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Making the Leap to Manager: Taking the Next Step in Your Business Development or Marketing Career

Making the Leap to Manager: Taking the Next Step in Your Business Development or Marketing Career

Sophie Baker

Carter Murray UK gathered a panel of Business Development and Marketing professionals for a webinar on Making the Leap to Manager: How to Take the Next Step in Your Business Development or Marketing Career.  A huge thank you to our panellists:

  • Bukky Fatusin, Senior Business Development Manager at Cleary Gottlieb Stein
  • Rebecca Coats, Associate Director, Content Marketing at Savills UK
  • Malak Habashi, Business Development Manager, Client Strategy at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

During the webinar, the panel offered useful tips and tools on how to help build a personal brand and career strategy and make the move to BD or Marketing Manager.

We are pleased to share some of the panels advice below. 

To receive a copy of the recording, please fill in this form:

Form ID:6327

What skillset do you tend to look for when recruiting for a Business Development or Marketing Manager role?

At a senior executive level, or similar, you tend to be a generalist and often don’t have the luxury of being able to be specific. This is a skill that you're going to look to pick up when you start making the leap to manager. It is not a difficult skill to acquire, more of a willingness to learn about industry issues, be commercially aware and have a commercial attitude. It is important to look at what the marketplace is saying, what is happening in your industry, which clients are important to this industry and which clients are driving profitability and growth. At manager level, you should start to have an understanding of the key market drivers for the clients within your sector and the issues that clients within that practice are facing. By having a really deep understanding of the industry you will be able to bring proactive, informed and realistic solutions.

Practical tool

One way of gaining this understanding is by asking to attend induction days for new starters or trainees. Try to make sure you attend as many of these as possible to gain an understanding of the market at that time.

What is the difference between a senior executive and manager role?

You will move from a functional role to a really proactive one. The key step up is that you will go from someone who is doing the pitches that you were sent, to someone who's actively looking on pitch portals for opportunities for the firm to pitch. To do this successfully, you must  keep your ear to the ground and keep an eye on what competitors are doing so you can spot the next opportunity.  It is important to continuously build your own network and understand how your peers at other companies are performing.

The second difference is behavioural. As a manager, you will be expected to really think about how are you acting, how are you representing yourself, how are you representing the department and how are you championing the company. It is important to keep up to date with marketing practices so that you can bring insight into the business.

Practical tool

To become more proactive, find new ways of creating dialogues with clients, colleagues or partners. And read about your industry or practice area, especially around the latest market developments that might actually affect your clients.

What does a stakeholder expect of a Business Devlopment or Marketing Manager?

A stakegolder is looking for someone who has brilliant communication skills. You need to stay in the laser contact with all of your stakeholders and you need to understand how to manage that communication. Stakeholders often have limited time so it is important to  present your key updates in a short succinct way.

They are also looking from someone who can become a trusted advisor. Someone who the they can not only rely on but also share some of the internal politics with. Stakeholders will want to be able to trust that you are a natural galvanizer and that you are able to bring people together on an idea. Ultimately, they want you to help them do the best that they can in their job. Remember that your partner has targets for their sector or their practice area which they need to reach before the end of the financial year. Therefore they are looking for someone who can help to remove the burden of this target from them. It really shouldn't matter whether you are a senior manager, manager or executive, if you're a solution finder people within the firm will want to work with you and that's going to elevate you.

It is important to bear in mind that often stakeholders are involved in the decisions of a new hire or promotion. It is therefore essential that you build relationships with your key stakeholders and really demonstrate your competencies to them.

How can you manage stakeholders who are reluctant?

Stakeholders may be reluctant to engaging in marketing or business development activites as they are not aware of what the department does. You therefore need to communicate the value of a marketing or BD function. You need to talk about your successes, no matter how small they might seem. It is your challenge to turn that person around and really make them see the value of marketing and business development. Work with the stakeholders that are keen, enthusiastic and who need your time. Then use those successes as proof point.

You can also have an honest conversation with the stakeholder to try to understand their ways of working and how they want you to work with them. Invest in a relationship with difficult stakeholders, they might be difficult for a reason. It might be that, during certain times of the year, they are under pressure. Ask yourself how you can help to take the burden off them.  

