Six ways professional services firms can deliver deep growth

17 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 5 min. read
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Amid heightened competition and economic uncertainty, up-and-coming professional services firms need to find new ways of attracting and retaining clients. A new report suggests that it is time to rethink the sales function, with a new ‘unified’ technique, tying marketing to broader organisational goals to plan for ‘deep growth’.

The professional services sector is determined to present itself as optimistic for the future, come what may. Over the course of 2023, industry-wide reports have found that more than 80% of firms in the market expect revenue growth in the coming year, while also stating they are determined to keep on hiring to meet growing demand.

But in a market which seems to have reached a point of over-saturation, in which a boom-period which began in the emergency of the pandemic seems to be ending, delivering on those predictions will take more than good intentions. Particularly, a rise in late payments, and continued spikes in costs mean that realising profit will be more difficult in the coming months.

Six ways professional services firms can deliver deep growth

A new study, carried out by SBR Consulting and Magnus Consulting, has outlined a methodology which may help professional services firms weather the coming storm. Posing the question, ‘Is it time to rethink marketing, sales and customer success in the b2b space?’, the extensive white paper suggests that firms should examine how closely their marketing function is tied to the goals of a company as a whole.

Alan Morton, a managing director at SBR Consulting, and a co-author of the report, commented, “As marketing and sales effectiveness consultancies, working with some of the most progressive and fast paced b2b brands globally, Magnus Consulting and SBR Consulting have come together to share the common mistakes and challenges facing businesses and introduce a new way of building stability in a highly disruptive market.”

In this case, firms need to focus on what the researchers call “deep growth”. This kind of growth focuses on building roots with existing customers to withstand price fluctuations and new entrants and pushes us all to question whether the current structure of marketing, sales and customer services as different functions is an outdated concept.

Unifying marketing is the basis for deep growth, and comes with major material boosts, according to the study. More than promoting a healthy and collaborative culture, the report notes research which shows companies with strong alignment perform better, reporting 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates. At the same time, this helps deliver better value for money, as winning a new customer typically costs around five times as much as keeping an existing one.

Teresa Allan, co-author and managing partner at Magnus Consulting, added, “Deep growth focuses on building roots with existing customers to withstand price fluctuations and new entrants and pushes us all to question whether the current structure of marketing, sales and customer services as different functions is an outdated concept.”

To help firms transition to a more holistic understanding of sales and marketing, Magnus Consulting and SBR Consulting outlined six key steps to a deep growth strategy.

Priorities

The study suggests firms need to take an “honest look” at the current status of growth in the business – from goals to market maturity. In this process, they should consider what the external risks exist to current performance – from competition, to the changing needs of customers. Companies should ensure their sales goals are, how they are being tracked and understood as markers of success across the organisation. And before moving to change any of it, firms need weigh up if they have the appetite and capacity for shifts at leadership level to drive transformation. Without this, or buy-in from management, change can swiftly be derailed.

Plan

Professional services firms need to consider how to create customer-centric KPIs, both for the short and long-term. They should seek out the data and tools to inform their insights, including resource and budget allocations. When building a plan to move beyond siloed modes of operation, next-level and frontline management need to have been operationalised and included, to ensure whole-organisation synchronisation, while strategies, goals and operating language should be communicated to each other and to the wider stakeholders.

Priorities

Organisations must know if their positioning is strong, and if it works to their business goals – as well as being customer-centric – before embarking on change. They should consider if they have a proposition that runs throughout the customer journey and beyond, to investors and stakeholders, keeping the whole organisation aligned. If it does resonate with core audiences, how can firms test it, and how long can they be sure it will remain future-proof?

People

As with any transformation, firms must be aware of the skills they have within their team, and if they can work in new structures. According to LinkedIn Learning, nearly half of learning and development leaders say the skills gap is widening and are concerned employees don’t have the skills needed to execute business strategies. If there is a shortage of skills, how will gaps be bridged or hiring budgets released; and how easy will it be to change roles, and how will it affect pay and individual goals?

Process

Clearly defined, easy-to-activate processes, supported by frameworks and approvals, can ensure success in the shift to deep growth operation. Companies should clearly and logically process-map teams from end to end around the full customer journey, helping spell out accountability and ownership of key processes, setting them up for success. Even this is not foolproof, though. If teams do not regularly follow a process, there could be a cultural clash here that still needs addressing.

Tech and tools

Technology can also serve as a means back up transformations. Organisations need to ensure that their staff have the tools that will allow them to connect customer insights back to the top of the sales funnel in real time. At the same time, though, the human element is still important. Simply upgrading technology will not count for much unless firms need to make sure that employees are empowered with a culture of trust, to do their best work with tools that measure end-to-end.