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PIE Growth Leaders Executive Community

PIE powers over 150 executive communities on behalf of over 50 clients. The PIE Growth Leaders Executive Community is hosted by PIE for executives leading the charge of business growth at their companies and is an example of one of the many communities we host for our clients.

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A Community for Business Development Leaders, Powered by PIE

Welcome to the PIE Growth Leaders Executive Community! As fellow travelers in the world of professional services, we know driving growth is both different (and hard!) and requires a unique set of skills, talent, and tools to manage and accelerate effectively. We put this group of peers together to compare notes and share best practices as we collectively navigate the increasingly dynamic landscape of business development in professional services. We meet both virtually and in-person on an ongoing basis to ensure topics are timely and relevant. As a member of the group, you get to set the agenda and drive conversations that add value for you and your firm. Whether you manage a large team of rainmakers or drive a growth strategy that includes your own sales targets, this group is intended to be a helpful sounding board and trusted community of peer advisors. Thank you for joining us!

 

Erika Flowers
Erika Flowers is a Managing Director and Partner at Profitable Ideas Exchange, a business development consulting company in Bozeman, MT.

Host, Erika Flowers

 Topics of Interest Proposed by Members

  • Incentive structures
  • Cross-selling
  • Business development training and workshops
  • Customer journeys
  • Emerging technology
  • Strategic planning

Past Sessions

Executive Summary

April 2024

Host: Erika Flowers
Facilitator: Jacob Parks

At the recent PIE professional services peer exchange, growth leaders converged to discuss best practices around business development reporting, the nuanced differences between sales and growth cultures within organizations, the vital role of training seller-doers in effective business development strategies, the intricacies of compensation structures that incentivize sales activities, and the strategic utilization of technology to bolster BD efforts. Each subject was explored with an eye toward creating actionable insights, with participants sharing challenges, strategies, and plans to harness BD as a tool for sustainable growth.

Business Development Reporting

“Just giving someone access to a dashboard doesn’t mean they are leveraging that data.”

  • The group highlighted the need for effective reporting packages that track activities, opportunities, and wins over time, emphasizing the importance of real-time data as well as historical snapshots.
  • Challenges include ensuring accurate and ongoing data input by teams and leveraging the data by regional leaders to think like sales or BD leaders rather than just seller-doers.
  • A few growth leaders shared plans to hire data analysts to gather data from various systems and present it using tools like Power BI and Tableau. “We publish a monthly report that shows what’s spiking right now, often tied to a certain initiative, like last year with recession talks and high inflation, we highlighted services that made sense in that economic environment to better inform and equip our sales teams with ideas and tools for growth.”
Sales Culture vs. Growth Culture

“Intentionally, I don’t want a sales culture. I want a growth culture. With the seller-doers, it doesn’t play out the same way.” 

  • Participants discussed the distinction between creating a sales-driven culture and nurturing a growth-oriented culture within their organizations.
  • The consensus leaned towards promoting a culture of growth, where business development is aligned with strategy and service rather than aggressive sales tactics.
  • Strategies include focusing on activities that lead to growth, such as cross-selling, and developing a supportive structure for both seller-doers and professional salespeople.
  • Accountability continues to be a challenge in creating a well-run growth team. As one leader mentioned, right now we are just “sharing not should-ing,” but the need to drive towards clearer expectations and accountability around the “should” continues to be important.
Training and Enabling Seller-Doers
  • The importance of training seller-doers to engage in BD activities and overcome challenges in client interactions was highlighted.
  • Various methods such as recording pitches, mock pitches, and office hours for questions were shared as effective ways to build confidence and proficiency in BD.
  • The use of tools like Salesforce cadences to schedule and remind seller-doers of follow-up activities was also discussed. A few leaders shared the need to develop BD training from the inside out, drawing on the expertise of your best rainmakers to drive a culture of growth distinct to your organization.
Compensation Structures

“We had a process where short-term compensation, akin to a commission-like structure, was placed on cross-sales, and the timing issue was handled by making a cash payment to the originating managing director when 80% of the revenue had been collected.”

