business consultancy in the uk

The BD series

Running a first meeting – part one – six steps to high impact preparation for selling

In the last article we looked at the power of networking and the importance of follow-up.

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Success Hs of Leadership

After my last leadership blog – The Four H’s of Leadership - I had a number of comments. Two stood out. Both telling me I had left out two essential H’s. One was Hunger, the other Humour. So thank you Richard and Miriam – you are spot on.

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Business Development Networking

The deWinton-Williams BD series

2 – Making a networking event a success

Some people seem to have the gift of working the room. They move from group to group, effortlessly engaging and then moving on. Believe me – they are rare. Most people need advice and nearly everyone needs training. However, if you are to avoid being the person in the corner studiously working through a brochure, hoping no-one will talk to them, then you need to force yourself into networker behaviour. The following actions will help you.

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The 4 Big Hs in a Great Leader

We tend to think of leadership as driving strategy, setting goals, checking KPIs, dealing with issues, giving feedback, reporting on team performance, recruiting, developing, keeping the show on the road. We call leaders managers, bosses, supervisors, directors, partners…and a few less complimentary names. But do we think of leaders as just human beings with responsibilities? And do leaders think of themselves in such terms?

Most advisors and coaches always advise ‘leaders’ to keep a healthy distance between themselves and their team. Good advice – for it is almost impossible to shift out of ‘friend mode’ into ‘management mode’ when things get difficult. It feels uncomfortable to withhold information which is only for the few in control. It feels like betrayal when you have to tell a friend their performance is slipping. However, keeping a professional distance is, all too often, translated into a belief that leaders should never stray into the personal; that pastoral care is the responsibility of HR; that just sitting down and giving informal interest is not acceptable.

deWinton-Williams begs to differ.


Leadership does not have to mean removing your human side. In fact, in the years we have developed leaders and managers, we have found the following four big H’s to be the path to success:

  1. Leaders who show interest in the whole person, their likes and dislikes, hopes and concerns tend to be more effective in managing those people. If you know what makes someone tick then it is simply easier to motivate and encourage them. How often do you sit down with members of your team and just ask them how things are going? What ideas they have? What aspirations they have? What help they need to develop? And how is life?  Would it really hurt your schedule to give ten minutes or even the length of a cup of coffee to make someone feel they are valued? Could you spare some time a few times a year to show you are a leader of people and not just a manager of processes? 
  2. Honesty. The best leaders have the courage to say the truth. None of us like giving negative feedback or seeing the disappointment in another person’s eyes when they are told their performance is below par. But if you shy away from truth you are abandoning your people to sit in under-performance. In the worst cases, poor managers simply write people off and label them as incompetent. They blame instead of investigating. In reality, very few people walk into a role with the intention of failing – more-often they are failed by leaders who do not set clear goals, give helpful feedback and deliver honest appraisal. A good leader never turns a blind eye – they step in and open the eyes of their team.
  3. Humility. If you have the strength of character to acknowledge your own areas of need, then you will get the respect of others. No-one is perfect (if they were they would likely be insufferable) but those who mask their challenges are frequently seen as dishonest or arrogant. As Shakespeare told us ‘To thine own self be true, for it must follow as dost the night the day, that canst not then be false to any man.’  The concept of authentic leadership – the idea that great leaders are self-aware and have the integrity to know their own  weaknesses goes back to the admonition of ‘Know thyself’ from Socrates quoting the Oracle of Delphi, but it has been well researched and put forward as a leadership fundamental by Bill George of Harvard. The added advantage is that proving yourself perfect is hard work – honesty is easier.
  4. Humanity. If you accept your own areas of need then, by reason, you need to accept the same in others. Every person in every business will go through a period of pressure, lower performance, difficulty, loss of confidence. As leader you have a choice – point the finger and label them as failing, or hold out your hand and help. If it were your son, your daughter, or even you in difficulty – what would you hope for? Yes, addressing and dealing with a person who is slipping takes time – but it takes far longer if you ignore it and allow that person to fall further. Most of our HR colleagues tell us that their time is swallowed up in dealing with issues which could have been addressed in hours but end up taking days and weeks – usually with a poor result. A little bit of humanity can save you time and money.

