Preparing M&BD professionals for the future – learning, skills and knowledge transfer

At the 28th PM Forum Annual Conference  in September I (in my capacity as Head of Training and Learning Transfer of the Managing Partners’ Forum and PM Forum), co-presented breakout sessions with Julie McConnell of international law firm White & Case. Our focus was on the accelerating change in the market, the professions and marketing and the challenge this presents in anticipating future training needs. Our participants were from junior and senior roles at legal, accountancy and consultancy firms. Preparing M&BD professionals for the future – learning, skills and knowledge transfer.

About Julie McConnell

Julie moved from being a construction lawyer (both in the UK and Australia) to becoming Associate Director Business Development at White & Case. Her calm, soft Scottish voice belies the fact that in addition to such a demanding and busy role she is mum to three young children. She reflected that studying law at university doesn’t equip you with skills on client care and relationships. Although it does provide indepth knowledge of legal services. She noted the critical importance of project management in M&BD – just as it is law.

M&BD competency frameworks

We started by considering several competency frameworks to inspire us:

  • Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) professional marketing standards of knowledge, skills and behaviours. These are not aligned to professional services marketing. They focus on marketing rather than business development. But there are different proficiency levels
  • I like the inclusion of neuroscience, predictive, innovation and adaptability skills in the 2018 advanced marketing management model of Dimitriadis, Dimitriadis and Ney
  • My own BD, sales and relationship management skills framework

(Note: A recent article suggested that rather than individual job descriptions (on which most competency analyses are based), we should think about new approaches such as outcomes focused, skills focused and team-based objectives, outcomes and deliverables.  A New Approach to Writing Job Descriptions (

Then it was over to the delegates – split into two teams to consider what current and future competencies they felt were important. The discussion was wide ranging and included:

  • Strategy and commercial knowledge
  • Decision-making processes and governance
  • Science and art of building relationships
  • Know your client – internal and external
  • Becoming a Trusted adviser – consulting and advisory skills
  • Be evidence-based – back everything up with data (and who owns and manages it)
  • Rise of PowerBI
  • Surviving in a sales culture
  • Professionalism
  • How to educate and enthuse partners and stakeholders
  • Managing expectations and perceptions (Self and others)
  • Flexibility and Adaptability – Understanding shifting priorities
  • Maintaining boundaries – where does M&BD start and finish?
  • Service excellence – the client journey and client experience
  • Learning to be distinct and to stand out from the crowd
  • Culture of professional services firms and how this translates into different territories and service types
  • Consensus building (“Yes and” rather than “Yes But”)
  • Head-spinning questions: What more? What else? What next?

There was recognition that there was a danger that M&BD can become over-specialised and risk failing to understand our contribution within the bigger (strategic) picture. Earlier conference insights mentioned the danger of silos and the need for more “holistic marketing”.

Senior management and human resource professionals stressed the need for transparency. Everyone needs to know what is expected, how they will be evaluated and how to progress.

Promoting learning effectiveness

We considered learning theory and how learning effectiveness varied with activities such as reading, hearing, images, videos, attending events, watching demonstrations, participating in hands-on workshops, simulations and models and “having a go”.

Learning & Development Update: Lean Learning (

Improve learning effectiveness – Using Kolb’s learning styles (

Neuroscience for learning and development by Stella Collins (

We also considered Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation : reaction, learning, behaviour change and impact. And the latest research on learning trends which covered data-driven L&D, self-directed development, balance with hybrid working, off-the-job learning, micro learning and immersive technology. We took at quick look at continuous learning ideas (education, experience, exposure and environment) from Deloitte Bersin which considered structured learning, social learning and self-directed learning. The aspiration is high, logistics are hard!

How to deliver M&BD training and promote learning effectiveness

Our second interactive exercise considered how to promote learning and harness different training opportunities. There was recognition that people learn in different ways. And that some content – e.g. digital skills – is best learned through video whereas “softer” skills through personal interactions.

What are soft skills? And why are they so important? (Video) (

Essential soft skills for lawyers (

Insights included:


  • Clarity of learning aims
  • Processes to capture new learning and training needs
  • Methods to measure satisfaction, effectiveness and impact
  • Technology harnessed with online learning platforms that provide both suggestions and standard content
  • Allow people to add their own aims and needs and to monitor their learning journey and outcomes
  • Tailoring learning delivery to generational segments


  • Short videos followed by group discussions
  • Learning by doing (role plays, simulations, putting it into practice)
  • Leverage captive audiences (eg at away days, regular team meetings)
  • Incorporating sales training into everyday activities real-time (every occasion can lead to learning)
  • Minimising online distractions
  • Learning by osmosis – which is reduced in our remote working and hybrid world
  • Encouraging people to share stories and case studies
  • Lunch and learn sessions (Brown paper bag learn-ins)
  • Report backs from conferences and external training sessions (“Share on return”)
  • Ensuring actions identified at every learning opportunity
  • Coaching
  • Speak to laterals to determine what best practice could be gleaned from other firms
  • Learning from the market – observe competitors without becoming too fixed on what and how others are doing
  • Experimentation and have a go – the role of psychological safety
  • “Near miss” learning (from almost-mistakes)
  • Off-line advice from experienced mentors and reverse mentoring to learn from the next generation
  • Multiple screens
  • Habit of learning something new every day (“Do one thing each day that scares you”)
  • Encouraging a culture of curiosity and reduce the hesitancy of asking questions
  • Role of feedback especially during constructive coaching sessions following delegation

