BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 07 AUG 2015


I had the pleasure recently of facilitating the “Chairman’s BD Bootcamp” and found myself with a slightly nervous collection of twenty handpicked partners at 8.30am – all wondering quite what the Chairman had in store for them and why he’d chosen the drill hall of an army reserve base as the venue for the event. There was an expectation that someone would shout “drop and give me twenty!” but they needn’t have worried. The Chairman explained that he had planned something fiendish like that but had found that it wasn’t allowed. Health and safety, eh?

It was a challenging but productive day, helping to corral and cajole clever, strong-willed partners; teasing out action points for their business development push in their sector. One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was listening to some of the senior partners who had come along to speak, sharing the benefit of their experience of decades of business development activity. One story caught my attention because it contains a very simple message for lawyers, accountants and others in the world of professional and financial services.

A big hitter was recounting how as a new, young and hungry partner he tagged along to a business development meeting with the now Chairman. He was excited because this senior partner was and is highly regarded as a great ambassador and fantastic rainmaker. He was sure he must have some incredibly engaging way of pitching the firm’s services, some wonderful way of articulating this that seduced, even hypnotised, prospective clients. An hour later the young partner left the meeting and they went to a nearby café for a debrief.

Junior partner: So that was a BD meeting?

Senior partner: Yes.

Junior partner: A pitch meeting? To get business?

Senior partner: Yes.

Junior partner: But for about 55 minutes of the hour all you did was listen.

Senior partner: Yes.

Junior partner: Ahhhhhhhhh…

Now it’s really important you have a pitch, or a number of pitches. But before you try to pitch anything you need to be listening. It was a timely reminder to everyone to consider whether in practice they are listening well enough, including me! Yesterday I spent a day with our MD going to five different business development meetings; she is a master at empathetic listening, questioning and being ask assertive rather than tell assertive; in other words making the solution their idea. I’d only give myself seven out of ten for listening and always need to be mindful of stopping and checking before getting my pitch out there. If you’re an “expressive” on a social styles behavioural model like me it can be hard to hold yourself back.

Do so, it works like magic. Be patient, there’s always time later for the pitch.


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about the author

Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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