Last words. All of the above takes time – time which you cannot bill or put down on your appraisal as a success over the year. But the dividends are still there in terms of retention, morale, performance and, very importantly, your reputation as a leader.


 Time to Sell


1 – Preparing for a networking event

If you dread networking events, you are not alone. Even the most self-assured of rainmakers can feel a pang of shyness as they walk into a crowded room wondering if there will be a friendly face.

However, an hour of preparation will have you walking in with confidence. Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to impress.

What to know

Impact and use


The venue

If you know where you are going you will arrive on time and not in a flurry of angst because you have been walking the streets looking for the meeting place. If it is an historic or significant location, research it as that makes a potential conversation point.


The guests

If you can get a guest list then look through it to see who you know and who you would like to know. The latter become your targets (see below). Use LinkedIn and Google to research any people you want to meet. Also make sure you know their businesses and their position in that business.


The sector

If the attendees are from a specific sector or business, make sure you have done some research and know:

§  Key players

§  Recent news in the sector

§  Any upcoming key events such as a merger

§  How the economy is impacting

§  How technology is impacting


Your questions

From your guest and sector research create a list of intelligent questions. If you show interest and intelligence then you get other people talking and you just have to listen. It will give you confidence and is guaranteed to make a positive impression.


The news

Make sure you know what is happening in current events. Cover business, the economy, politics, sport and recent news. If there is something in the news which is likely to be relevant to the guests, you should be able to speak about it and ask questions.

One caveat – know what is happening in politics and stay guarded about your own unless you are absolutely sure of the company in which you speak.


Your elevator pitch

If someone asks you what you do, they will soon glaze over if you speak for more than two sentences. This is not time to recite a CV. It is an opportunity to give a pithy response which leads them to ask another question.

Example 1: The Corporate Lawyer

Avoid: I am a corporate lawyer and I work on large transactions creating huge amounts of documentation to assist in the restructuring and merging of companies and how they manage their assets.

Instead: I put big companies together to make even bigger, more profitable companies.

Example 2: The accountant

Avoid: I work on company accounts creating huge excel spreadsheets of audited accounts in order to see what a business is making and how much corporate tax and VAT they needs to pay.

Instead: I help companies grow their profit.

Keep it short. Keep it pithy. Keep it interesting.


Your cards

Have a good number of cards to hand over. However, these are not to be handed out like sweets. (See our next BD hints and tips sheet).


Your notebook

As we will cover in subsequent BD articles, follow-up is the most critical part of networking. In an hour you can meet at least 15 people and you will not remember them all. Even worse, if you promise to get in touch, you will not remember why. So keep a note book of who you have met, a memory jogger of the conversation and anything you have promised. Nobody will be offended if you just write yourself a reminder in front of them. In fact, they are more likely to be impressed that you will make the effort and follow-through.


Your targets

Networking events should rarely be used as a sales meeting. However, if there is somebody there who you want in your network then it is a good opportunity to connect with them. A good target list is about 3 to 4 people. Make sure you have checked their LinkedIn profile and know what they look like. You can also check to see if there is anyone attending who might introduce you.

For every target, make sure you have a good, one-line reason for wanting to meet them. Make sure the reason flatters them and gets them talking.

Example: The CEO

Avoid: I wanted to meet you because I hear you have a huge budget for professional services.

Instead: I wanted to meet you because I was reading about your work on shifting your corporate culture. How is it going?


Your image

Remember you have 40 seconds to create an impact when you walk through the door and speak to your first person. Hot, sweaty, crumpled and bits of your lunch on your jacket is not going to do the trick. If necessary take a change of clothing to work. Walk in looking the person you want to be seen as.


Getting lawyers to sell

You might be thinking it would be easier to make the elephant dance. In many cases you would be right. But every elephant can dance in their own way.

Before we look at how to get lawyers to go out and sell, it is worth looking at why they should and why they do not.

