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Coaching Industry Trends

Why most business development programs fail (and how to overcome mediocre results).

By Lindsey Martin on May, 16 2019

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Lindsey Martin

By Lindsey Martin

Business Development Director, Ackert Inc.


We recently conducted a market-wide study on business development coaching and training programs. More than 100 senior legal marketers weighed in on the survey, which uncovered the latest trends in cost, effectiveness, behavior change, and ROI of BD programs. Here is one survey finding that you can immediately implement to improve your firm's BD results.

Most business development coaching and training programs do not generate sufficient ROI.

Legal marketers report that business development coaching is the firm's #1 most effective revenue generation activity because it focuses and engages the law firm’s sales force - the lawyers - who would otherwise be too consumed with billable work to attempt to win new business.

While 79% of law firms invest in business development coaching/training programs, their ROI is mostly mediocre (or not even tracked) because of a lack of follow-up or lasting behavior change. Despite the significant cost and time that firms invest in coaching and training programs, they often fall flat with mediocre follow-through and lackluster post-game analysis.




Our recent legal industry survey found that there are many untapped opportunities to optimize coaching and training programs. Here is one example.

Generalized BD instruction is not effective.

When asked about the topic/focus of their coaching/training programs, most respondents reported that their programs imparted general business development skills. Fewer firms reported specialized topics like cross-selling and networking. 


Generalized coaching/training programs can be effective for junior lawyers who are just beginning to familiarize themselves with BD concepts, but most survey respondents reported that their programs had lack of follow-through, no lasting behavior change, and mediocre ROI.

However, a small percentage of survey respondents reported that their programs generated outstanding ROI. Their approach was markedly different from the average in several ways, one of which was the subject matter their programs focused on.


What do high-ROI programs get right?

High-ROI programs place a greater focus on cross-selling and pipeline management than average programs, thereby emphasizing actionable follow-through.

Unlike a traditional chalk-and-talk training that imparts general business development skills without asking lawyers to immediately do much, cross-selling connects lawyers across practice areas and industries, and teaches them to seek out opportunities through the lens of increasing client relationships. Pipeline management is exactly what it sounds like: managing a pipeline of relationships, making successive touch-points, and moving opportunities down the sales funnel.

Both topics, cross-selling and pipeline management, focus on implementation. When training is too general and vague, lawyers lack the tactical instruction they need to follow through effectively.

To generate more ROI, law firms should consider scaling back on general business development training and focus more on implementation-oriented programs.

How to increase business development follow-through.

Law firms using Practice Pipeline report higher lawyer engagement than every other legal software platform on the market. 

Practice Pipeline is a simple pipeline management tool designed to help lawyers capture more business opportunities without wasting a lot of time on data entry. When the software is coupled with coaching, our clients generate outstanding ROI because lawyers have tactical, hands-on instruction and a system that enables follow-through.

Practice Pipeline also uncovers cross-selling opportunities:

  • Lawyers can collaborate with fellow partners on business development pursuits.
  • Marketers can see overlapping relationships between different practice areas at the firm.
  • Transparent reporting features provide oversight on the activity of each lawyer and group.

Case study on outstanding ROI using pipeline management.

Winston & Strawn recently completed their second year using Practice Pipeline - their case study results speak for themselves.

Practice Pipeline case study with Winston Strawn


Visit PracticePipeline.com to learn more and request a demo.


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