Two keys to biz dev perseverance and success.

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of your business development sails? That can happen when you expect to land some new business and it doesn’t happen, when you hit a few closed doors in a row, or even when you lay out your business development plan and feel exhausted just looking at it. Nobody said building a book of business is easy or fast.

Here’s what makes it less frustrating: doing business development activity on a consistent basis and tracking what you do and your results. When you act consistently and build a track record to look back on, you’ll find it easier to keep on keeping on.


I’ve written extensively about the need for consistency. In talking with several clients recently who were slammed with billable work and leaving business development work on the back burner as a result, I suggested this:

  1. Determine, with all the clear-eyed realism you can muster, how much time you can make available for business development activity on a daily basis.
  2. Block that amount of time on your daily

  3. Categorize your task list based on the type of activity (contexts, to use Getting Things Done language) and on the amount of time necessary for completion.
  4. Work on one “chunk” of activity each day. If your tasks take less time than you have available, cross a couple of items off your list. If they take more time than you have available, define and complete one step toward the task.

You probably won’t keep your scheduled block every single day, but if the blocks are on your calendar, you have a much better chance of making consistent progress than if you only have one block of time set aside per week.


I’ve also written about parallels between business development and going to the gym. Last month, I shifted from a small local gym to my neighborhood YMCA, and I discovered a new parallel: tracking matters!

My new gym features Fitlinxx®, small screens that show the proper settings for each machine and connect to an online program that tracks participants’ activity. Through Fitlinxx®, I can see historical data about what machines I used, how much weight I lifted, and how much cardio or other activity I performed, along with my standings among other FitLinxx® members. I not only stay motivated (right now, I’m #8 among women in my age range in my gym, and I’m just over 200 points behind the #5 position—hello, competition with myself to move up!) but I can also correlate how I performed with how I’m feeling, how I sleeping, and so on. All of this data is measurable and meaningful to me, and I can use it to help me improve.

So too with tracking your business development activity and results. When you track what you did and what happened as a result, you’ll get data that will tell you what you can and should do to improve your results. (Do more of what works well and eliminate what doesn’t work.) You may also find that tracking your activity is motivating in itself, and if you share it with an accountability partner (a peer or a coach) you’ll likely find that you do more activity and work to do better.

Here’s the bottom line on tracking:



You can find more information on how to track your results in Chapter 3 of The Reluctant Rainmaker, and you may download a sample tracking sheet here.

How will you build consistency and tracking into your business development approach?

Why status quo is dangerous

What’s wrong with the status quo? Maybe nothing. But here’s what you need to keep in mind when you’re considering whether to make a shift of some sort:

Status quo doesn’t get attention.

Status quo doesn’t delight anyone.

Status quo doesn’t get talked about.

Status quo doesn’t feel fresh or tailored.

Status quo… just IS. 

In a world that is moving forward, staying the same gives your competitors an advantage. They need not make a big change, and they need not even make a change that offers a substantial advantage: any change offers a point of distinction.

Should you make a change solely for the sake of making a change? No. But you should never stop asking whether a change is warranted to better serve your clients, to better position your practice, or to work more efficiently.

If nothing else, a change may get your own creative juices going. If you’re trying to solve a difficult problem, try standing up or working in a different location. Even driving to work in a new way may stimulate new ideas.

If you’re feeling stuck in the status quo, what might you change?

Decision or action?

Consider this short exchange:

What have you decided to do to grow your practice? Are you actually doing it?

What’s every client’s favorite word?

On one level, clients are looking for different things as they choose and work with attorneys. Some want a budget provider who will do the minimum necessary or collaborate closely with in-house counsel or businesspeople for DIY completion. Others want to hire the most prominent, best known, most expensive lawyers to appease the Board of Directors or to show another party that a matter is getting serious attention. Yet others look for a lawyer who has connections to useful people or businesses, and others prefer to work with lawyers who have implemented legal project management. You get the idea, and the variations are endless, especially once you consider clients who seek a combination of attributes.

But there’s one word that sums up what every client is seeking: value. The budget-seekers measure value in terms of legal spend. Those seeking a lawyer with connections define value in part in terms of getting introductions that will expand their reach in some way. Those seeking the authority in the field measure value in terms of top-quality legal work, of course, but they also expect to benefit from the top lawyer’s reputation and successful track record. These (and myriad other ways of determining value) should affect your marketing in at least two ways:

  1. You must know what core value (other than quality legal work) you bring to the class of clients you serve and identify that in your marketing. This is one aspect of differentiating yourself from other practitioners in your field. The differentiating factors that matter are those that your clients value. If what sets you apart isn’t something that your clients value, it’s a distinction that won’t have any substantial effect in growing your practice.
  2. You must find ways to create value for your clients in the course of your representation. Think of this as an “add-on” value that’s above and beyond the core value you identified to differentiate yourself from others. Examples might include sharing information about a trend you’ve identified, offering educational material to support the legal work you do (a pamphlet about ways to attract investors to a start-up or an annual email that invites clients to see whether they need to update their estate plan, for example), or a directory of providers in fields that would benefit your clients.

Take this non-legal example to illustrate the two kinds of value. When you think about car repairs, the most important thing is likely that the repairs be completed correctly, within a reasonable time, and for a reasonable price. Core values that might attract you to a particular garage would include focusing on particular brands of cars or using only factory-authorized parts. Repair shops would promote those points of differentiation because they may be deciding factors. Add-on value would include the availability of a comfortable waiting room with wi-fi, a quiet area, and good coffee. The chances are that you wouldn’t decide on a repair shop solely based on that add-on value, but you would appreciate it, you might tell others about it, and you might find the repair process better because of those perks.

Your action item: