Not enough time for biz dev?

The #1 objection I hear to undertaking business development activity is time. Nobody has an overabundance of time, and when there’s plenty of billable work on your plate, it’s often hard to free up time to bring in yet more work. (Willingness may be an issue, too. As I discussed recently in this article, in addition to the time crunch, you may unconsciously be resisting new business if you’re already very busy.).

Lack of time is a real concern, but it’s also illusory since we all make time for our top priorities. As Larry Winget has written, “Your time, energy, and money always go to what is important to you.” If you say you want to grow your practice and yet you never seem to have time for the requisite activity, you should reconsider your level of commitment.

Even so, finding time for business development activity takes dedication and ingenuity at times. I read a great article by Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, whose work now focuses on leadership and platform building. Titled How To Blog If You Don’t Have Time, this article offers useful tips that are applicable beyond blogging. Item #3 in his list is my absolute favorite: use a timer to harness the power of a deadline. It’s also a winning strategy to beat procrastination.

Review Hyatt’s list and decide how you can create the time to engage in your business development activity. What’s your first step to implement?

How can you reach them?

You have competitors, and depending on your area of practice and your geographic area, you may have lots of competitors. How can you stand out? I’ve covered some options previously here and  here, for example.

One of the key ways to distinguish yourself is to go where your ideal clients and referral sources are and to deliver something of value to them. That often means speaking, writing, teaching seminars, and so on. All true, all potentially effective (especially if strategically selected with proper follow-up in place), but it all starts to sound a little wah-wah-wah, like the teacher’s voice in Charlie Brown TV specials and the NON-MOBILE version.

I read a good, if somewhat sensationalized, article this week titled 12 Most Savvy Ways to Go From Anonymity to Thought Leader. While it’s a bit of a stretch to say that using these 12 tactics will by themselves vault you to the top of your field, when you use them and direct your efforts to an appropriately niched audience, you will garner attention that will build your credibility as a practitioner.

The 12 tactics include: 

  • Address your customers’ concerns: find out what questions and concerns your clients have, then create articles, blog posts, issue updates, videos, podcasts, etc. to address those topics. Let your audience direct your content rather than expecting your content to influence your audience.
  • Go where your customer is: use multiple avenues of influence to reach your target clients, including traditionally published articles, blog posts, tweets, videos, podcasts, etc. Bonus tip: when you generate content in one format, ask yourself how else you might use that content. Don’t recreate the wheel every time.
  • Get quoted by the media: with the explosion of content generated every day, journalists need fresh sources. Get to know journalists and build connections (blogs and Twitter can be effective platforms for forming these connections) and offer your insight. Also be sure to subscribe to HARO and monitor it (or, better yet, have an assistant monitor it for you) for inquiries you might answer.
  • Shine in the light of a better-known partner: look for others who interact with and influence your ideal clients and who are well-respected by them, and look for opportunities to partner with them. 

The article includes either additional routes to raise your profile. Choose one or two and start implementing them today.

Get more productive and connected!

This week, I’d like to share 3 things I’ve found recently that have been tremendously helpful.

  1. My 1-3-5 List I recommend that you maintain at least two task lists: one that covers everything you need to do, broken down by task, project, and due date, plus one for today’s tasks. (Why “at least” two lists? If you sort your overall list effectively, a single comprehensive list of tasks is enough, but you might find that you prefer to maintain separate lists for individual projects or domains.)

    Clients often struggle with the daily list, either bulking it up with busy work or overwhelming it with so many tasks that it can’t possibly be completed in a single day. And that’s where My 1-3-5 List steps in. You use the list to define one big task for the day, three medium tasks, and five small tasks. I’ve been using the system for a few months now, and it’s made a huge difference in my productivity. Check out this free resource.

  2. Thinglist This one is only for iOS users. How do you keep track of the books you’d like to read, people you’d like to meet, and products you’d like to try? If you’re like most of us, you have notes floating around, either on paper or somewhere in Evernote, and your ideas get lost. Enter Thinglist, which lets you keep lists of things to investigate or do, on lists labeled Bar, Book, Food, Idea, Movie, Music, Person, Place and Product. Please insert image here.

    Business development applicability: keep a list of high priority contacts in your “People” list and add notes when you find a book or a restaurant you’d like to recommend. It makes it easy to be thoughtful. Get the app now.

  3. Livescribe For all the technology I use, I have to admit: I sometimes still think best with pen and paper. Livescribe is a pen that works with special paper to capture your pen strokes and import them into the Livescribe app, where you can keep the image of your handwritten notes or (using some models) digitize the notes and turn them into searchable text. You can upload your files to Evernote, Dropbox, and more.

    I’ve been using the Livescribe 3 since January, and I’ve found it useful to take notes during a client meeting without using a computer, which can create an artificial barrier to conversation. Livescribe isn’t perfect, but it beats anything else I’ve used.

What have I missed? I’d love to hear about any great resources you would recommend.

