BD Survey Reveals Partners are from Jupiter and BD Directors from Saturn

Are BD Directors from Saturn?

Are BD Directors from Saturn?

 An online survey reveals that partners in law firms and BD directors have very different views of the world of business development. It’s as if they’re from different planets. Here are three stark examples:

  1. How much time should be spent on BD activities? Partners think they should spend many more hours than BD staff do!
  2. How much time is actually being spent on BD activities? BD directors think it’s much less than the partners say!
  3. Do partners need more support to carry out their business development? Partners say yes and BD directors think this isn’t a key challenge for partners

One area where partners and BD directors agree is on the main challenges facing partners which, if addressed, would improve marketing performance. They agree that the main challenge is partners being better organised to do follow up BD activities.

Here is the data on the time that partners and BD directors think should be spent on BD activities:

How many hours/ week should be spent on BD activities?

Partners

 

BD Directors

Difference

Partners vs BD Directors

%

%

Less than 2 hrs

7

7

0

3-4 hrs

24

40

-16

5-7 hrs

24

33

-9

8+ hrs

45

20

+25

100

100

0

There are surprising discrepancies and I would have expected the BD directors to have had higher expectations for the time spent by partners on BD activities. Is this just being pragmatic and realistic? Can anybody offer any suggestions to explain these findings?

Here is the data on how much time partners and BD directors thought was actually being spent on BD activities:

How many hours/ week are actually spent on BD activities?

Partners

 

BD Directors

 

Difference

Partners vs BD Directors

%

%

Less than 2 hrs

41

40

+1

3-4 hrs

14

33

-19

5-7 hrs

24

20

+4

8+ hrs

21

7

+14

100

100

0

Firstly we should note that partners spend less time on BD than they think they should. Maybe no surprises there!

Then there is a marked difference of opinion with BD directors, who believe that significantly less time is being invested in BD activities than the partners!

A similar survey carried out within one particular firm enabled us to check individual responses against timesheets. This showed that less time was invested in BD activities than partners thought – though who knows whether we can believe timesheets!

I then wanted to shed some light on partners’ perceptions as to what they found easy and challenging for them on business development. I was keen to cross-check what BD directors thought, to see if the challenges that partners were facing were appreciated and understood by them.

From the higher scores we can see that BD directors thought that partners found most aspects of BD more challenging than the partners did. The marked exception was on whether partners had sufficient support. BD directors ranked this as the least challenging, yet partners scored this much higher (see table):

Business Development Activity

Partners

How challenging

Score (out of 4)*

BD Directors

How challenging

Score (out of 4)*

Difference

BD Directors vs Partners

Being organised to do follow up BD activities

2.8

3.5

+0.7

Finding the time to do BD

2.8

3.0

+0.2

Finding someone to support them

2.6

2.2

-0.4

Remaining enthusiastic after setbacks

2.5

2.9

+0.4

Knowing what to prioritise

2.4

3.1

+0.7

Knowing what to do

2.4

2.5

+0.1

Knowing how to do BD

2.3

2.6

+0.3

*1 = easy – not a problem, 2 = not much of a problem, 3 = some problems, 4 = I find this really challenging

Key conclusions from this table:

  1. Partners and BD directors agree that being organised to do follow up BD activities is the biggest challenge for partners, though BD directors judge this is an even bigger challenge than the partners do
  2. BD directors believe that prioritising what to do is a bigger deficiency than partners do
  3. Partners commented on a lack of support being a problem. BD directors don’t see things that way. This was the only category where BD directors thought it was less of a challenge than the partners did!

Overall Conclusions

This was a relatively small survey – 39 partners and 15 BD directors replied which represented 6% and 14% of the respected samples. I think these responses raise yet further questions (as such surveys often do) than they answer. In particular, I’m surprised firms aren’t doing more to encourage a greater level of BD activity. Partners can’t all be overloaded with chargeable work! What else are partners doing with their time?

Having said that, there is evidence from the survey to reinforce my own belief that lawyers and BD specialists are from different planets!

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