology, and sales.

Understanding our offering

In the quest to foster strong client relationships and cross-sell services, having a foundational understanding of the sectors served and the services offered is crucial. While our marketing and business development teams are not expected to be legal scholars, we have witnessed the profound effects of raising knowledge levels across our business. This elevation has enabled us to connect the dots between practice groups and our international offices more effectively.

Our approach involves organising bite-sized educational sessions led by lawyers on the services and products we offer to our clients. The results have been staggering, and we have now amassed a comprehensive digital library of recorded sessions that expedite the onboarding process for new team members. Whether you need an overview of the private equity life cycle or want to better understand the challenges of multi-jurisdictional data transfer we have a 30-minute summary.

Leveraging the tools and technology

In the arsenal of a thriving marketing and business development function, there exists a treasure trove of tools, yet many firms scarcely scratch the surface of their potential. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems, marketing automation tools and pitch-building platforms are but a few of the assets at their disposal.

One survey, conducted by one of our service providers, IntroHive, found in a survey that “less than 5% of lawyers use CRM for business development at the majority of law firms (59%)”, leaving valuable opportunities for growth on the table.

Our strategy entails curating training content from our international team, leveraging those having the most success with different tools. We focus on the tools most likely to enhance efficiency or improve the client experience. It is an incontrovertible truth that a well-equipped marketing and business development team using the wealth of data they hold leads to more fruitful interactions with clients. Such interactions, in turn, open the doors to greater opportunities and revenue generation.

Client first: The art of sales

The transformation of business development teams in professional services has been nothing short of remarkable. The shift away from desk-bound administrative work to the realm of client relationship development and opportunity identification is palpable. Job boards now teem with client and relationship manager roles that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. It’s high time we dispelled the notion that ‘sales’ is a dirty word. A significant portion of business development revolves around soft skills – skills that cannot be overlooked. Relationships are pivotal in a client’s choice of a law firm. We have, therefore, laid great emphasis on the development of these skills.

While solid client relationships between our lawyers and clients are vital, we’re increasingly finding that diversifying client relationships to include marketing and business development team members is equally crucial. The benefits of this diversification are vast. It eases the strain on lawyers, who can then focus on delivering exceptional client service, rather than juggling numerous relationships. It also mitigates the risk of clients moving with any departing lawyer and, most importantly, allows for a more holistic approach to better supporting clients across a broader spectrum of services.

We offer comprehensive training on effective client listening and networking at events, recognising that the art of relationship-building is a potent tool in the marketing and business development toolkit. This approach not only elevates efficiency and opportunity development but also serves as a pillar for employee retention. While our training programmes are offered on an optional basis, we are delighted to observe high engagement levels across our international offices. Gathering feedback annually, we fine-tune our themes and content to ensure their enduring impact.

In conclusion, it is imperative to acknowledge that personal responsibility for development remains a cornerstone of professional growth. Nevertheless, employers bear a significant responsibility to provide the opportunities that enable their marketing and business development teams to flourish in this ever-evolving professional services landscape.

As we embrace the winds of change, the importance of training and development for marketing and business development teams is beyond dispute. It is the vessel that will carry us into the future, ensuring that we not only survive but thrive in a dynamic, AI-driven world where relationships, knowledge and adaptability are paramount.

Luc Delauzun leads marketing and business development for Simmons & Simmons in Asia across six offices. Luc has shared responsibility for the global marketing and business development training academy for Simmons & Simmons for the past three years

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