Business Development Tip 1: Allocate regular chunks of time for BD activity
Either block it out of your diary or, if you work with “to-do” or task lists for your fee-paying work, then jot down a list of business development tasks and slot them into your work tasks list. The point is that you have to set time aside for business development activity and really start prioritising it – otherwise it will always go to the bottom of the list and you’ll keep never getting to it. I know this all sounds really obvious but trust me nearly all of the lawyers I train and coach at partner level who need to really up their game on the business development front confess to me that they just don’t do this; the business development stars always do set regular time aside.
Business Development Tip 2: Get organised – have a system
It doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact it would be much better if it was simple; but you must sort out a system that suits you for collating, tracking and monitoring your own personal business development activity. Again I can tell you that the vast majority of lawyers who want to get better at business development aren’t very organised in their approach and don’t have any system; the business development stars always have their own systems. Get yourself a ringbinder folder. Write down (or print off from your all-singing-all-dancing CRM system) a list of all your current contacts and key clients. Stick it in the folder. From the lists, decide who are your key targets for the coming year. Set up sections in your folder for each of these key contacts. List some business development projects for the coming year: e.g. getting your LinkedIn account up and running and working on your profile and expanding your contacts; getting some articles in key trade publications in your specialist area; conferences you need to attend to network with existing and potential new contacts and clients. You get the idea.
Business Development Tip 3: Call people up
Again it sounds simple but loads of lawyers shy away from phoning up their contacts and clients. Email is fine – if that’s the way a particular client or contact likes to communicate. But you need to be honest with yourself – are you defaulting to email because you’re afraid they say no or because it’s easier to deal with rejection if they do?
Business Development Tip 4: Ask for BD meetings
Call up your contacts and clients (see point 3 above) and ask to get in front of them: to ask what they’re up to; to find out more about their potential legal needs; to tell them more about the fantastic services you can offer; and to ask if you can get some (more?) work. I call these “Business Development Meetings” and they’re really, really important.
Business Development Tip 5: Really prepare for and get positive outcomes from BD meetings
Prepare for your business development meetings. I mean really prepare. Think about the questions you could ask to help really uncover their needs, the way they like and don’t like to be dealt with by their lawyers etc. Think in advance about the possible “objections” they might raise to instructing you (you might be an unknown quantity, they already have a good relationship with another law firm, you’re not on their panel etc). How could you best deal with these objections? And think about the positive outcomes you might be able to ask for, assuming you’re not lucky enough to get told at every business development meeting that you’re going to be instructed in every bit of legal work from then on! e.g. – a chance to get introduced to another decision maker who’d be instrumental in you getting instructed, a promise to give you a try next time a piece of off panel work is available etc.
Business Development Tip 6: Confront any personal fears about “selling”
Be honest – do you have any concerns about “selling” your legal services? Do you need to come to terms with the fact that selling high value professional legal services is not at all like going round the doors trying to persuade people to replace their perfectly adequate wooden soffits with cheap plastic ones! Can you even come to believe that selling can and should be a good and enjoyable experience – both for you and for your contacts and clients.
Business Development Tip 7: You must be persistent ; this is not being pushy!
You absolutely have to understand that to be successful in your business development activities you will have to be persistent. You will speak to a lot of voicemail. You will not have calls returned. Many of your emails will be ignored. This is because, for your contacts and clients, talking to you about how you might be able to get more instructions from them is really not top of their to-do list.In fact it’s probably not on it at all. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you! Get over it and keep trying. This does not make you pushy. Of course you shouldn’t be pushy. But often lawyers mix up being pushy with being persistent.
Business Development Tip 8: Keep in touch with your contacts and clients
You should have in your business development folder (see point 1 re getting organised and having a system) a list of lots of different ways of and reasons to get and keep in touch with your clients and contacts. My list has over 70 ideas on it and I’m always on the look out for new ones. How big is yours?
Business Development Tip 9: Don’t get stuck in the endless lunch loop
Check you list of contacts and clients. Are there any with whom you get on really well, meet really regularly for coffee or lunch, but from who you don’t actually get any work? Why? Perhaps it’s time to ask? ("I’d really love to get to do some legal work for you to show you how good we are – how could we make that happen?" What are you afraid of? Rejection? See final point no 10 below).
Business Development Tip 10: Self regard, resilience & optimism: learn to cope with “no”
Welcome to selling. It’s a numbers game. You will not be everyone’s cup of tea. You won’t succeed in turning every contact into a client. You will be rejected. Get over it. It doesn’t make you a bad person. And you absolutely have to be an optimist – you have to believe that you will succeed – if not this time then the next.
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about the author
Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.