Does your firm want to implement a sector strategy? Or are you a generalist BD looking to move into a sector specialist role?
Our guest on this episode of A Legal High is Darren Milo. Darren worked for over 20 years in strategic business development with global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, both in Australia and the UK. He now runs a consulting practice working with law and other professional services firms, consulting across the broad field of business development and partner coaching. But with a passion and vast experience on sector and client-led strategies in law firms.
In this episode, Darren shares his experience on:
- How a sector-led strategy brings clarity and collaboration to winning work
- Why firms that encourage their BDMs to go out and build their ‘little black book’ win more business
- Why partners must act as the ‘guiding coalition’ for a sector strategy to be successful
- How to transition from a BD generalist to sector specialist
About our guest, Darren Milo
Darren Milo is the founder and Principal Consultant of D Milo Consulting Services. With a global understanding of how teams work within professional services, Darren offers a range of services including strategic planning through to individual coaching and personal development. Darren thrives on finding and creating the space for individuals to shine.
In this podcast, Darren references:
Transcript – Ready Sector Go with Darren Milo
Graham Seldon: [00:00:44]
In today’s podcast, Ready Sector Go, I talk to Darren Milo, who worked for over 20 years in strategic business development with global law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, both in Australia and the UK. He now runs a consulting practice working with law and other professional services firms, consulting across the broad field of business development and partner coaching. But with a passion and vast experience on sector and client led strategies in law firms. In this information-packed episode, Darren will share his views on:
- Encouraging BD professionals to be out in the market, filling their little black book of contacts to win more business and develop a sales pipeline
- Why law firms partners must act as the guiding coalition for a sector strategy to be successful
- As well as advice to generalist practice group BD managers on how they can transition to a sector-focused role.
Take a listen and take some notes.
Graham Seldon: [00:01:39]
Welcome, Darren, it’s nice to see you.
Darren Milo: [00:01:41]
Thanks, Graham. Good to be here.
Graham Seldon: [00:01:43]
So Darren, industry sectors for law firms. It’s been the big ticket for the last five years in the market in terms of hiring people into these areas. Law firms have been grappling with doing a sector BD strategy and you’re a guru in this, so I’m really keen to sort of drill into it.
Darren Milo: [00:02:04]
It’s a big word, guru!
Graham Seldon: [00:02:04]
Well, let’s see, we’ll know at the end of the podcast!
Graham Seldon: [00:02:07]
But what I’m really keen to know from you is at what point did sector strategy become important for law firms and what do you think led to this?
Darren Milo: [00:02:16]
Look, I think for me it’s always been about clients driving the expectations. So what what we’re hearing and what I’ve seen over over many years is your clients have been the ones that are really driven this and law firms in particular and other professional service firms need to listen to what the clients have been saying. So if you look at any client inside mechanism, so whatever the firm utilizes in respect to for gathering client insight be it its own client listening program, something from Beaton’s research, Acritas’ Sharplegal services, whatever it is, I could safely say that any of these particular pieces of research, one of the top five things that will that will come out of that is they want people that understand their business and sector, understand their industry. Now, that will be a lock for any type of criteria that people make actually – purchasing decisions. So they want their service providers to really understand that. And for me, that’s been what has started this off in terms of what has led to it, in terms of firms actually just thinking okay we need to actually have some form of sector strategy, it is just listening to that and matching the client’s expectations. So if they don’t do that, you’re what are they actually doing? They need to be in a position whereby the clients are actually saying, hey, that’s actually really good insight. That particular firm or that particular organization actually know our business and just by them flipping that they understand our sector.
Graham Seldon: [00:04:20]
Let’s talk about sectors. Because, I mean, there are loads of sectors. What sectors are usual? How would you prioritize your sectors?
Darren Milo: [00:04:28]
Look, good point. In terms of to prioritizing sectors, it is going to be different for all organizations. So when we look at a sector, it is just a group of companies that are operating in the same field, same area be it energy, mining, pharmaceutical, TMT. And then there’s subsets of all those type of industries, the banking sector, whatever it may be.