The growing imperative

To be brutal – there are a growing number of lawyers looking for an ever decreasing pool of work. As technology comes into the sector more and more transactional work will move into the realm of AI and off the lawyer’s desk. This means that lawyers are squeezed into the space of high-end strategic work, ‘product design’ and working the edge in which they marry two areas of law to achieve creative solutions. There is not a huge amount of room in that space and, all too soon, there will simply be a surplus of lawyers. Clients will have the power of choice.

The corollary is that lawyers will have to compete on two levels – their expertise and their ease of use. Expertise is increasingly seen by clients as more than just knowing the law. Today, it is about knowing business, the sector, the economy. It is about thinking globally and commercially. Even family lawyers need to understand the machinations of a family business.

Ease of use is about being easy to work with. Clients may approach on the basis of expertise, but they choose on the basis of comfort. Research has shown that 60% of a buying decision is emotional. Clients will select or reject on the basis of how comfortable they feel with you.

The trouble with these two buying factors is that neither can be demonstrated by sitting behind a desk waiting for the work to come in; neither is apparent through a website (especially ease of use) nor can they be compared from a distance. They can only be imparted through interaction. That means that lawyers simply have to get out there and talk to people, demonstrate their expertise and prove their ease of use.

Why BD is so painful?

There are many reasons. Some structural, the others emotional.

  • The God of billable hours. Firms, or maybe the CFO’s of firms persist in driving and measuring profit through the hours spent at a desk. The result? A perpetual and reasonable excuse not to leave the office for at least 6.5 hours when the target is met.
  • The partnership hive. Too many firms persist in presenting themselves as ‘partner led’. This sounds impressive, but it also drives a culture in which partners are expected to bring in the work while solicitors scurry around like worker bees doing their 6.5 hours and a few more resentful hours in training. The result? Too many lawyers think they do not have to get from behind the desk. BD is somebody else’s responsibility. That becomes a comfortable habit.
  • The perfectionist personality. Having worked with lawyers for well over 20 years, I can safely assert that they are, by nature, high achievers – but they are a special sort of high achiever. They are ambitious perfectionists. This subject requires a whole article (which is promised) but in relation to BD this personality has a deep fear of not having an answer or ‘failing’. Selling involves both. The reality is that if you go out and meet potential clients they will ask questions you cannot answer. Likewise, it is very unusual to meet someone and sell your expertise immediately. It is normal to have to say ‘I cannot answer that right now’ and to walk away without an instruction. But that, to an ambitious perfectionist is a double failure.

So how do you get your legal elephants to do the BD dance?

  1. Start early. Lawyers should be told from the day they start their traineeship that selling is part of their role. It is what will keep their business alive and the only way to assure their billable hours. BD should be a professional habit, well ingrained and well supported by partners.
  1. Shift the mind-set. Lawyers need to accept that selling is a long haul flight. Networking is simply an opportunity to connect with people and show your social skills; a first meeting is a first step on building a relationship – it might take four or five meetings before the client is ready to buy; a presentation is an opportunity to present your expertise and personality; a pitch is, yes, a competition which you might not win – but do it well and you will be asked back. You can leave every one of these situations without an instruction. But if you have demonstrated expertise and ease of use, you are doing BD.
  1. Invest time. BD is not a last minute task for a Friday afternoon. It needs to happen every day. Even if you only have a ‘one connection a day’ rule, keep to it. Make a call, send a mail, write an article, go for a coffee – whatever it takes, just do it.
  1. Work to your strengths. Every lawyer can learn to sell in their own way within their own style. For some the networking, mingling and connecting will be comfortable, to others it is a source of stress. If you are terrified by the thought of presenting, then do case study sessions with smaller groups; if your clients look for expertise, write articles and attend conferences; if you get work through referrers then make connections and start referring to them. There are many routes to a sale – you just have to choose your path.
  1. Get profiled. We live in a business age where there is no excuse to remain a hidden expert behind a desk. Social media makes profiling easy and there is an easy route to getting your name in front of a huge audience. Looking at the stats of my last post, if every view had been shared, my name would have landed in hundreds of in-boxes. Take that as a request!
  1. Get skilled. Selling is not a natural skill to most lawyers. But every lawyer has the intellect to learn a new skill. Every lawyer can learn to impress at networking by questioning rather than talking; everyone can learn to give a decent presentation; every lawyer can get active on LinkedIn; we have taken the most shocking of pitch teams and developed them to the point of being described as ‘the best pitch team we have ever seen’ by the world’s biggest professional service firm. If it does not feel comfortable, get help.
  1. The last wordkeep going. BD is your business life blood. The more you try the easier it gets; the more you do, the greater the success. You might even become an elephant who loves to dance.