You can also use the resources around you. Many stakeholders have great PA’s or team members who could help you understand the pressures that the stakeholder is facing, any meetings they have coming up and if they have mentioned anything that you might be able to help with.  

Practical tool

On a Friday afternoon, make a list of what you have achieved that week. You will be surprised about how much you have achieved and this will help to instil confidence in yourself.

What are your thoughts on the mistakes that people commonly make when they are looking to become a manager?

People often become too linear in their focus and do not learn about what other sectors or areas of the company are thriving or dovetailing.  As a marketing or business development function, people sometimes focus on ‘this is my role, I  don't know anything else and I can't help you’.  So it's really important to make sure you take time to learn about the business, practice or industry. You must be the solution finder and that key go-to person.

Stop focusing on the job title and start looking at what skills you would need to become a manager. How can you develop these skills? Ask people for feedback, try to figure out where your blindspots are and really focus on those behavioural competencies. Do not only focus on the criteria of a job description or promotion. Have it in the back of your mind, as you will be measured upon it and it will be taken into consideration, but at the same time keep thinking about developing yourself as a whole. If you do this you will naturally develop, build relationships with the right people and will demonstrate the value you bring to the business.

Finally, don't be afraid to say you don't know. It is much better to talk through the idea in detail with the stakeholder than deliver the wrong thing.

How can you develop skills around strategy?

To understand or to be able to help devise and deploy a strategy you need to understand, on a broader scale, what the companies ambitions are.  You need to understand the objectives for the company, for your specific sector and that is how you begin to be strategic in your thinking. Then, when a stakeholder approaches you with an idea you can politely point them to the strategy and challenge whether their idea aligns.  Sometimes stakeholders may want to go off on a tangent and do something that would be good for their own profile, however it is not tied into what the company wants to achieve then it may be a waste of time and resources.  This may not come overnight, it's about acquiring knowledge about what is important to the company and looking at how you can play a small part in helping to achieve that.

To become more strategic, speak with you colleagues. Ask them how they would structure their strategic market approach. There are also lots of free online resources you could and paid publications you can sign up to.

If you were going to go back in time, to the point where you're making the move to manager, what would advice would you give yourself?

Try to understand what sector, industry, practice group or region you would like to work in and start to specialise in that area sooner. It is important to ensure that the practice group, industry or sector you are pursuing aligns with your interests. When managers come to recruit, they can tell when you are really interested and passionate about the area in which the job role falls.

Do not rush the process. You need to make sure that you are ready to take on a manager role. Make sure you have a full understanding of the marketing/business development mix and the strategy. You do not want to hit the ceiling too early because you might just find that you are not prepared for the next step after that.

When interviewing candidates for a managerial role, what questions would you like them to ask?

If you are in the process of preparing for an interview, right now or in the next few months, ask how covid has impacted the business or changed the way the team works to win new clients. If you are seeking to understand the struggles that the company is facing, then you're likely to do a better job. 

Ask about the sector.  A hiring manager will want to  hear that you are interested and passionate about the sector.

Ask about the hiring managers specific expectations of the role. Often job descriptions are put together by HR however the stakeholder that you are meeting might have other expectations. You could ask them to list the 4 or 5 things that they expect the role to achieve in the first 6 months?

Final advice:

  • Remain client centered and have the client's needs at the center of everything that you do.
  • Always be a solution finder, in any role that you do.
  • Build a network internally and externally.
  • Remember that the job is the constant, people will come before you and people will do the same job after you leave. The job description is your day-to-day activities and makes up 75% of the role. The other 25% needs to personalised  by you.
  • Understand why you want that role or why you want that promotion. This will help uncover your own ambition and passion which will naturally drive you forward.
  • Don’t always look for promotion outside of your firm, there are probably opportunities within your firm. Perhaps the company hadn’t thought about having a manager in a specific role before, however if you have performed in an outstanding way they may well want to elevate you. Those promotions are easier to do and easier to come by, when you are already enrolled building great relationships with people.

Form ID:6327