Darren Milo: [00:04:57]
So in terms of what’s important to organizations, it’s a myriad of who their clients are, the type of work that they’re actually delivering. So you can look at ANSZIC and ANSZIC categorize sectors and a lot of firms utilize those type of codings to categorize their own sector strategy. But in saying that it’s the ones that firms focus on will be relevant to them.
Graham Seldon: [00:05:31]
Yeah. Now, you were very involved in the Herbert Smith Freehills move towards a global sector strategy. You were there for over 10 years. Can you talk us through the key milestones that you plotted along the way? What steps did you take to even get a sector strategy off the ground? Never mind a global strategy. How did you just get it off the ground?
Darren Milo: [00:05:51]
Yeah, look, I’ve been fortunate enough, Graham, to do this process twice for my sins. And once back in the Freehills days leading up to the to the merger, part of that was just to get the firm really, really organized and really structured around sectors.
Darren Milo: [00:06:11]
The more substantive project, obviously was in the establishment of Herbert Smith Freehills. And one of the original things that the firm did from a strategic point of view was focus on sectors. So I was able to run that project globally with the help of my colleagues. And it was a substantive piece of work.
Darren Milo: [00:06:36]
For me, and this is one key point. What a sector strategy is, if you are implementing a sector strategy in a firm (and this an accounting firm, law firm, engineering, whatever it might be),essentially, it’s a piece of change. It is a change program. You have to keep that in mind.
Darren Milo: [00:06:57]
So you look at you go back to something like Cotter’s leading change principles and you look at some of those principles and they were hallmarks of what actually the way Herbert Smith Freehills at that time, the way they followed.
Darren Milo: [00:07:17]
So, number one, if there’s three or four key things to take out of this. Number one, it’s you’ve got to have a strong rationale for why you’re doing it. It’s not just “oh, let’s have a sector strategy. Okay great, let’s go ahead and and do it.” Why is it a good idea in the first place? What is it going to bring to the firm? What benefits is it going to have to the partnership? To the to the client base?
Darren Milo: [00:07:47]
So one just had a strong rationale for why we’re actually doing this. What does it look like? How’s it going to feel? How is this place going to be different by having a sector strategy? Number two, and again, this really plays into Cotter’s approach to leading change, is having a range of partner leaders throughout the process, across the organization.
Darren Milo: [00:08:16]
His words were the guiding coalition.
Graham Seldon: [00:08:18]
Darren Milo: [00:08:19]
So you need a group of people that have bought into this process, so it doesn’t just look like it’s a top down dump or business development running off to, you know, input this strategy into the firm. It has to be a broad range approach. And with that, you need the strong leadership at the top of the firm. And in the case of Herbert Smith Freehills, it was the Managing Partner of Clients and Sectors at that time. And now it’s the current outgoing CEO, Mark Rigotti. He was very visible and he was very present and was very I suppose very supportive and and great on the communication about why we’re doing this.
Darren Milo: [00:09:05]
Point three had a very structured approach, have set really specific templates in order to actually analyze each sector. And then the process that we followed was was the set templates would be would be internally analyzed. You would have input from a range of different stakeholders. You need to engage the stakeholders engage the people that are passionate about that sector in the firm, they need to feel that they have a say. And we’ve got to get down to the nitty gritty that they are the owners of the firm. So they do have an invested interest in the overall strategy of the firm. So give them the opportunity to reimport. And that’s what we did. That was presented to the board and to the executives.
Darren Milo: [00:10:00]
Implementation. Point 4 implementation – constantly report on the progress. It’s really, really important. Now, some of the recommendations that came through the process that we followed were significant enough to identify opportunities where the firm could see particular sectors, but maybe lack the skill set or lack the resources to go and tackle that. So part of that involved lateral hiring again. In one example, the opportunities were that significant in one particular sector that actually helped the business case to open up a brand new office.