Note: We are starting the deWinton-Williams BD series through LinkedIn – hints and tips sheets for all kinds of BD situations.



Are you making a meal out of management?

Five steps to increase retention in professional services

Retaining good people in a partnership is a growing issue. Partners who have given life and soul to the firm look on in dismay as talent walks out of the door believing that the grass is greener in another office. But turnover figures are rising and as the next generation – Generation Z – come out of their training contracts it will only get worse. This is a generation who expect attention, expect to be trained, to learn, to do work which is meaningful and makes their life better. Life is a balance and if work is making the balance bleak, they will walk away.

The commercial downside is that every exits costs the firm dearly. It is not just the lost investment, it is the cost of replacement, the cost of getting a replacement up to date and ultimately, if it happens too often the cost of your reputation. Agencies are full of tales of the ‘untouchables’ – those firms who good candidates turn down before they have even looked at the role specification.

But before we look for a remedy, it is worth looking at the cause. Why do partnerships fail to engage their people into long-term commitment?

Perception of time

Many of us go pale when the ‘management experts’ tell us that 30% of a manager’s time should be spent managing people. For lawyers and other professionals who continue to live by the billable hour, that translates into well over a day of unbilled time. Consequently, management time is continually pushed aside, left until the end of the day, postponed until there is a good time to talk. The result? It does not happen and issues build up. Suddenly partners find they are facing a performance issue which really will take hours, even days, of their time. The consequence? Management gets a reputation for being time-onerous. Talk to any HR professional and they will tell you that quick, timely, early interventions would have saved both time and tension.


In a large corporate, training is the norm. In a partnership it is the irritating interruption to doing the work. As a trainer, I am frequently asked if the course can be delivered in half the time. Attendance is woeful and juniors are inevitably pulled back to the office. Senior lawyers arrive with a meeting in their diary before the end of the workshop. E-learning is seen as the great revolution - because lawyers can sit in front of their screens with a module running and continue to mark-up documents.  The result? There is very little skill development. Instead, lawyers learn from lawyers and accountants from accountants. If you have an inspirational partner who has, by whatever means – learning or just DNA – acted as an exemplary role-model then all is well. If you have learned from a poor partner who never attended a single hour of management training, then you are likely to follow a bad example.



Not often a word used about professionals. However, there is a common aversion to conflict – and feedback often raises the spectre of conflict. Even the most aggressive of litigators with a reputation for ripping the throat out of the ‘other side’ looks into the eyes of a colleague and simply cannot say ‘you did not do that very well.’  Instead there is an avoidance which is often covered (or excused) by a claimed lack of time. As such there is a culture of redoing work rather than reviewing work; writing people off rather than writing a note on performance or an honest appraisal; ignoring the behaviour and putting it down to personality. Eventually the fear factor creates a path to HR and some luckless manager has to step into the breach. By then it is too late. Your talent is looking at the door.

So, if time, skill and fear are working against you, then management is simply not happening – or not happening at the right time and for enough time. As a consequence, a generation of younger lawyers, accountants and business service professionals are voting with their feet. They are a generation who expects to have a ‘portfolio career’ so loyalty is low on their agenda; they see no value in staying where they do not feel they can advance; they look at partnership and think ‘no thanks – I do not want your life’; and there are plenty of other firms, making the same mistake as yours with gaps to fill. It is likely to be costing you millions.

So what can you do – quickly?