Do you really want more clients?

Good news! The hard copy of Legal Rainmaking Myths is finally available for purchase. You can pick up your copy here. And if you’ve read Legal Rainmaking Myths or the second edition of The Reluctant Rainmaker, please share your review here or here, respectively.

It seems obvious that growing your practice means you want to bring in new clients and new business, right? Without the consistent flow of new business, practices not only don’t grow: they die.

However, you might be surprised to learn that I not infrequently talk with lawyers who say they want to grow a practice, when deep down, they don’t want new business or new clients. That’s a conflict that will undermine your business development efforts every single time. And it’s especially corrosive because until the beliefs that keep the lawyer from wanting new business are uncovered, the failure just looks like inability to secure new work.

Why might a lawyer not want new business? A few examples:

  • the belief that clients are not being effectively served by the practice (this is especially common when a lawyer is considering a lateral move because of some philosophical objection to how the firm conducts its or its clients’ business)
  • feeling too busy as is and reluctant to open a flow of additional work, even though you rationally understand that busy will be replaced by bored if you don’t create a pipeline of work
  • working with clients you dislike, whether it’s because they’re inappropriately demanding or because you dislike the substantive work (who would intentionally set themselves up for more of what they dislike?)

Each of these reasons to avoid new business is likely unconscious, and yet action is governed by unconscious beliefs far more than we’d like to accept. 

The article The Uncomfortable Truth about Getting More Personal Training Clients describes the unconscious beliefs that run counter to the desire to get new clients as values conflicts, and it offers several steps to resolve those conflicts.

  1. Be honest about whether you’re facing a values conflict. Make the unconscious conscious–if it exists.
  2. Deal rationally with the values conflicts by answering the previously unconscious belief with what’s actually true. For example, recognize upsides to more business such as that having a steady pipeline of new work will allow you more control over which clients you work with, how you work with them, and so on.
  3. Establish clear boundaries for your clients and yourself. Put policies and systems in place so that you define how you will engage with your clients and how and when you will undertake business development activity.
  4. Invest in a marketing system. When you follow a system, you will automatically take steps toward new business without being controlled by values conflicts.

Sometimes we learn best by studying outside our own fields, and this article is a terrific example. Take a few minutes, translate from personal training to legal, and absorb the lessons.

Where are you stopping yourself?

How your holidays can help you grow your practice

We celebrated Memorial Day in the US on Monday, marking the unofficial start of the summer holiday season. Children are out of classes, or will be soon, and many of us are thinking about slowing down a bit to enjoy more family time.

It’s always a challenge to balance billable work with business development work with personal life, and a lot of my clients seem to find that even more challenging over holidays. But here’s the truth: if you drop back on business development activity because of the season, growing your practice will be that much harder.

A friend’s son, a Marine who has just returned from Afghanistan, got a new tattoo with the message, “Your future is created by what you do today.” I don’t do needles, but I’m tattooing that in my memory.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep moving forward during holidays:

  • If you’re traveling, take the opportunity to call or visit someone you know in the area. (A call can be as short and simple as, “I’m passing through with my family and wish I had time to see you, but I couldn’t be here without a quick call to see how you’re doing.”) You might also consider sending a contact a postcard or picking up a small book about the area if there’s some connection. Of course, you must use this idea judiciously. Used well, you’ll build connections; used poorly, you may come off as a bit of a stalker.
  • Doing some vacation reading? Pick up some interesting nonfiction (a business book or biography, for instance) and if the book merits it, send it on to a contact. Think too about any connections with your practice or issues facing your clients.
  • Begin laying plans for fall. For many clients, September through November is an incredibly productive period with that “back to school” feel. You’ll make the most of your time if you think about what you’d like to accomplish now.
  • Practice engaging strangers in conversation to improve your networking skills. If you find small talk challenging, practice when you meet someone while you’re attending a baseball game or traveling. The context is different, but the skills are quite similar. (Check the book The Fine Art of Small Talk for suggestions on how to approach these conversations.)
  • Use your travel time to listen to audio books. It’s often hard to squeeze in time for extra reading, but an audio book or podcast will keep you entertained and learning while you drive or relax. Email me.
  • Get into the flow of something you enjoy, then harness the energy that results. I am at my happiest when walking in the mountains and snapping photos. The creativity required for composing photos makes me think in a fresh way and sparks other kinds of creativity. Maybe you’re a photographer at heart or you could spend hours hiking. When you’re in the flow of the activities you most enjoy, you’re engaged in the truest form of recreation: re-creation. Your energy will increase, and you’ll return to work with a rested mind and fresh perspective. Use that to reenergize your professional self.

As for me, I’m on vacation this week in my favorite Wyoming landmark, Teton National Park. I have a stack of books (a nice combination of fiction and nonfiction), and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for blogging ideas. (Check out this post I wrote 5 years ago while in the Tetons for an example.)

