Sales processes and selling skills for targeting and meetings

Last week, we welcomed UK and international delegates to a PM Forum digital workshop on “Selling Processes and Sales Skills for Marketing and BD Professionals”. There were equal numbers of delegates from law and accountancy firms who had various roles: business development, pitching, key client management, cross-selling and external referrer programmes. The session comprised three modules (1. sales processes 2. Techniques for targeting and 3. Behaviour in sales meetings). This article is a reminder of the key points valued by the delegates: Nine insights: Sales processes and selling skills for targeting and meetings

Sales process

Numerous B2B (and B2C) sales processes were considered – from proprietary sales frameworks to firm-specific processes.

Multifaceted map of the sales process

As in client journey mapping, delegates found a simple diagram showing the typical stages in their consultative sales process was helpful to fee-earners. It captures the steps fee-earners must prepare for and manages expectations about the length of the sales process. This varies across the size and nature of clients, the number of buyers and type of service. Clarifying the differences guarded against a “one size fits all” approach and ensures the client and their particular needs remain the focus.

Another insight was that there were many facets to the sales process. There was action needed by M&BD professionals, lead partners, other fee-earners and functional experts.

Integration with marketing

Some fee-earners rely on marketing processes to generate leads and manage the initial stages of lead nurturing. Whereas other fee-earners work in isolation, develop their own target lists and networks and manage active prospects. The need for marketing teams to consider how research, content and events supported fee-earners throughout the sales cycle was explored.

Automation and prompts

Delegates discussed the various systems they used – from CRMs to workflow – to encourage data-driven sales processes. They saw how automation could both prompt fee-earners about the next actions to take and remind them to share information about what had happened at previous interactions. This supported opportunity and pipeline management. Some delegates had automation that scanned email traffic, updated records automatically and prompted sales action appropriately. Others were looking at how to map and expand touchpoints through the sales process.


During the session we explored numerous targeting tools. The delegates’ preference depended on the level of sophistication of selling in their firms, their different client profiles and the seniority and experience of their fee-earners. Some used the DMU (see introductory video on DMUs) and the stakeholder matrix for targeting.

Portfolio management

One delegate was struck by my fun use of dinosaurs in portfolio management.  On a more serious note, we considered the advice of Malcolm McDonald on categorising clients from his book Malcolm McDonald on value propositions – How to develop them (

Personas and buyer profiles

While none of the delegates’ firms were actively using personas to drive targeting, they all recognised their value. Some found the buyer profile proforma a useful tool to encourage fee-earners to think about their prospects and to structure their questions during preliminary “getting to know you” sales meetings to help develop empathy (see empathy explainer video).

Rabbits, deer and elephants

We discussed the value of analysis tools on current clients, network members and even sources of work to help with targeting. To avoid wasteful “kiss a lot of frogs” activities, some found the rabbits, deer and elephants method helpful – particularly to achieve the ideal balance of prospects. This seven minute video explains the principles of rabbits, deer and elephants.

Sales meetings

Delegates reported some fee-earner challenges when attending preliminary sales meetings. We explored the skill sets and activities for early sales meetings.

Research and advance planning of meetings 

Delegates found it useful to think about the different ways that they could help fee-earners prepare for sales meetings. Some talked about the internal and external information and research resources they used. Some commented on how they helped fee-earners to analyse and interpret advance research to develop a plan (e.g. set aims, consider the next steps etc) and formulate questions to ask at meetings. Some coached fee-earners on how to learn more about the potential client, demonstrate commerciality and credibility and obtain the ingredients needed to form a persuasive value proposition.

Questioning frameworks and funnel

The role of curiosity in selling was explored (see a 12 minute video on the importance of curiosity in business relationships). We considered questioning frameworks from various sales methodologies such as STARS, SPIN, SHAPE, ORDER and RAIN. Some found the questioning funnel and different types of question (e.g. open, direct, indirect, summarising, calibrating etc) to ask at each stage of the sales process helpful. There was also a discussion that sales questions checklists (which should be “tools not rules”) needed to be culturally relevant – e.g. there was often a more direct approach in the USA compared to the UK.