Graham Seldon: [00:10:43]
Darren Milo: [00:10:44]
Yet it’s substantive. It was due to the opportunities that were identified throughout the sector analysis. So and part of that is know what are we doing now for the client base? What do we want to be doing in the future is really important as well. I’ve heard that on your podcast in the past as well about it’s not just about the now. Where do we want to be in two or three years time in this sector? The type of clients, you know, the type of work, but also just as important, I think this was a critical thing that was really tough, but it needed to have those type of conversations. Which clients would it be difficult for the firm to work for? And the type of work that it would be difficult for them to do from a legal or commercial conflict perspective. So it was not just about identifying. You know, those clients the firm wanted to work for, type of work around the world, and that delivers focus as well. So that was the big thing that we wanted to get out of this was where do you focus your energies. And that was a that’s a really key point.
Graham Seldon: [00:11:56]
Those four points give you guru status! You can go now. So much in that answer. What I’m going to come back BD on that is that all sounds fantastic when you work for Herbert Smith Freehills, you know, 50 plus BD and marketers around the world, leadership that’s on board. the strategy that, you know, delivered back in the day. All of these things. Brilliant. What if you’re working for a smaller and you’re a BD person? You may have just arrived as the head of BD or a senior BD manage. And you’ve come from a business that’s got sector strategy. One of the reasons I’ve hired you is to develop a sector strategy. You’ve got all these lawyers who can be skeptical about a sector approach. I mean, let’s face it, they’re trained in their specialists practice areas. So if you’re that BD person and then you don’t necessarily have the leadership coming from, if they really understand the benefits, what are you going to say? What would you say to lawyers who just need to be told what the benefits are for them as an individual practitioner of a sector strategy?
Darren Milo: [00:12:59]
Yeah. Good, good query. I think for me, I’d flip that and almost go back to my first point. And the question that I would ask the lawyers in that situation is, would a deeper understanding of your client’s business, and by default their sector, be of benefit to those clients? Now, the short answer to that is yes. [00:13:25] It [00:13:26] just has to be. It’s obvious. So one thing that I know and while I go back to the HSF example, it wasn’t all just smooth sailing. There was a lot of skepticism all over the world.
Darren Milo: [00:13:40]
And part of it was, well, hang on, I’m a specialist. That’s what I do. I can do anything for anyone, Graham. They’re not going to lose their specialist practice area knowledge. That’s what they’re there for.
Graham Seldon: [00:13:54]
But doesn’t a sector strategy, sort of force them to work, to collaborate more together?
Darren Milo: [00:13:59]
Great word. That’s the key thing. It’s about commonalities. It’s about commonalities of interest in particular areas. And largely it’s about OK, if we’re working for a group of clients, let’s chat to our person in the employment area that’s working with that particular client or those clients in the financial services sector. What are they seeing? What can I learn from them? What can I learn from our financial services people that are working in that space? You know, if I’m a transactional lawyer, if I’m a M&A partner or lawyer or senior associate, whatever the level you may be, find other people that are working for similar clients. It just makes sense.
Graham Seldon: [00:14:39]
Is this what BD can do, because I think that if you’re relying on lawyers to connect the dots and go seek out other lawyers.
Darren Milo: [00:14:45]
No, they can’t do it.
Graham Seldon: [00:14:45]
BD people need to do it.
Darren Milo: [00:14:47]
Yeah, we’re the conduit.
Graham Seldon: [00:14:48]
So, if you really want to get a sector strategy off the ground, one the things that you have to do, what I’m hearing from you is you have to try to facilitate as many opportunities for your lawyers to get together and share information about what they’re working on and who they’re working for.
Darren Milo: [00:15:02]
Absolutely as I mentioned before, the word conduit, I’ve utilize that word for 20 years. I mean, that’s what we are. We’re Switzerland. We’re neutral. We’re there to join. We’re also importantly, one of the big roles we can play in firms as business development professionals is to join the dots.
Darren Milo: [00:15:21]
And just back on the specialist practice areas people may say, look, it’s really hard for a litigator, for instance, I use that example because I’m very passionate about litigation and disputes and have worked in that space in a BD capacity for a while, and it’s fabulous. But what I’ve heard recently, one of my old colleagues, a very, successful partner back in the U.K., they were interviewed recently and they made they made a statement, and I won’t get the words exactly right. But he was saying that we need to develop our thinking and move towards being disputes management consultants as opposed to thinking ourselves as litigators or lawyers. Now, the word consultant there was really important yet because in my mind, consultant, you’re getting ahead of the game.
