If you’re a salesperson, practice lead, business development specialist, or owner who sells in the professional services space, there’s a good chance you’re looking for more leads.

Whether your expertise is in accounting, tech, A/E/C, or consulting, your understanding of clients’ challenges can be serious fuel for growth. The most productive BD strategy for professional services firms requires a potent blend of expertise and communications that reach buyers who are ready to act. That means leveraging both proven online marketing techniques—and the demonstrated expertise of BD professionals.

Lead generation has grown into a global, 24/7, technology-intensive profession. What do marketing experts know that can make a difference in your firm? How can professional services providers with clients to help, staff to manage, and hands to shake, assess whether your marketing approach needs a tune-up or a teardown? Read on. In this Road to Revenue series, we’ll explore the answers and give you a plan for improvement—for your business, and for your firm.

In our first post, we’ll take a look at how buyers are buying today—and what that means for you.

The Online Renaissance

When clients have a problem, they go online. And it’s no wonder.

Online resources like company websites, LinkedIn, and industry blogs give buyers an unprecedented depth of information and breadth of choice about providers. Today, 77% of professional services firms generate new business leads online, and 80% of buyers check out service providers by looking at their website.

Those are impressive numbers, but what do they mean for the sales process? How, exactly, do clicks on a blog post translate to a conversation on the phone?

That’s one of the questions this blog series will answer in depth. But we can distill those answers down to a story that plays out every day:

A buyer faces an everyday sort of challenge—not the kind of issue they’re likely to hire a service provider for, but a challenge all the same. They search online, and find a clear, helpful post on an industry blog published by an unfamiliar firm. The buyer follows the blog, finding some more useful tips along the way. Later, the buyer’s need for services in this area has grown—and they notice that the firm is offering a free, in-depth webinar on the same topic. After the webinar, they receive an email offer for a free consultation on this exact area of need. They pick up the phone and reach out. And now the firm’s business developers are having a conversation.

Clients are looking for expertise. And our research on over a thousand professional services buyers tells us that when they go to check out experts who can provide solutions, they look online:

Figure 1. How Buyers “Check Out” Potential Professional Services Providers

How Buyers Check out Professional Services Firms

Once, formal references would have dominated this chart. Today, a firm’s website is the uncontested champion, though buyers are typically using multiple resources. In fact, they’re using an average of 3.2 methods—many of which are online. From search engines to social media, buyers have a wealth of ways to learn about providers and solutions—and they’re using them.

SEE ALSO: Are You Invisible? Why Expanding Professional Visibility is Critical for You and Your Firm

Using your expertise

Now, you may be wondering what role the sales department has to play in the content marketing cycle. If it works as described, isn’t it your job to grab the ball once a lead is on the phone and take it up-court to seal the deal?

The fact is that your expertise can drive the success of your content marketing long before you talk to a prospective client. And that’s exactly what happens in the most successful content marketing campaigns, at the most successful professional services firms. As a BD professional, you know your target clients: their marketplace, their distinctive challenges, and their capabilities. You have the expertise to ensure that your content marketing is on-point, addressing the right problems and the right interests.

Too many firms let this opportunity go to waste. Why? For whatever reason—often little more than tradition and inertia—many professional services firms continue to operate sales at a distance from marketing. Though the two departments share the same goals and often seem to speak the same language, they aren’t always used to collaborating closely.

But in our brave new online world, the expertise of the folks in sales can be the key to unlocking more leads, more sales, and more growth. In the next installment of our series, we’ll take a look at exactly how your expertise can make such a difference.

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Thought Leadership Marketing: The Visible Expert Book