May 28, 2024|Kim's Blog, Marketing|
The future shape of a Proactive MBD Executive? Hard (technical and AI) skills, soft skills and career development (Ireland, 2024)

Following the success of Being more strategic – Case studies and insights (Ireland May 2023) ( last year, I was invited back to Dublin earlier this month. The topic of the half day training session was “Becoming a proactive marketing and business development (MBD) executive” which was tailored by the PM Forum Ireland Committee. Delegates were from both large and small legal and accountancy firms. Some were very experienced and held senior positions in general MBD roles whilst others were in more junior positions or had specialist roles (e.g. brand designer, events co-ordinator). Some were relatively new members to PM Forum. Last year I managed a trip out to Malahide to coincide with my time in Dublin whereas this year I was taken out to see Howth with its pretty harbour and lighthouse. I was also delighted to see three seals frolicking about in the sea. The future shape of a Proactive MBD Executive? Hard (technical and AI) skills, soft skills and career development (Ireland, 2024).

Future Proactive MBD executive?

Having covered strategy last time, this year I was asked to try and condense the popular proactive marketing and business development executive session into a half day. So I was selective on the contents with three modules covering:

  • Hard, technical skills – Plan integrated marketing and sales campaigns
  • Soft, interpersonal skills – Influence, persuasion and buy- in to promote stronger collaboration between MBD and our stakeholder fee-earners
  • Personal and career development – Looking at the knowledge, competencies, abilities and skills needed by MBD professionals to ensure they remain future-proofed. This included a debate about whether EI/EQ (emotional intelligence) was more or less important than AI (artificial intelligence) for future MBD professionals.

Integrating marketing and business development – Closing the loop

The first challenge we focused on was integrating marketing campaigns driven by the MBD team with the relationship and sales follow up conducted by fee-earners. In essence, this means that more effort is required to integrate or join up (digital) marketing activities and fee-earner led relationship and sales activities. In some firms, the idea of selling is still uncomfortable for fee-earners.

Some mentioned that their event debriefs revealed great feedback and interest from potential clients but indicated a lack of follow up from fee-earners in nurturing and converting these leads.

Often, the metrics we use analyse and assess marketing effectiveness fail to examine true conversions. Fee-earners can be too time-pressed to follow up, the complex sales cycle takes a long time, the original marketing intervention isn’t attributed or fee-earners lack the motivation and/or skills to follow up the leads generated.

We considered a number of ways to improve the situation:

It was interesting to hear from one delegate whose firm insisted that an impact case was made before any marketing or sales initiative could proceed. The process was supported by the CEO. The impact case had to show adherence to the firm’s strategic themes and show the expected sales results.

We also considered the latest research on the most successful professional services sales approach. The authors of the Challenger sales model identified the Creator model as most effective. Behaviours include: dedicating regular time to business development, balancing new and existing client development, cross-selling, playing an active role in producing digital marketing content and focusing conversations on client needs. Rainmaking best practice in professional services firms (Selling) (

Whilst some reported that attendance at events was falling (some no show rates of over 50%) others were achieving 85% turnout at events. Key success factors included: highly targeted mailings, research and surveys on topics of greatest interest, fee-earner involvement in confirming delegate attendance, sharing real case studies and offering high value speakers.

There was a discussion about how to modify campaign criteria and metrics to ensure that relationship management and sales objectives were integrated and achieved.

Soft skills – Credibility, persuasion and persistence to influence fee-earners

We considered the need for MBD professionals as well as their fee-earners to invest in developing their personal brand How to create and promote your personal brand – Kim Tasso

We considered a range of soft skills that would help MBD professionals forge stronger and more collaborative relationships with fee-earners. Some of the topics covered included:

The value of face-to-face communication was highlighted – and the constraints of remote working on this were acknowledged.

Delegates commented on the need to be concise at all times. Aims and agendas were obligatory to convince fee-earners to invest time in meetings. There was also advice to keep talks and presentations really brief (use one pagers rather than detailed decks).

Others commented on the need to have senior support to help prioritise requests and decline those that were outside of the strategic scope or assigned responsibilities. Some delegates were fortunate that their CEO and CMO supported them on focusing on key projects.