Case study: M&BD learning at White & Case global law firm

Julie shared her experiences of how they have managed training at global law firm White & Case. Particularly to equip M&BD teams with the skills needed to add strategic value:

  • Strong technical capabilities
  • Ability to develop strong relationships with key stakeholders
  • Detailed knowledge of the business
  • Advanced communication skills
  • Inquisitive and commercial mindset
  • Ability to influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Strategic and lateral thinker
  • Analytical and creative abilities
  • Resilience ad adaptability

She also articulated the challenges of training legal BD teams – just reading the list again reminds me of just how demanding our roles are:

  • Always being at the forefront and under the microscope
  • Need to lead the way
  • Time pressures, firefighting, competing interests and budgetary constraints
  • Keeping up with change – e.g. emerging technologies and innovation
  • Roles constantly evolving and emerging
  • Large and diverse teams, across practices and regions and roles
  • Individuals need to be proactive, ready to grow and adapt to make a difference
  • Absolutely no “one size fits all”

She then ran through some of the formal training on offer at White & Case

  • Ignite – global training curriculum aimed at broader global M&BD team
  • LIFT – Local Innovation, Firmwide Transformation
  • RM (Relationship Management) Academy
  • Business Services Milestone Programme
  • Coaching Circles Leadership Programme
  • Coaching office

And reflected on some other training ideas she had spotted on her journey:

  • To understand team dynamics, spend a day a week at clients’ offices
  • Networking – our role as connectors (“join the dots”)
  • Marketing 101 to learn to how to use Excel and Powerpoint
  • Helpful framework: Trigger – Question – Aims – Outcome
  • “Have a go” culture
  • Finding space outside the relentless task list
  • Importance of delegation training
  • Industry 101 – trends e.g. global battery supply chain
  • Tools to use data and statistics
  • Ask colleagues
  • Learn in bite-sized pieces
  • Develop a fondness for podcasts while running
  • Boardroom skill sets – innovation, AI, change management, geopolitics

And she finished with a jaw-dropping list of future considerations for training M&BD teams:

  • Embracing and adapting to emerging trends in innovation
  • More emphasis on stakeholder engagement, managing teams, relationship-building, resilience, collaboration, strategic thinking, influencing and negotiating
  • Impact of AI and other technological advances
  • Change management
  • Industry focus and geopolitics
  • BD should be proactive and agile in the way they learn
  • Human to human rapport-building

Sagely, she talked about the critical importance that “it’s all about relationships” and engaging with others in a human-to-human way – revitalising old and effective every day habits. I’m tired just reading the list!

Sneak peeks

I rounded off the session with some sneak peeks – the PM Forum new Skills Development Platform – a free service to members accessing over £10m of content:

  • 5,000 articles
  • 500 board briefings
  • 300 leadership videos
  • 200 event reports
  • 150 webinars
  • 20 winner interviews of the Management Excellence Awards

And the ability to add your own content, share it amongst your colleagues, gamification and recording of CPD points and reflection notes. Launch event: PM Forum

I also looked the Managing Partners’ Forum “Consensus through collaboration” Leadership Development Programme which is available for both firmwide and divisional leaders as well as functional leaders such as CMOs. Leadership Development Programme from the Managing Partners’ Forum (

I’ve written a report of the conference overall for PM Magazine and will share that when it is published in a few weeks.

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Neuroscience for learning and development by Stella Collins ( September 2023

know about commercial awareness by Christopher Stoakes ( August 2023

Research update on the most in-demand soft skills ( May 2023

Leadership Development Programme from the Managing Partners’ Forum ( March 2023

Soft skills revisited – with a leadership perspective ( November 2022

Marketing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) ( August 2022

Book review: Coaching skills: A handbook by Jenny Rogers ( June 2022

Marketing Manager Apprenticeship – a Level 6 Qualification ( January 2022

Coaching and consulting skills for M&BD workshop (November 2021) ( November 2021

What is curiosity and why is it important in business relationships? (Video) ( July 2021

Digital and soft skills – Microsoft on skills needed for an inclusive economy ( September 2020

Emerging marketing and business development roles ( September 2020

Range – How generalists triumph in a specialized world” by David Epstein ( August 2020

Innovation in Marketing ( August 2020

Managing Partners’ Forum Awards 2020 – Marketing, client service ( March 2020

New CIM professional marketing qualifications – 2020 ( March 2020

Essential soft skills for lawyers ( January 2020

Helping people change: Coaching with compassion ( October 2019

Advanced Marketing Management: Principles, skills and tools ( May 2019

Future Marketing Manager – T-shaped people, senior promotions ( April 2018

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – lawyers and marketers ( August 2016

Improve learning effectiveness – Using Kolb’s learning styles ( August 2015

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