When you’re “too busy” for biz dev

We’ve all been there, when work is so overwhelming that it feels like there’s no time for anything else
. We make promises (it’ll be different when this project is done) and we make excuses (this matter needs my full attention and I couldn’t possibly shortchange my client by spending time elsewhere). Especially for reluctant rainmakers, both are the currency of justification.

If making promises and excuses won’t cut it (and for the serious professional, it won’t), what should you make? Allowances. When busy-ness is real (and often in practice it is), determine what business development activity you will commit to while you’re swamped, and then make that happen. It’ll be less than your ordinary level of activity (that’s why it’s an allowance), but you’ll at least hold your own and most likely progress with your plans. Most importantly, you won’t have the pressure of the constant restart.

I read a terrific quote on this point this week from David Maister’s seminal True Professionalism.

If you ever allow “busy” to knock you off course, I recommend that you place this quote where you’ll see it at least daily:

What you do with your billable time determines your current income but what you do with your non-billable time determines your future.”

 Here’s to your present and your future.

9 ways to fail in sales

I read a terrifically useful article this week titled How You Fail in Sales.  Before you discard its relevance because of the word sales, remember that sales is partly persuasion (of any kind—see Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human for more on this) and partly conversation designed to discover a match between a potential client’s need and your ability to help.  Lawyers and other professionals sell every day, for business development and substantive practice purposes.

How You Fail in Sales is a nice checklist that will alert you to critical tasks that you may have let slide. And, of course, if you avoid these 9 mistakes, you’ll make significant headway in your business development efforts. The errors listed include:

  • Failure to gain trust: our society today is suffering from a crisis of trust. When you build trust through your relationships, you pave the way for new business. If your clients feel unable to trust you, you’ll have difficult client relationships, you won’t experience client loyalty, and you won’t get many referrals.
  • Failure to create value: your objective must be to create value for every person who encounters you. One important way to create value is to curate information and to provide commentary and insight in addition to the simple sharing of information.
  • Failure to ask for the business: if you don’t ask for the business, your potential client may think that you don’t want to handle the matter, that you aren’t interested in working with him or her, or that you’re just being nice in talking about a legal issue. You can ask for business in many ways, but you must ask. (See this blog post for some suggestions.)

Don’t let unrecognized mistakes undermine your success in business development. Read How You Fail in Sales now.


Make the most of your marketing time

Being busy has become a national obsession, and it certainly affects lawyers. We seem to have two speeds: frantic and fearful because we aren’t frantic. We need to have a discussion about what might lie between these extremes, but an even more pressing question might be how to keep marketing going even when frantic. If you don’t keep it going, you may find yourself cycling from frantic to fearful before you have an opportunity to restart your marketing and bring in additional business.

You’ve no doubt heard that content is king for marketing, and there’s a simple reason: good content builds trust. Great content is easy to generate when you have plenty of spare time, but how do you keep up the flow of content when you’re frantic?

Repurpose everything. When you do something, look for other ways to use that same content. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • An article can become multiple blog posts
  • Blog posts can be broken down into blurbs suitable for use on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Any writing you do may yield a question suitable for opening a discussion in a LinkedIn group
  • Any presentation you make may be uploaded via SlideShare (being attentive to potential copyright questions) and you can reuse the presentation points as blog posts
  • Record a blog post, and you have a podcast (and podcasts are hot, hot, hot today—if they’re a good fit for your market)
  • Client questions can spur an article
  • Your reaction to a blog post or news story can yield a comment, which you might then expand into a blog post (as a guest, if you don’t have your own blog), an article, or a podcast 

When it comes to repurposing, the sky is the limit. Make it your habit to ask, how else can I use this?

Even more importantly, ask where you can distribute it. Content won’t help you grow your practice unless it’s consumed by the right audience. Where it’s a fit for your practice, look for ways to appear in the relevant industry and popular media. And look for how you can use what you’ve done to build relationships as well.

What resources do you have that you can repurpose now to extend your reach?

Is client loyalty dead?

This week, I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s fantastic book Start with Why. (I mentioned him a few months ago in connection with Good Life Project podcast about purpose. This quote jumped out at me:

There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers often don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business, however, is. All it takes is more manipulations.

Do you have repeat business or loyal clients? Conversation today might suggest that client loyalty is a thing of the past in the face of today’s increased cost pressures and new avenues for getting legal issues addressed, but in my view, that’s a belief that lets practitioners off the hook.

If you build trust and deliver strong work while creating value for your clients, you’ll build loyalty. Where are your areas of opportunity to create client loyalty?

How you earn your fee

“There’s a lot of conversation now about fees… Whether the billable hour should live or die and how to innovate ethical and effective fee arrangements, just to name two hot topics of discussion.

Here’s my question: What value do you bring to each hour of your day? How can you increase your value to your clients? Or more specifically, how can you bring more value to whatever you’ll turn to as soon as you close this post?

I choose to bring value by making an impact as quickly as possible.