Darren Milo: [00:16:20]
And while the context of that wasn’t just about sectors, it’s about understanding the business and understanding what’s actually happening in the marketplace and bringing things to the front end of conversations with clients.
Graham Seldon: [00:16:34]
That’s why the big four did so well. I mean, I think law firms got it from the big four. They tend to follow, often strategies from the big four. And then I think Big 4 did display very well. Yeah. And because they had consultants, you know, they see themselves as management consultants.
Darren Milo: [00:16:51]
They do, absolutely.
Graham Seldon: [00:16:51]
And that’s what you’re saying here as well is, well, it is. And it’s a mindset shift, isn’t it?
Darren Milo: [00:16:57]
Complete mindset. And that’s a really good word. It is about a mindset shift as I go back. They’re not going to lose their specialist product offering. This is just adding.
Graham Seldon: [00:17:11]
Darren Milo: [00:17:11]
It’s just an additional and it is just saying, look, this the world isn’t going to collapse. You know, if you just have a narrow your focus.
Graham Seldon: [00:17:36]
Well, let’s have an example because you know, it’s always great to put this theory into practice. So have you got an example of how a sector approach has been more successful than a practice led approach, a purely practice-led approach?
Darren Milo: [00:17:49]
I’ll cover two examples, Graham. One at a company level and one at individual level. So company level – and I’ll take it out of professional services here just for the moment just to illustrate. I’ve been fortunate enough in the last nine months or so to be collaborating with the Australian consultancy firm, Monterosa.
Graham Seldon: [00:18:11]
Darren Milo: [00:18:11]
Yeah. A lot of people that listen to your podcast will know James Bacon and Wayne Stewart quite well in this in this industry. What they may not know is that one of their major global clients that they do a lot of work for all around the world is Google.
Graham Seldon: [00:18:27]
Darren Milo: [00:18:28]
Yeah. So and they’ve been really fortunate in respect to what they’ve been able to do for Google, but also what they’ve been able to learn from inside Google.
Darren Milo: [00:18:39]
Now, one of the divisions that they do a lot of work for actually have set up their, I suppose their salespeople to call them that, in industry lines. So they have a really formal structure in relation to people leading those particular industries on behalf of Google.
Darren Milo: [00:19:00]
And they’re small teams, but they are dedicated to the industry.They are out in the marketplace. They are at industry conferences. They are talking to the people that are in the marketplace. They are then bringing back that content internally into Google, working with the technical specialists internally to then develop things, to then take back to the market. So they are not necessarily the technical experts, but what they are very passionate about the industry. And they are given the imprimatur by Google in relation to what’s expected of them. Yeah, I think that’s a really important point is regarding what those roles are there to do.
Darren Milo: [00:19:41]
So we bring that back into a law firm environment or professional services firm environment. And I’ll use an example of just an individual partner that I’ve seen. One of better examples of how a sector strategy can work. What this individual partner does is that they’re in financial services, again, disputes and they have a really good contact list, as most partners will do and what they will do from time to time, they will dedicate a particular piece of time in their day and they’ll make a range of phone calls to their client base. And what she will do is go through one by one, the contact list that they have. And she’ll talk to individuals and say, what’s happening? Just just give us an insight about what’s actually happening at the moment. What what impact is this regulation change happening to you? I’m just really interested. I’ve read about it. It sounds really, really interesting.
Darren Milo: [00:20:44]
She does that for the first four or five conversations. What do you think happens by the sixth conversation? All the sudden she’s gaining this insight. She starts to flip the conversation around by saying, I’m starting to hear this is affecting other people in the industry. Is it affecting you? And think about the person on the other side of that phone call. Well, they’ve really thought about this. Yeah. And that is we had been thinking about that. Maybe we should speak a bit further. And they just do that as a matter of course, as a matter of process. Maybe three or four times a year. Yeah. And that they’re just all of a sudden they are embedded as the expert and that individual and she becomes the expert in that particular sector. Now that individual hasn’t lost their financial services discipline in terms of a partner, but what they are doing they’re really adding value in that space in the industry.
