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The Evolution of Business Development in Professional Services Firms

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Written by Erica Stritch
Vice President, RAIN Group

I was in a meeting last week, and we started talking about the evolution of professional services firms and the roles individuals play when it comes to their business development responsibilities. As many of you may have surmised and probably experienced, economic realities and changes within firms have altered who must be involved.


Professional Services Business Development Then

When a professional services firm started 25 years ago the original founders and partners were responsible for bringing in all the new business. After all, they were the only ones in the firm, so their success as a firm and as individuals counted on it. This founding group of individuals had the desire and commitment to succeed in selling.

When it came time to hire new people, all they needed were doers. They needed accountants, consultants, and lawyers who were good at the technical delivery of the trade. The individual's ability to sell didn't matter because the founders and partners were responsible for bringing in the new business. This built the firm dynamic where a few senior rainmakers bring in the business to feed the rest of the firm.


Professional Services Business Development Now

Flash forward to 25 years later...

The founders and partners are retiring. The staff they've hired over the years are very good at delivering the services; however, they don't have the skills to sell. And they don't necessarily have the desire or the commitment to try to sell as the early founders did. After all, if they don't want to sell they can just go work for one of the big consulting, law, or accounting firms and have a decent career delivering the services they love to deliver and never have to worry about bringing in new clients.

There's been a paradigm shift, and professional services firms are running into problems because they don't have the people who can sell or who have the desire to learn to sell.

This leads to the big questions: Where will the next generation of rainmakers come from? What's a firm to do?

What has been your experience in developing new rainmakers in your firm?