The retention remedy

I have worked with lawyers and accountants long enough to know that if I suggest a five day leadership and management course, they will stop reading this article right here. But what if you could get results in fifteen minutes a day? Think about the following:

  1. Two second uplifts.

The words ‘well done’, ‘good job’, thanks for your help’, ‘much better’, ‘good idea’ all take less than two seconds to say. But how often do you consciously lift someone’s confidence or feeling of attainment? If you are saying ‘Well, nobody did that for me’ – well maybe not, but you might have respected your managers more if they had.

  1. Ten minute briefings

Instead of handing over a file with a request to ‘sort this out’, have a five/ten minute briefing to ensure the associate knows:

Who the client is and what they do

Why the work is required and how it fits into the wider file

What is required in detail. Describe what you want to see

When it is required – both interim and final deadlines

If it works for the army it can work in an office. Yes it takes longer – but it saves you hours of heartache, irritation and long hours at your desk rewriting work which cannot be billed.

  1. Feedback in fifteen

Instead of spending quarter of an hour amending someone’s writing, tell them what needs to change. Follow the positive route:

  • This is good because…
  • This needs to change to… (give examples)…because

Then hand it back. Not only are you saving your time but you are giving a clear message that the document is the responsibility of the associate. You are too expensive to proof read.

  1. Coffee and a chat

A good manager knows their team. They know their aspirations, challenges, hopes and concerns. A good manager listens and acts as a mentor – putting in wisdom and advice for the other person to take and work through. This is not about therapy or fluffy stuff. It is about being a decent human being and asking someone how they are getting on and how it can be better. It does not have to be a drawn out coaching session - just the time involved in drinking a hot coffee. If there is something to be followed up – put it in the diary.

  1. Be honest

If someone is getting something wrong then they need to know. We can reasonably assume that no developing lawyer or accountant marches into the office with the full intent of failing and wasting your time and money. But they are frequently failed by people who could simply have advised them on how to get it right. Professional knowledge is not acquired by osmosis. It is imparted by the wise to those who need wisdom. Tough feedback or a frank conversation is never going to be easy. But lack of courage in facing up to performance issues is a risk – to retention, reputation and respect for partners.

One last thought for those of you who think management is a waste of time. Look back at the person who had the most positive impact on your career and wisdom. If you spent 15 minutes a day being more like them, then in the future, someone will be looking back at you with respect.


The situation

One of our insurance clients wanted to change their corporate image. It was essential that they moved away from being seen as the ‘just say no’ people to a reputation for working with brokers to build business. But how was a whole claims team going to change their approach without brokers suddenly seeing them as a ‘soft touch’ and pushing for unfair pay-outs on claims? The Business Leadership team was clear about the answer – the future was collaborative negotiation and not claims rejection.

deWinton-Williams was given the challenge of shifting culture while keeping a commercial edge to the negotiation of claims.

Our approach

Our first step was to define the negotiation model we would use. We identified the Fry and Ury model which focuses on building long-term relationships through focus on interests rather than positions. Giving claims professionals a good theory, however, was not enough. We had to make training relevant, realistic and based on the reality of their world.

Our approach was to create a training programme using real-play techniques in which delegates built up layers of skills through practice with trained actors. To ensure relevance we created scenarios based on real claims in marine, property, health, catastrophe and more. We even sent our actors to Lloyds of London so that they could observe the interactions between Underwriters and Placing Brokers and so better understand how the insurance contract comes into being. Too often Claims were seen as the back-office service in darkened rooms. We deliberately linked their decisions and behaviours to both renewals and new business.

The training was no walk in the park. One very experienced delegate stated ‘I have never been so far out of my comfort zone – but I have never learned so much in two days. I have changed.’ Another declared ‘I can’t wait to get back to the desk and use these skills!’

The result

The result was that the claims professionals were able to make significant shifts in their relationship with brokers and clients. Conflict reduced and co-operation increased. Over a short time, brokers started to change their attitude and their feedback.

The claims team went to the top of the market rankings by brokers and stayed there for five years. More than that, motivation increased in the claims teams as stresses reduced in their relationship with brokers and clients. 