Graham Seldon: [00:21:37]
That’s so simple.
Darren Milo: [00:21:39]
Yes, it is. It’s 101 stuff, Graham. You can talk to people about this, but it’s just one of those things.
Graham Seldon: [00:21:47]
The thing about that example, which I really love as well, is that it’s just a simple act of making a phone call. And actually, you often hear from BD people that lawyers say, well, I’ve got you know, why would I call my client? I’ve got no reason to call. And we did that matter for them six months ago. We finished it successfully. They know where we are. They’ll call us.
Darren Milo: [00:22:06]
That was so the ’80s.
Graham Seldon: [00:22:06]
I think it’s still happening, Darren. Yeah. So still reckon it’s ‘they know where we are, they’ll call us.’ I reckon that still happens. But the thing is, what you’re actually saying is you just making a phone call going actually what’s happening in your world? And by the end of the three or four phone calls, then you’ve got some you’ve got to say I haven’t got, have you?
Darren Milo: [00:22:27]
Just be inquisitive. I use that as a simple phrase. You talk to him because other people will. If you’re not making the phone call.
Graham Seldon: [00:22:40]
I think also the good thing about a sector focus from what I’m understanding now is that it gives the firm an opportunity to focus. So, I remember when we had Keith Dugdale in the last podcast, he gave an example of, you know, we would talk about pipeline. You know, what’s in the pipeline? And he said, actually, we sat down with property partners, I think it was. And he said, so what’s coming up in the pipeline of the sector? And they were like, oh, this is coming and this is coming. It’s come out and say. But what this actually it does if you have a sector meeting, is it you get people together and go, what’s happening? And then your pipeline starts, you start to see what the work is.
Darren Milo: [00:23:16]
Graham Seldon: [00:23:16]
Which would help with a pursuits program, which would help with the client listening. But all of those things.
Darren Milo: [00:23:23]
Yeah. Look, I’ve did to listen to that by Keith.
Graham Seldon: [00:23:26]
He’s a clever man!
Darren Milo: [00:23:26]
I was sitting there smiling away, particularly in relation to pipeline and that’s what you’ve just described is exactly what we want out of outcomes in relations to those sector, you know, meetings or briefings internally that people will have. Now, you don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings are a waste of time. But that type of sharing of knowledge about what’s actually happening, you do build your pipelines. And then firms will be able to more accurately predict where their revenue is coming from. Hence, I’ve I’ve been really passionate about it. That’s another one of my passions trying to get ahead of the curve in that respect.
Darren Milo: [00:24:09]
And what is interesting, if you speak to, say, the infrastructure. So you look at the infrastructure sector. What I’ve seen in terms of the sector having their finger on the pulse a lot more. It’s in that particular space because they’re working on projects. They know that the projects are in the marketplace exactly like the example you’ve referenced. They know the projects that are coming down the line.
Darren Milo: [00:24:36]
They know what their financiers are looking to invest in. They’ve got, you know, they can just put a percentage point where they are in the cycle. You know, in the buying cycle, I suppose, in terms of where they are.
Darren Milo: [00:24:53]
If you put a percentage on it and then you can say, well, here are the projects that are going to come out in say the Australian market in the next 18 months. They’re in our sweet spot. We know we can deliver on this particular work. This is the competition. This is what their strengths are. This is how we think we can win this particular work. And therefore it might generate X number of dollars yet based on our historical knowledge.
Darren Milo: [00:25:21]
But yeah, I’ve seen it work well in that space, but you could do so much more.
