Welcome to the

PIE Growth Leaders Exchange

A Community for Business Development Leaders, Powered by PIE

As a fellow executive in the professional services industry, I understand the challenges and complexities you face daily in selling your expertise. I wanted to take this opportunity to shed light on these issues and introduce you to a peer network that could provide an outlet for your continued growth and success.

The landscape of selling professional services is fundamentally different from traditional product-based sales. It requires a unique approach because, instead of selling attributes or tangible items, you are essentially selling trust, credibility, and expertise. Building this level of trust with clients and prospects can be a daunting task, especially in the face of economic uncertainty, where clients may be tightening their belts and postponing transformative projects.

Recognizing these challenges, I have spent over two decades assisting expert services firms in cultivating meaningful relationships with their clients and thinking innovatively about their growth strategies. PIE’s expertise has led us to author two influential books on the consultative sales process, namely Never Say Sell (how to navigate cross-selling) and How Clients Buy (building trust and credibility with new logos). PIE powers a peer network of like-minded growth executives to address these issues and foster a stronger community in an environment that fosters conversation and connection. It will provide you with access to a wealth of experience, knowledge, and support from professionals who understand the unique intricacies of our industry. The intended outcome is to provide a mechanism that allows you to overcome the hurdles of selling professional services and unlock new avenues for growth and success.

I look forward to having your participation in the network.

 

Jacob Parks

Testimonial

“The landscape of selling professional services is fundamentally different from traditional product-based sales.”

Jacob Parks standing in a grassy field

Host, Jacob Parks

Upcoming Session

Breakout Session

Ethics + Generative AI – April 20, 2023
    Agenda featuring Guest Presenter, Professor Luciano Floridi
    • An overview of generative AI | ChatGPT today
    • Implications and considerations | Ethics and regulation
    • What is to come?
    • Questions and answers with participants, open discussion

    The structure is intended to be a fireside chat, listening to Professor Floridi’s insights with ample time for questions and dialog

    About Professor Floridi

    Luciano Floridi is currently the OII Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford and Professor of Sociology of Culture and Communication at Studiorum University of Bologna, where he directs the Centre for Digital Ethics.  Starting this July, he will be the new Founding Director of the Digital Ethics Center of Yale University, also serving as Professor in the Cognitive Science Program.

    World-renowned as one of the most authoritative voices of contemporary philosophy, he is considered the founding father of the philosophy of information and one of the major interpreters of the digital revolution.  He is deeply engaged with policy initiatives on the socio-ethical value and implications of digital technologies and their applications and collaborates closely on these topics with many governments and companies worldwide.  He has published more than 300 works on the philosophy of information, digital ethics, the ethics of AI, and the philosophy of technology.

    Show More

    Many HR leaders are choosing to answer these questions with a mindset shift. Some are piloting creative ideas to bring people into the office such as bringing in food trucks and providing warm and welcoming office space, surveying associate-level employees to determine what they want as well as piloting cross-pollination opportunities among different business lines to promote internal career development and job growth. In our most recent HR Executives Network Exchange, one executive shared that their company had been successful in piloting a project which opened recruitment opportunities to current employees in an effort to engage and retain them. The CEO fully supported the process, which reinforces that this mindset shift must come from the top down, or it is likely to fail.

    Not only is it imperative that leadership understand the evolving workplace, but the era of the Great Reshuffle has also changed hiring practices and compounded the HR challenge of bringing in multiple candidates for one position as so many have proven they will take another, competing offer. Beyond pay, employees are demanding flexibility. And with that flexibility, HR leaders are seeing unintentional internal workplace inequalities caused by the hybrid workplace. For some, video platforms like Zoom or Teams were the great equalizers, and HR Executives are now asking: What does it look like when bias starts to seep into the workplace environment because some employees are in-person and others are on the screen? Workplace culture now exists in multiple spaces, on multiple platforms.

    So, as some creative solutions are finding success, questions remain. As one executive reflected on our recent Exchange, they asked: are we becoming over-accommodating and allowing employees to dictate terms? And as we look beyond the Great Reshuffle, how does this model bode for a healthy organizational culture in the long-term?

    At the end of the day, HR leaders continue to find value in connecting with their peers and knowing that while there might not be a silver bullet to solve for hiring and retention, they are not alone in tackling macro-employment shifts. Building a stable culture that serves the employees while also navigating compensation and benefits is no easy task – especially today.

    Past Sessions

    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.

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    About PIE

    PIE is a business development consulting firm based out of Bozeman, MT. Throughout the last 20 years, we have designed a proprietary platform for building executive communities that drive peer-to-peer engagement and foster trusted relationships on behalf of their clients.