There was also a reminder that MBD were the clients’ representative at meetings. Our role is to sense-check that content and activities met client needs. We can also assist strategy and decision-making by providing data and research about what clients find valuable.

Manage career development for proactive MBD executives in professional services – future proofing

We reviewed various marketing and sales competency frameworks from within and beyond professional services. Much of this material is summarised here: Preparing M&BD professionals for the future – learning, skills (

We considered what a T-shaped MBD professional might look like in the future Future Marketing Manager – T-shaped people, senior promotions ( Some observed that there was a risk of MBD professionals becoming over-specialised and that this impacted on their ability to see the overall big picture in marketing and sales (and impacting the ability to have integrated marketing and sales campaigns as discussed above).

Another downside to over-specialisation was the prospect of becoming “stuck” in your career. There was discussion about how to reinvent yourself should you find yourself in this position. Some firms provided coaching to support MBD professionals. This 2022 book was considered useful How to advance your career in professional services marketing ( Delegates were reminded of the free mentoring service. Mentor Match – PM Forum

There was some discussion here in that often firms didn’t have the transparent and structured development and progression frameworks for business services professionals. Others mentioned that they had processes based on reputation, relationships and revenue.

AI vs EI/EQ for professional services marketers?

The future career progression discussion continued with our final debate of the day. I outlined the arguments for the importance of both Artificial Intelligence (AI) for future marketing careers and then did the same for emotional intelligence (EQ or EI). These are summarised here:


An introduction to emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy (Video) (

Research on leadership and emotional intelligence (EQ) (

Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On? (

Book review – Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (


The growth of MarTech in professional services – an overview (

Lessons from digital marketing webinars (June 2023) (

Generative AI – Going Beyond the Content… (


Two teams then debated the issues. Some of the points raised included:

  • Most models of persuasion included the need for emotion
  • AI at present is too generic and doesn’t really accommodate differentiation
  • There are risks associated with AI (particularly with confidentiality)
  • AI frees us from repetitive and routine tasks (as a personal assistant) leaving us more time to focus on emotional and relationship aspects and be both more creative and strategic
  • Closed AI systems such as Harvey mean that you can keep your data confidential
  • AI systems can provide inspiration and help us be more creative

As Karim Lakhani stated, “AI is not going to replace humans, but humans with AI are going to replace humans without AI.” The general view was that we needed to balance the development of our EI/EQ and AI skills. One view is that failing to use AI was a bit like failing to use the Internet when it emerged. Others commented that similar to when social media arrived, firms need AI policies to guide staff on appropriate use.

Some of the delegates’ firms were already providing AI training for both fee-earners and support staff. Some firms had major campaigns on how they advise clients on AI adoption and the risks and regulatory implications. Some thought that fee-earners may be provided in the future with an AI marketing bot to assist them and provide coaching in business development.

Delegate key takeaways

At the end of the session, delegates shared their key takeaways

  • Communication between MBD and fee-earners
  • Importance of influencing skills
  • Persuasion techniques
  • Need to see people face-to-face
  • Find time to step back and think about the bigger picture
  • How to say “No” (assertiveness)
  • Achieve early engagement of fee-earners during campaign planning
  • Use an impact assessment to approve planned campaigns
  • Ensure that marketing campaigns encompass the follow up sales process
  • How to avoid becoming “stuck” in your career development
  • Importance of career development (both EQ and AI aspects)
  • Hearing what others are doing in MBD

About PM Forum Ireland

There’s always a warm welcome from the PM Forum Ireland Committee. Raphael O’Donoghue | LinkedIn is EMEA Digital Program Manager for Salesforce and Siobhán Reynolds | LinkedIn is Head of Marketing at ByrneWallace LLP lead the team. The event was hosted in the lovely offices of Dublin | Maples Group (thanks Nigel Kelly | LinkedIn for organising) which overlooks St Stephen’s Green in the centre of Dublin

Committee members reminded delegates of the many benefits of PM Forum membership including:

They also encouraged delegates to consider taking a more active role in identifying relevant topics and organising events by joining the Committee. Ireland – PM Forum

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