Graham Seldon: [00:25:27]
So what’s it what is interesting about hearing you talk about all of this is that we often get asked the question by clients, should we hire a sector specialist from the sector or can our existing BD manager in a law firm do this for us? And we do both. So we’ve been engaged in assignments in the last 12 months. This has been a massively growing sector for us. We’ve been involved in assignments in those 12 months where clients, law firms clients have said to us, we want you to go into these particular sectors and find us, whether it’s property or energy, and find us people who are salespeople from those sectors, who are well-connected, who can come into our business. And we all know there are pitfalls. There can be downfalls in that area, somebody who never works in a law firm before. That’s a different podcast all together, let’s let’s not focus on that. And then there’s the other type, which is we actually just want a BD person from a law firm who gets law firms, who knows what we do, but has got sector specialism and they’re rare because we haven’t been doing this for that long. So in your opinion, do you have to get somebody from sector or can a BD person from a law firm do this?
Darren Milo: [00:26:36]
Oh, look, I’ve seen been both. And, you know, I’ve employed both and probably with your help, employed both over the timeframe. And I’ve seen both work and fail. And largely the level of failure probably doesn’t come down, well in some cases it can come down to the BD professional. But part of it is what the expectations of that individual are by the firm.
Darren Milo: [00:27:05]
And by saying that, do the partners actually allow them to go out into the market?
Graham Seldon: [00:27:11]
Well, this is it.
Darren Milo: [00:27:12]
Do what they should be doing.
Graham Seldon: [00:27:14]
Darren Milo: [00:27:15]
I recall years ago, the firm you know, back then Freehills, employed a financial services specialist in a BD role. And they come out of doing deals in banks. So they had the contacts. They knew the marketplace. At that time, the firm was not in a position to open them up, to go out and utilize that contact base. So how long do you think that lasted?
Graham Seldon: [00:27:45]
Darren Milo: [00:27:45]
No, I know they do lasted a bit longer, but they just said ‘why am I here’.
Graham Seldon: [00:27:49]
What’s the point?
Darren Milo: [00:27:50]
What is the point, Graham?
Darren Milo: [00:27:52]
And so that didn’t work at that particular time. But I’ve also I’ve also seen it work fabulously well. But it needs the passion of the individual, the BD professional. And they need to really embed themselves in the business and have leadership on the partnership side of you. So the sector leader. And again, it’s really important to get that.
Graham Seldon: [00:28:15]
Here’s where I think the problem is. I think the problem is, is that firms try to have their cake and eat it. So what they try to do is they try to get two headcounts for the price of one.
Darren Milo: [00:28:24]
Just by title?
Graham Seldon: [00:28:26]
So instead of just saying, well, we’ll have a sector specialist. Let’s have the example of property, let’s hire a sector specialist for property, and we want them to be out in the market finding out where all the deals are. But actually, we want them to do the generalist BD manager role that we had in that practice group before we decided to call it a sector specialist. And so they have to do all of the tenders and the chambers directories, admissions, events, whatever it is that goes with the BD manager job title in that particular firm. And I think that’s the problem, because if you inherit some somebody, or you’ve got somebody who came from a generalist BD manager background, they are going to feel that they need to deliver those core services in order to say this is why you hired me. But if you get somebody who came from sector and they know that they’ve been hired for their contacts, they’re not expecting to be in the business. In fact, they shouldn’t even be in the office. They should just be out there bringing the leads back. But if they bring the leads back, somebody has to do something with it. And this is sort of you open a can of worms, because if you get a sector strategist they come back in and they say, well, now we need to build content around this. I have had 10 conversations with clients. I think we could put together a thought leadership piece about this particular thing. Who’s going to write the thought leadership? So it’s more than you’ve got to have the infrastructure to work.
Darren Milo: [00:29:43]
And you can’t just add headcount.
Graham Seldon: [00:29:45]
Well, you can Darren!
Darren Milo: [00:29:45]
It’s the right headcount.
Graham Seldon: [00:29:48]
Of course nobody wants to fail.
Darren Milo: [00:29:50]
And also appreciating just the value of what those people are bringing into the firm. So you do need the people that are helping with the pitches and helping with the content writing. So you need specialists for that? It is hard to get someone who can do it all. Because if you have one aspect of a role and you expect someone to be out in the marketplace, go into those conferences, working their own networks and understanding the industry, bringing that insight back in so the lawyers can utilize that to to help them sell and grow the business for the firm. You have to be able to give them the time and measurement in terms of their own metrics, which is really important to deliver on that. And then you can’t just say or firm can’t just say ‘and also, we want you to do this, that and the other.’.