  • Debates arose around the timing and method of compensating sales activities, particularly the tension between immediate rewards for salespeople versus delayed compensation based on revenue collection.
  • One executive asked how you manage one person getting the credit for a sale and another having the relationship. Another executive argued that some sales leaders spend too much time figuring out who gets the credit, rather than focused on just growing the accounts.
  • Several structures were shared, including a 3, 2, 1 model, with part of the commission paid upon deal signing and the rest based on revenue collection over time.
  • The concept of activity bonuses to support new salespeople during their ramp-up period was also discussed.
Harnessing Technology for BD
  • Participants discussed leveraging technology like CRM systems to manage and track BD activities, reporting, and follow-ups.
  • Challenges include ensuring accurate and timely data entry by teams and using the CRM to its full potential to drive growth activities.
  • Suggestions included the use of sales enablement tools within CRM platforms to automate and prompt BD activities and follow-ups.

Executive Summary

December 2023

Host: Stephanie Cole
Facilitator: Jacob Parks

Sixteen growth leaders met virtually to share leading practices and discuss topics of mutual interest based on an agenda created through advance interviews. The discussion centered on the following topics.

Quote of the Day

“We launched something at the beginning of the year, called ‘See something, do something.’ Basically, we’re trying to teach everybody that they’re in business development. The fact that my staff sees more than the partners do means they know where the problems and the holes are. So, we’ve created an incentive program, and we’re really trying to make sure they understand that sales is not a bad word.”

Use of Personas
Key Takeaway The group had interest in discussing if/how business development leaders are using personas to help generate new business for their firms. While they may not call them personas, several executives mentioned that they do use profile information to target certain prospective customers. One member described how they have identified certain industries that they are working in, both vertically and geographically.
Key Takeaway The group also discussed the use of internal personas, and how they are identifying and clarifying individual roles and responsibilities. While some companies may strongly delineate the roles between sales and business development, others are blurring the lines and encouraging everyone to take responsibility for growing the company. As part of these efforts, executives are trying to identify which types of internal personas are needed (e.g., subject experts on the business development team, or people with good “soft skills” on the sales team).
Key Takeaway One leader is implementing a structure to identify candidates for promotion in business development. The company is evaluating their top 50 producing managing directors, wherever they sit in the company, and coming up with a profile that will better help them evaluate who should get promoted. It is being used to help them identify their needs for new hires as well.
Business Development vs. Seller/Doer

Key Takeaway

Many growth leaders employ a business development versus seller/doer model, where most of their sales team is working on bringing in new logos through colder prospects, and business development is smaller and more strategic, bringing in larger prospects that may take much longer to acquire. Highlighting this dynamic, one executive shared that they have a small business development team that they call the “whale hunters” that is focused on bringing in “big game,” i.e. very large customers that pay off in time.

Key Takeaway

Within the business development and seller/doer model it can be challenging to understand how to best incentivize and compensate these different roles. One member noted that “$1 doesn’t equal $1” when determining compensation percentages on new business. Several leaders made the point that business development teams are more apt to bring in larger accounts and often get more acknowledgement and credit than the sales teams who are working day in and day out to bring in new logos. In response, executives are striving to ensure they are motivating and compensating their sales teams appropriately.

Key Takeaway

Members described different ways of structuring their compensation and incentives. Some companies are using commission models that could apply to any of their sales teams, others are compensating sales and business development differently, and still others are outsourcing the “top of the funnel” cold calling to third party vendors. One member shared that having a vendor cold call new prospects has had a good ROI for their company.

Data and Tracking

Key Takeaway

The group discussed the importance of data and tracking. One member described how their business development strategies are completely systematic, and that data tracking and analysis is a big part of that process. This past year, they put systems in place to measure the BD process from the “top down.” They can now track number of closes, number of opportunities, number of meetings, number of calls, etc. to see where any breakdown in activity is.

Key Takeaway

Another leader pointed out a challenge with tracking too closely. If used well, tracking sales activities in a CRM can be motivating, as going about business development and sales in a systematic way can lead to success. However, when people feel they are being tracked too closely, there can be a natural tendency to try to “game the system.” For example, a sales team member can set up a meeting once a week with the same client, which may satisfy the meeting goal, but not lead to any additional business.

Client Ownership and Expanding Business with Existing Clients

Key Takeaway

The group discussed how many of their organizations are moving away from legacy-owned client accounts toward more shared “ownership” within their companies. For example, one member described how traditionally their company had the policy that if an employee brought in a new customer, they “owned them” for life. Now, leaders are making a cultural shift, where the client/customer relationship is owned by the company and temporarily serviced by the person who brought them in. Another member shared that they now have a two-year limit on “owner” relationships.

