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Business Development Coaching

From "Meh" to Great: How to Drastically Improve the ROI of Your Business Development Coaching/Training Programs

By David Ackert on June, 6 2019

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David Ackert

David Ackert is the president and CEO of Ackert, Inc, the company behind PipelinePlus.


When it comes to enabling revenue generation, legal marketers have their work cut out for them. 62% of firms are increasing their emphasis on marketing and business development efforts because there is more pressure to generate revenue, fewer opportunities, and stiffer competition.

Coaching/Training is Not a Magic Bullet.


One of the most popular responses to this pressure is business development coaching/training programs. However, even these leave a lot to be desired when it comes to ROI.

Our recent industry survey found that for most firms, the ROI of coaching/training programs is either un-tracked or mediocre. For many firms, the new revenue generated by participating lawyers barely broke even with the firm's investment in the program.



The 5 Traits of Highly Effective Business Development Programs.


Our study found that there are many untapped opportunities to optimize coaching and training programs, which will assist lawyers in competing for new work and enable the firm to generate a better ROI. Here are the top 5 things you can do to improve your results.

  1. Invest more time, not necessarily more money. To generate a high return, firms don’t necessarily need to spend more money to make more money. Investing time is far more important - both for marketers and for participating lawyers. Even if the coaching program is mostly outsourced, it’s critical for internal marketers to be involved in the process, or else the benefits of the program will cease as soon as the external coach leaves.

  2. Provide different formats to different cohorts of lawyers. It’s important for associates to receive training on general business development concepts early in their careers, but it’s expensive and time-consuming. Use a scalable training format like e-learning or classroom-style training for junior lawyers, and reserve more hands-on coaching for senior lawyers. Coaching should focus heavily on implementation, cross-selling, and pipeline management.

  3. Secure buy-in across the firm, especially with leadership. Coaching and training programs perform significantly better when there are high levels of buy-in from leadership. It is incumbent upon marketers to present compelling business cases to firm leadership in order to secure buy-in for these programs. Case studies, well-tracked pilot programs, and data visualization tools can position these programs in the best light and set them up for greater success.

  4. Provide a combination of group and one-on-one coaching. For partners who are beginning to build their own book of business, accountability is a key component to ongoing success. Providing a combination of group and one-on-one meetings helps with two psychological angles to accountability: group meetings foster a sense of “peer pressure” that inspires lawyers to compete at the risk of falling behind their peers. And one-on-one meetings create a “captive audience” where it is difficult to multitask and easy to focus on making touch-points with the relationships in their networks.

  5. Provide a combination of internal and outsourced resources. Marketers can leverage external coaches, trainers, and technology service providers if their bandwidth is too limited to manage the entire business development initiative. They can often accomplish a greater ROI by leveraging the expertise of service providers, too. But if the entire initiative is outsourced, the results won’t last. Marketers must be empowered to work with the lawyers and, ideally, repeat the initiative with other cohorts throughout the firm. Train-the-Trainer programs can be particularly effective at teaching marketers to coach and manage their own programs internally.


How to Implement a Low-Cost, Scalable BD Program Across the Firm

Our firm has launched an innovative BD model that is not only scalable across any law firm, but maximizes different lawyers' capabilities, time availability, marketing bandwidth, and marketing budget. It's called the BD Training Pyramid.



Firms should start by ignoring the unwilling and unmotivated lawyers; investing in them is a waste of time and money. Then, divide the population of willing lawyers into seniority cohorts and provide tailored training to each one.


Tier 1: Associates – Classroom Training, E-learningpractice-boomers-laptop-iphone
At the bottom level, associates are given low-cost, one-to-many training seminars or an e-learning program like Practice Boomers. Minimal coaching involvement is required on the part of marketing, as group coaching sessions are only held monthly or quarterly. Participation, engagement and click-through are tracked at this level to determine which lawyers are most engaged in BD, warranting further investment in Tier 2.

Tier 2: Senior Associates and Junior Partners – Group Coaching
In the center, a smaller group of junior-to-mid-level partners are given individual coaching by internal marketers or external coaches. A high-adoption pipeline management tool like Practice Pipeline can be used to track their activities and originations. 

Tier 3: Client / Industry Teams - Group Strategy Sessions
Client and industry teams should meet quarterly to develop and track an expansion plan. The plan should include cross-selling and pipeline management, two of the most effective BD methods for senior lawyers.


Tier 4: High-Value Partners - Individual Coachingpractice-pipeline-e1538409399293-768x426
At the top of the pyramid, a small group of high-value partners are given individual coaching by internal marketers or external coaches (or a combination of internal/external resources). Their activities should also be tracked in some kind of pipeline management system, and cross-selling between practice areas should be encouraged. Emerging rainmakers rising up through the firm's ranks are eventually invited to Tier 4.

In addition to being scalable, the BD Training Pyramid enables a firm to implement a static, institutionalized BD training structure through which lawyers can advance into higher echelons as they mature through the ranks of the firm.

Rather than reinventing the wheel once every year and trying some new business development coaching firm or training idea, the BD Training Pyramid model can be used at firms of all sizes to provide relevant content, support and accountability for every lawyer without straining marketing’s budget or bandwidth.

We invite you to pilot this model at your firm and adapt it to your culture and needs. We're happy to provide assistance and insights from our experience implementing it with other firms.


Case Study

bd-coaching-plan-1We piloted the BD Training Pyramid with a 500-lawyer East coast firm (who wishes to remain anonymous for the purposes of this blog), and after one year they had achieved a 635% ROI using Practice Boomers, Practice Pipeline, and a combination of internal/external coaching by our faculty.

Let us know if you would like to see a demo of our software. Our clients typically generate ROI that is 3X to 15X their investment in the program.


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