Graham Seldon: [00:30:45]
Which sometimes they do do that.
Darren Milo: [00:30:47]
Of course they do. And that and part of it is you’re trying to be efficient with your limited resources. And well all know in BD world (and people who listen to your podcast here) that is is constrained.
Darren Milo: [00:30:52]
But what firms are getting really smarter is with their limited reach (and you would have seen this firsthand) is is actually trying to carve out a niche for them.
Graham Seldon: [00:31:30]
Darren Milo: [00:31:31]
And the ones do really well do carve out that niche. And what’s been really fabulous over the past year or so, where I’ve stepped out of the world of professional practice and in my own private practice is experiencing a number of organizations and just seeing how they do things and seeing some of the idiosyncrasies of firms.
Darren Milo: [00:31:59]
There’s a great management consulting firm that we’ve been doing some work with and helping them on their client program. And they have very dedicated industry specialists. And their responsibility is to, you know, is to deliver everything that you want to see out of an industry. And it’s really specific.
Graham Seldon: [00:32:18]
Yeah. And I think it’s about communicating the win. I mean, I had a client just a few months ago who said to me that he took the bold (he was a Head of BD and Marketing for Asia-Pac for a law firm), and he took the bold move of hiring an energy sector specialist. And from industry. Actually, somebody he was worked for and associations and knew all the major players. And they were able to bring in a piece of work, substantial piece of work in the first three or four months of them being in that role that the firm would never have had an eye on that would never have seen it coming. And they wanted, you know, they were just able to go in and present themselves and be the first and all that sort of stuff. And now that he’s managed to prove that that role works, he’s got permission to hire one in, you know, another sector.
Darren Milo: [00:33:04]
I’ve got a big smile on my face.
Graham Seldon: [00:33:05]
You have, I can see you’re delighted!
Darren Milo: [00:33:05]
I used to get great delight, you know, and this was something that, again, my old Chief Marketing Officer, (Paul Bonhomie, who is out in the consulting world at the moment, and Shelly Dore has continued this this legacy is) for the BD professionals at Herbert Smith Freehills (and I know it’s the same in other firms). Have a little black book in your back pocket. Okay? Utilize that. Find your own business, look at yourself as a return on investment. Look at what you can bring in. And I gave that, I used to love giving that challenge to a few people that I knew could do this. And I knew that also had the backing of partners to go out and network and find work. And nothing gave me more delight when people would call and say, guess what, Darren? I’ve just been able to introduce this particular partner to this particular client and it’s going to generate work, I know that.
Darren Milo: [00:34:03]
And sure enough, it did. And guess what? The partner would call and say ‘that was fantastic – what so-and-so did, she was great or he was great opening up those doors’. That’s what it’s about.
Graham Seldon: [00:34:14]
Darren Milo: [00:34:14]
If people are out there in the marketplace and are allowed to have that expectation. But it comes from the firm.
Graham Seldon: [00:34:22]
Darren Milo: [00:34:22]
That’s what it’s all about. As BD professionals, there’s nothing better!
Graham Seldon: [00:34:28]
Because it’s in the title. You’re Business Development.
Darren Milo: [00:34:32]
And that’s what you see that in the telecommunication industry. You see that the ITC. So, you look back at I.T. sales that you used to be, that was the piece de resistance in terms of proper, you know, BD sales. They’re out there, they’re selling the components and then the technocrats would come in and get and deliver it all.
Graham Seldon: [00:34:54]
Darren Milo: [00:34:55]
That essence of BD, you know it has permeated across our industry, we work in. Some firms are far more up the scale in regards to what they, I use the word allow, because it is a bit like that, it’s what the partners will allow and trust.
Graham Seldon: [00:35:17]
Well it’s a scary proposition. We’ve talked about so many times on A Legal High, lawyers allowing somebody to go into the market and represent their business and talk to key stakeholder clients and they’d be loose and free, say. But here’s the thing is that a really good business developer will be able to represent your firm brilliantly across he whole business, not just one isolated practice group. And it’s having conversations. I look at it this way. If there’s always somebody in your firm having conversations with clients, that’s a good thing, right?