Key Takeaway

An important area of business development that often gets overlooked is deepening or expanding relationships with existing customers through upselling, cross-selling and extending contracts. Even though garnering new logos often takes more work, business development often forgets about the possibilities of the customers it already has. A member suggested a focus should be on “the wallet” rather than bringing in new logos, noting that, “if we all really capture the wallet share that we could out of our existing clients, we would never need another new logo.”

Key Takeaway

Another member agreed, adding that when sales teams bring in a new logo, business development has 12 months to expand and sell inside that account. They don’t want business developers to morph into account managers, so having a 12-month window really incentivizes them to grow the account before the deadline.

Executive Summary

September 2023

Host: Matt Ulrich
Facilitator: Jacob Parks

Nineteen growth leaders met virtually to share leading practices and discuss topics of mutual interest based on an agenda created through advance interviews. The discussion centered on the following topics.

Quote of the Day

“We have an institutional kind of immersion here to sales and marketing and partnering outside of the business. Literally, I feel like my job is that I sell every day to change the hearts and minds of folks in order to kind of adopt the best practices that we probably all know that we should be doing.”

Business Development Structures

 

Key Takeaway

The discussion opened with an invitation to participants to share how their BD teams were organized. There was specific interest about designated sales-focused roles and the allocation of dedicated resources to business development functions.

Key Takeaway

A participant shared they were two years into their forecasted ten-year plan of a two billion dollar growth. Their structure consists of primarily sales-oriented roles while also maintaining a network of business development professionals across different service lines. They are currently undergoing significant improvements to client-focused channels for private equity and law firms and are even restructuring certain roles to report through sales and business development channels. To support these changes, they are looking to hire sales leaders for roles that align with the organization’s preference.

Key Takeaway

While the nomenclature around “sales” has acquired a stigma in the business development industry, one executive expressed interest in exploring strategies for cross-selling after senior leadership emphasized the need for internal buy-in. An executive shared they oversee a department around 125 members that involve go-to-market activities, including sales and client management. Their team makeup includes net new logo sellers, client partners, marketing specialists and pre-sale experts. They emphasized relying on experience to handle complex sales cycles to build credibility.  

Key Takeaway

Another company is experiencing significant growth, going from $700 million in revenue in 2019 to over $2.5 billion in the last year after the increased demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently their structure is undefined but consists of a mix of subject matter experts and industry generalists.  

Land & Expand

Key Takeaway

Companies for the most part are utilizing a combination of a seller-doer model with some business development resources allocated to channel specific buyers. One executive shared how they felt the need to change the culture on the consulting side to adopt stronger sales practices. Their organization utilizes a conventional framework consisting of marketing, business development and sales departments. They went on to highlight their product division has undergone substantial growth and has accounted for 35% of the total revenue.

Key Takeaway

Another participant shared that they shifted their seller-doer model in 2020 to accommodate emerging partners lacking sales development opportunities and client access due to reduced face-to-face meetings. To adapt, they established a national sales organization for consulting, taking a customer-centric approach and focusing heavily on sales.

Key Takeaway

Finding specialized sellers with expertise in products like Salesforce and Sage poses a challenge for companies looking to expand upon their business development teams. In legal services businesses the expectation is on an individual to handle all aspects of client support; to replicate that, one organization has created an internal coaching program.

Key Takeaway

Organizations operating in multiple locations are finding that different geographical business landscapes are creating silos. One organization is transitioning to a matrix structure for business development across the different locations. A location-based approach helps create continuity in managing client relationships and pipelines. Cross-selling can also help align efforts based on their client’s needs rather than utilizing service lines.

Key Takeaway

Compensation structures and training programs are a good way to incentivize and support cross-selling efforts. One firm shared how their compensation approach has evolved over time, moving away from origination as it promoted client hoarding. However, now with the renewed emphasis on placing the value of origin on new client relationships they are now having to realign their compensation. They highlighted the need for differentiating between those who bring in new clients versus those who facilitate cross sales between existing clients.

Key Takeaway

Fostering a culture of cross-selling within an organization can be challenging as one executive shared that not all attempts of commission-based incentive structures are met without resistance. Instead, their focus has shifted towards making cross-selling an integral part of the organization through enhanced visibility, implementing communication strategies and promoting collaboration and trust.

 Membership

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About PIE

Profitable Ideas Exchange, a Bozeman, Montana-based company founded in 2001, is a trusted business development partner for consulting and professional service firms. Our mission is to cultivate meaningful connections between our clients and high-level executives. We foster executive communities, client advisory boards, and thought leadership projects, delivering tangible results. PIE provides comprehensive training services to empower our clients’ business development teams.