Sample hints and tips sheet

Making development part of your day

First set your goals. Define the skills which will make the most difference.

Set SMART goals – they need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Break goals down into small steps.

Set aside a little time every day – 30 minutes every morning will get you further than trying to do a block of work at the end of the week.

Diarise your development time or it will get eaten by other things.

Get advice from someone who is already good at the skill. Ask what they do to make it look so easy.

If developing an active skill such as presenting – watch an excellent presenter and note down all the highly effective behaviours. Then make this your checklist for assessing yourself.

Get a mentor – someone who will guide, advise and enthuse you.

Read smartly – many business books give you the ideas in the first chapter and then spend the rest of the book giving you proof they are right!

Use TED talks for a quick run-down on a particular skill.

Get feedback and get it regularly. It is the best way to gauge progress.

Reward success

Turning talent programmes into profit

The situation

One of our professional service clients faced the challenge of taking the risk out of partner selection. As with many firms, their decisions had been based on weak business cases, partner politics and applying hope over evidence. deWinton-Williams was asked to create a solution which strengthened the selection process by increasing the calibre of candidates going forward.

We did better than that.

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Averting Fail-hires

Five steps to transitioning your laterals

In the last two blogs we have looked at avoiding fail-hires from the selection and lateral perspective. This month we look at the essential transition steps every business should take in order to ensure your lateral hires turn into lateral good-fits.

So you have selected, negotiated, decided and your new brand-spanking lateral hire is inside the door. So what now?

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Avoiding the Fail-hire trap

Top tips for a successful lateral move

Last month we looked at how firms can increase the likely of success for lateral hires by strengthening their selection processes. In this blog we look at the five big mistakes and how to avoid them if you do not want to join the 33% of lateral hires who move on quickly.

First, give yourself a break. When Homes and Rahe did their research into the stress caused by life events the following all come into the top 20:

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Lateral fail-hires

Five steps to making your lateral selection process work.

With the summer over, we can expect a run of lateral moves. This weeks ‘The Lawyer’ is reporting four major poachings and lateral raids. So below senior equity there will be even more movement.

Yet business statistics tell us that lateral hires have a high failure rate. Back in 2013, consultant Mark Brandon interviewed nearly 2,000 partners and found that 33% moved on within 3 years of a lateral move and 44% had gone within five years.  The immediate impact of failure is financial, with recruitment time and search fees in excess of £100,000. Then there is the hidden costs of low morale, pressure on associates and market reputation.

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BodyTalk top tips

Top tips to help you send the right messages through your body language 

Click here to view pdf


Coaching the sociopath


We have all met one – that coaching client who seems so credible, so charming, says all the right things but unnerves you with an intensive gaze, has a reason outside themselves for every unmet goal and a dossier of other people’s issues. Then the feedback comes. The ‘managerial issues’ you were brought in to address through coaching have intensified, the behaviours more concerning and, guess what? Your coachee is saying that the coaching you give is not only useless but that you are no good at your job. If confronted with this, the usual smile clouds to a snarling defence.

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Pushing the boulder uphill – when the client is not for moving


We have all been there. You are called in by HR to coach a senior exec. You are given a full briefing of all issues and the messages given to the coachee. You meet and greet and they appear committed, but already your gut feel is beginning to twang. Something tells you it’s not going to be easy. In the first session all doubt is confirmed as they tell you all is well and appear reluctant to set real objectives. So what can you do?

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Four steps to momentum

Are you gaining from your training?

How many times does it happen? Delegates leave a training session, a coaching session or a masterclass full of good intentions. Then…nothing, nada, no change at all. L&D professionals look at the evaluations and see everything is rated excellent. So why does great training rarely lead to long-term change?
There is no simple answer. If there was there would be no need for this blog. But in the experience of deWinton-Williams there are a few things you can do and they can make a big difference.

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Pulling back the curtain on coaching

When you engage a coach for one of your employees, do you know what you are buying?

All too many of our clients complain that coaching is becoming a sink-hole into which their budget disappears and they have little or no control or sight of results.
So what can you do to ensure you are getting both results and value?

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