Professional services industry trends and solutions

The industry sales model is changing. It is moving solidly to a seller-doer model and away from having dedicated sales responsible staff.



The SMPS Foundation conducted and published a research report in 2013 called A/E/C BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – The Decade Ahead that supports this. In the last ten years, twenty one-percent of SMPS member firms reduced non-technical BD staff and 94% reported they use the seller-doer model. They do this because, as the report identified, 80% of clients prefer they be contacted by technical staff regarding sales. What this means is that staff who are not often very interested in sales are asked to participate in sales. And, firms are having trouble doing this, to no surprise. About a third of firms report a C grade on doing this, and 28% report the system is not working. Only 6% give themselves an “A” grade on the seller-doer model. This data demonstrates that there is a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Recently, for an A/E firm with whom I had been contracted to help them stabilize and grow the business, this conversion occurred with multiple steps. Two of the three sales staff were terminated, and every division manager, operations manager and project manager went through sales training. Then, each project manager and principal received coaching to make sure they became adept at using the new skills. After that, an internal coach was trained to sustain the program. A year later, the number of opportunities had increased dramatically, the proposal hit rate went from 10% to over 70% and revenue jumped 20%. And the marketing and sales budget was reduced by over $100,000!

The answer to achieve a successful seller-doer model varies for each firm. There is no single solution. I believe in creating a custom solution that identifies and removes each barrier. All approaches are founded on the notion that it is not effective to simply command someone to do something they don’t like to do– they will simply do everything they can do to avoid it, even change jobs.

A successful solution is one that changes people’s perspective on sales, thus securing a change in the behavior, permanently. A solution will include education so everyone is informed on proper methods, but it also includes social influences, environmental influences, rewards (usually not dollar based), and consequences. This requires ongoing coaching, sometimes one on one, until everyone, not just 6%, receive an “A” grade.

I’d love to hear your experience on this topic. Please leave a comment here, email me at or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, call me at 617.758.7000.