Debrief after meetings

There was discussion about how to encourage fee-earners to reflect on and share their insights about sales meetings. Many mentioned that often fee-earners did not debrief after sales meetings – which meant it was hard to learn how to improve in the future and how to plan the next steps in the sales process. We talked about how automation might help in the future.

Recommended sales books

We considered a number of different sales books depending on whether you were a beginner or more advanced in your selling skills

Book Review: Smarter selling – Next generation sales strategies (

Insight selling – building on consultative selling models (

Hope is not a strategy – the 6 keys to winning the complex sale (

Book review – Demise of dysfunctional selling (Khalsa) (

Rainmakers – business development for lawyers (

Classic management book reviews – The McKinsey way, Good to great (

marketing and selling architecture and construction (

Cross selling resources

Some of the delegates were focused on selling to existing clients so these cross-selling articles may prove useful

Cross-selling and referrer management – Expectations, Data and Focus (

Referrals – The role of internal communications (

Referrer Management workshop (June 2022) (

Referrer Management and Cross-Selling Insights (March 2021) (

Cross-selling – The Big Questions (

A personal approach to cross-selling – outbound and inbound internal referrals (

Cross selling – the dream versus the reality – Kim Tasso

solicitors to sell – cross-selling and professional standards (

Key client programmes

Other delegates were reviewing their key account programmes so these articles may help

Six key KAM lessons – Education, Expectations, Exemplars, Emergence (

designing and implementing a KAM programme – 10 top tips (

Beating Six Barriers to KAM and Training (Kim Tasso)

Key Account Management (KAM) programme (

Key Account Management KAM in a nutshell (

Managing key client meetings – Key Account Management (

Book review: Managing key clients (professional service firms) (

Successful Large Account Management (Key Account Management) (

A practitioner’s guide to Account-Based Marketing (ABM) (

Selected sales and selling articles

Selling Basics – Detectives and DMUs (Video) and recommended books (

Getting your head around basic selling skills (

Client perspective – empathy and emotional intelligence (

selling legal services with storytelling (

Helping tax advisers sell their services – Be more detective (

Four themes in the art of selling – Integrating marketing and sales (

Cross-selling and referrer management – Expectations, Data and Focus (

Selling insights for fabulous first meetings (

impact of Covid on listening while selling (

Professional selling tips – Kim Tasso

Use of social media in selling for lawyers, accountants, surveyors (

selling frameworks and models for the professions (law, accountancy) (

Selected poll results

During the session, there were numerous polls. Here are some of the results

How would you rate your sales and selling abilities?

  • 14% Really low – no experience
  • 43% Low – little experience
  • 43% Average – some experience

Where do the majority of your clients come from?

  • 14% Internal referrals/cross-selling
  • 14% Existing client referrals
  • 14% Fee-earner networking, sales and relationship activities
  • 57% I don’t know

What sales objectives are used at your firm? (Multiple choice)

  • 100% Revenue and Profit
  • 86% Number of new clients/transactions
  • 86% Additional revenue from existing clients
  • 86% Pitch/tender conversions
  • 71% New leads/enquiries/opportunities generated
  • 57% Referrals/recommendations generated
  • 14% Number/type of engagements with target clients

How familiar are you with the DMU concept?

  • 43% No idea what this is
  • 29% I’ve heard of it but don’t really understand
  • 29% It’s an integral part of our sales process

Where do you think your firm is weakest in selling?

  • 29% Focus/targeting
  • 14% Sales process/methodology
  • 57% Discipline/motivation

How do your fee-earners prefer to reach out to targets?

  • 43% Through a mutual connection
  • 29% Through a direct approach (telephone/email)
  • 14% Through industry/business associations
  • 14% Through social media

How often are you asked to help plan sales meetings with fee-earners?

  • 17% Never
  • 17% Sometimes
  • 67% Regularly