Darren Milo: [00:35:53]
Absolutely. Just go and talk to your client.
Graham Seldon: [00:35:55]
Just go and talk to your clients!
Darren Milo: [00:35:55]
And that BD professional, they do have to have the trust and they do have to have some substance behind them, too. And so I acknowledge that you can’t just send anyone out, okay? But you just back the individual.
Graham Seldon: [00:36:14]
Like your example of the lawyer, who made the five phone calls and then became the expert in the room. The reality is, that it’s not going to take long. I often get people say to me ‘I’d love to be a sector specialist as a BD person, but I don’t know enough about any of the sectors’. Well, just start having conversations. Go to conferences, read newspapers.
Darren Milo: [00:36:32]
Put your hand up for that type of thing. Find something you’re passionate about and good BD leaders will create those opportunities for the BD managers coming through that do show a passion for a particular sector, and I’ve seen it time and time again.
Darren Milo: [00:36:48]
And, you know, if you don’t work for good BD leaders give Graham a call. Because really, you want to find great BD staff that are engaged. And if they’re passionate about something, they’ll be engaged, they’ll stay.
Graham Seldon: [00:37:03]
Darren Milo: [00:37:03]
You know, full stop. And the firm will see value in them and then the partners will value them. And all of a sudden, and I’ve had this before and it’s difficult where partners say ‘you need to pay them more, we need them to stay, we can’t lose them,’ Then I’m thinking ‘okay, I’ve got to work with a budget’. But yeah, it’s fantastic you see value in them. That’s what you want.
Graham Seldon: [00:37:21]
Well, yeah, and they will get paid more if they bring in more. And that’s where we’re going with all of this, we’re starting to see this already.
Darren Milo: [00:37:27]
Graham Seldon: [00:37:28]
You know that people who are bringing money from sector are going into commission-based roles. I mean we’ve never had that in the legal industry. In the Big Four, they have been doing that for a while. You know, I met somebody recently who had just come back from San Francisco working for a Big Four, and she was telling me that their sector BD leads were earning USD$750M, mostly on commission. It will come, right? As we move to that economy where people say, well, as you say, what is your return on investment? If you’re bringing in that five million dollar deal, then you should be paid accordingly.
Darren Milo: [00:38:04]
Absolutely. And I’d be happy with that.
Graham Seldon: [00:38:07]
Well, that seems like a great place to stop before we escalate the market, even more than we need to.
Graham Seldon: [00:38:14]
Thank you so much for coming in. I mean, I think that a lot of people listening will have learned a lot about. I mean, they know what the sector is. They know what a sector approach is, really, but what you’ve been able to help us today, I think, is really give BD people more information to go back to skeptical lawyers/partners and give them a sort of step by step process, but also some real examples of where it’s worked. Also, I want to make the point, you are a consultant, you know, be an independent consultant coming up to me two years I think now (is it nearly two years?).
Darren Milo: [00:38:44]
Just a year, Graham. Yeah, well, it feels like a long time. I did take some really I think well-deserved time off after I finished with HSF. And so I had a fabulous time working out what was important to me. Y
Darren Milo: [00:38:59]
And I’ve been really lucky to work with some great people and great organizations over the past year. And it’s it’s been a fabulous mix and a great insight into a range of different organizations – from a small boutique law firms that I’ve been helping to to multinational companies, to your boutique Australian firms. It’s been great.
Graham Seldon: [00:39:24]
But what I think it’s great for the industry is that, you know, we’ve got we’ve got consultants who are pricing specialists. We’ve got consultants who are, you know, marketing specialists. But I think you’re probably one of the only ones who can really hang their hat and say that you’re a specialist in sector development. And so many of our clients are looking for somebody that they could possibly just bring in and go, just help us get started. The BD community want that and some of the lawyers want that. So your details will be on our website, how they can contact you. Thank you so much for coming in. It’s been a real pleasure.
Darren Milo: [00:39:53]
Graham, great to talk to you again. Thanks mate.