Business Development Trades in Promises

Sales. Selling. Sales pitch. How do those words come across to you? Positive, negative, or no charge at all? Studies show that a significant number of people have some bad impression about selling, though most people have no negative association with buying. (See Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human for more on this.)

But if you’re to grow your practice, you have to be able to secure new work, and that requires sales skills. I know, you didn’t go to law school to sell stuff (nor did I)… And yet, if you’re uncomfortable in a sales conversation, your potential client will perceive that discomfort and may think you’re uncomfortable with the matter or the client, or even that you’re trying to hide something.

I’m always on the lookout for alternative ways of looking at sales because you must master your comfort with the idea of sales before you can master the skill itself. And I found a new perspective in a recent article that you cannot afford to miss.

Here’s a teaser: “What we’re really trading in is promises.”

Take two minutes to read the post, then five or ten to contemplate its implications. It’ll change your perspective on both sales and client service.


Plans are useless, but…

I see two huge mistakes among lawyers eager to build a book of business:

  • the urge to jump into action without designing a plan, and
  • the tendency to plan and revise and plan some more without ever moving to action.

Today I’ll offer another perspective on planning, from Dwight Eisenhower:

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

In other words, when circumstances change and disrupt your carefully-laid plans, the process of assessing all of the factors that affect your practice will show you how to adjust. (Want to know more about how to create a plan? Check Chapter 3 of The Reluctant Rainmaker.)

How effective is your practice planning?

Progress or excuses?

One simple question for you today: are you making progress toward your business development goals… Or are you making excuses?

Here’s the tricky part: progress doesn’t necessarily require massive action, and action doesn’t necessarily equate to progress.

Take a minute and get honest with yourself. If you don’t like what you discover, do something different today. Making progress can be as simple as picking up the phone to call a strategically selected contact.

Are you reactionary or responsible?

After I finished writing last week’s article on the relationship between the generative power of language and your business development activity, I remembered several other articles discussing a similar topic. I highly recommend you check Michael Hyatt’s 3 Ways You’re Giving Up Power with Your Words: How the Way You Speak Can Sabotage Your Success. Hyatt’s discussion of how words like “I’ll try” give us an automatic escape from whatever you say you want to do:

“When we agree to a commitment by saying, “I’ll try” or “I’ll give it my best shot,” we’re saying the opposite. At least that’s what people usually hear.

The problem is that it not only undermines our credibility, it also lowers the chance we’ll make good on the commitment because it’s a subtle denial of our own agency.”

After you’ve read Hyatt’s post, check out this one from Seth Godin. Godin’s upshot:

When you decide to set the agenda and when you take control over your time and your effort, the responsibility for what happens next belongs to you.

And that’s why you must take an entrepreneurial approach to your practice. Change is going to come, and you can be reactionary or responsible. The choice is yours, but only one of those options will lead you to success.