Business development can sound so easy: make a plan, execute the plan, land the business, rinse and repeat. And sometimes it might even work that way, or perhaps you may discover that plans need to be tweaked to account for unanticipated opportunities. That’s what a dear friend calls a nice problem to have.
Other times, though, it feels like you’re head down, plowing ahead with business development, and making no headway at all… Maybe even losing ground. You might interpret that as a sign that you’re just not meant to be a rainmaker. Chances are reasonably good, though, that there’s a correctable problem in that way you’re approaching business development.
If you aren’t seeing the results you want, check this list to see what might be going wrong:
- Do you have a business development plan? If you’re doing business development activity without a coordinated strategy, you’re unlikely to see great results. The Reluctant Rainmaker.
- Are you actually using your plan? If you created a plan and then put in on the shelf (literally or metaphorically), your results are likely to be as random as your activity. Not surprisingly, it’s important that you actually implement your plan. This sounds so obvious as to be pointless to say, but it’s amazing how often someone will overlook this step.
- Do you have the skills you need? If you have a plan but execute it poorly, you won’t get the results you want. This breaks down into a sub-checklist of skills, such as networking skills (are you developing relationships with the right people?), content-generation or content-placement skills (if you’re writing or speaking, are you doing so in an effective way on appropriate topics to a desirable audience?), communication skills (does all of your marketing and business development activity work together to generate attention and to inspire confidence?), and more.
- What do you believe about business development that isn’t accurate? Several years ago, I came to realize that lawyers who fail at business development have accepted as true myths about how and whether to engage in rainmaking activity. The myths usually center on the necessity or urgency for taking on business development activity, on the mechanics of that activity, or on the beliefs that surround the activity or the idea of working to get new clients. As a result, they touch on every aspects of business development, from the need for rainmaking activity to the professionalism and ethics of such activity. I’ve identified and explained a number of these myths in Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Could Kill Your Practice.
- How are you getting in your own way? I’ve seen lawyers undermine themselves in business development in a variety of ways, such as:
- building a business development plan around tasks that you dislike (and will therefore find reasons to avoid)
- lacking sufficient time or focus to engage consistently in your business development activity
- fighting internal conflicts (for instance, about whether you actually want to bring in new business if you’re contemplating changing firms or leaving practice altogether, for example)
- dressing in a way that undercuts your professionalism or authority
These problems are especially vexing because they’re hard to see without outside input. At times, we buy into our own stories without critical reflection, which makes it difficult to identify those stories or find a way out of them. That’s why it’s important to you get help from a friend, colleague, or coach who will show you what you can’t see.