Work on your habits

So you want to grow your practice… What’s your focus? You could answer that question with many different right answers.

This short blog post from Chris Brogan offers one answer: Focus on your habits. It isn’t rocket science to understand that your likelihood of success (in business development or otherwise) increases substantially if you have a good plan in place and you execute on your plan with consistent activity. 

Brogan’s post is unique in that it will help you quantify the habits you need to develop. That’s important because (as the old saw states) what gets measured gets done. Read the post for more and to learn what it means to focus on “the number before the number” to reach your goals. Reading the post will take less than 2 minutes, and you will find it’s time well spent.

Silence May Not Mean Satisfaction

You’ve probably heard it before: it’s much easier to source new business from an existing client than from a non-client. 

You may also know that many clients judge their experience based largely on the day-to-day interactions between you – how well you serve the client, in other words.  Studies show that clients unhappy with the service they receive will not necessarily share that displeasure with you unless it becomes so pronounced that they’re ready to discontinue the relationship and hire someone else instead.  That’s the wrong time to learn that your client is dissatisfied: it’s usually too late to correct the problem and save the relationship.

Last week’s travel reinforced each of those points and, by analogy, provided some insight into what goes right and what can go wrong with client relationships.

Thanks to all the travel I do, I’m a platinum member with Delta.  Some months ago, I had to fly another airline between LA and San Francisco, and it was an eye-opening experience.  It was all about customer service:

  • When I checked in, the agent asked how I was and looked at me while I answered.  The agent chatted with me as he quickly and accurately checked me in and printed my ticket.  He answered my several questions with humor and good information.  This is, unfortunately, not a common experience for me while traveling.
  • Boarding was fast and easy, the seats were comfortable, and the flight was on time despite a late take-off.
  • The flight attendant was pleasant and helpful.
  • My luggage arrived, and it did so quickly.  (Unfortunately, I now mentally bid farewell to my belongings when I have to check a bag, having had two bags delayed for days and one permanently lost.)

Both airlines have always met the key objective of getting me to my ticketed destination safely.   I like Delta (at least, I’m not terribly dissatisfied with Delta) and yet my short trip with Virgin America made me ready to consider choosing to fly with them when I have that option.  And I noticed the differences highlighted above when I next flew on Delta.  It would be a stretch to say I’m now a customer by convenience rather than loyalty, but it would be completely accurate to say that if the circumstances were right, I could be wooed away by another airline.

Could your clients be wooed away?  Have you recently reviewed your client service standards (with help from your staff, if appropriate) to be sure that your clients receive what they need from you?  A few common areas to consider:

  • How quickly do you return telephone calls and answer emails?
  • Do your clients know the people in your business with whom they may need to talk?  An introduction can help clients feel comfortable talking with others; without one, they may feel foisted off or that they aren’t important enough to talk with you directly.
  • Do you make clients welcome and comfortable when they visit your office?
  • Do you communicate with the frequency and in the mode your clients prefer?

These are just a few examples of areas to consider when you’re evaluating your client service.  This week, take a fresh look at opportunities to serve your clients more effectively.  You might even consider asking a few clients how satisfied they are.  (Use an open-ended question like, “Janice, I’d like to make it as easy as possible for you to work with us.  Is there anything I or my staff could do to provide you with better service?”)  Don’t assume that your clients would let you know if they were dissatisfied.

Acknowledge all of the feedback you receive from clients.  While you may be unable to incorporate every suggestion, failing to acknowledge your clients’ responses may deal a fatal blow to your relationship.  And if you can’t incorporate a suggestion, consider explaining why and making an alternative proposal to meet the client’s concern.

Leadership Skill: Anger Management

This is a true story.  Trial had finally started.  Richard listened patiently as Nathan gave his opening statement.  When he finished, Nathan sat down at his counsel table.  When Richard stood to offer his opening, Nathan crooked his finger to beckon Richard over.  Motioning Richard to lean down, Nathan turned his body so they were face-to-face just inches apart, but neither the judge nor the jury could see Nathan’s lips.  Grinning broadly, Nathan whispered “&%$@ you,” then leaned back in his chair – leaving the court and the jury with the impression that they’d just shared a friendly, collegial exchange.  Richard, seething throughout his opening, never quite found his rhythm.

Lawyers who are or aspire to be leaders must learn to self-manage.  The skill of self-management includes essentially anything that promotes the one’s best self: the habits that create sufficient energy, emotional resilience, and mental focus.  Especially when stressed or under pressure, it’s easy to let some aspects of self-management slide.  For example, some attorneys I know offer a blanket apology to staff and colleagues — something like, “I’m feeling stressed, so please excuse me if I blow up or yell at you or throw things, ok?”  I don’t recommend that approach; it’s better than nothing, I suppose, but it’s actually announcing that bad behavior is coming, apparently largely unchecked.

Lawyers are all too often faced with galling statements, actions, arguments, and behavior.  As the opening vignette shows, sometimes the irritation is extreme.  Some lawyers’ litigation tactics includes making an effort to find their opponents’ hot buttons: push the button and out pops an ugly, crazy person – not someone a jury would respect or believe. (Same goes for witnesses, too.)

So how can you handle it when faced with provocation that would make the Buddha quiver with rage?  I suggest six steps that can help you maintain your focus and avoid an unconscious reaction.  These steps are simple, but they may be difficult to apply in the heat of the moment.  The more you practice them, however, the closer they’ll come to habit.

  1. Keep your attention on the motivation behind the provocation. Is the person who’s enraging you doing it intentionally, or is it a by-product of words or behavior that he likely thinks perfectly appropriate? If it’s the former, don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he succeeded. If it’s the latter, consider whether displaying annoyance would stop the behavior or simply let your opponent know that he’s found a soft spot.
  1. Breathe. This is great advice for just about any charged situation, but it’s especially good for dealing with anger. Faced with provocation, you can react (which implies knee-jerk emotional feedback made without any reflection) or you can respond (which implies feedback that follows a pause and analysis/reflection to determine the best way to address the situation). Almost without exception, responding creates better results than reacting will, and breathing offers a chance for your to collect yourself and respond. There’s no reason why you can’t fall silent for a few seconds (even though the time may feel interminable to you and your opponent) while you work through your options.
  1. Speak softly. Most of us tend to raise our voices when we speak in anger. Therefore, it’s disarming to do the opposite and to speak more quietly. The effect is to appear reasonable and controlled (especially helpful if your opponent is ranting and raving and appearing to be out of control) and to force your opponent to listen carefully to hear what you have to say. I am informed that in Japanese culture, when two parties are arguing, the one who raises her voice first loses. It’s a difficult tactic for many of us to master, but if you can speak softly in the face of provocation, you will stand a much better chance of controlling your anger.
  1. Vent. Express your anger in some forum that poses no risk of exposing it. Writing can be helpful, but especially if you write an angry response to an email, be sure that you don’t accidentally send it!
  1. Exercise. That’s physical venting. When feasible, it’s a great idea to get up and take a walk instead of marinating in a situation that makes you angry.
  1. Selective, intentional release of anger. Sometimes, it’s absolutely appropriate to respond to provocation by expressing your anger at the person whose behavior has triggered it. But consider the consequences of such an expression. Will you disrupt a relationship? Do you stand to lose ground? Will your expressed anger cause the person to react in a way that will cause you even more trouble? And when you do choose to display anger, consider doing so through your words only but continuing to speak in a low, even tone of voice. That will reinforce the gravity of your words.

And, despite our best efforts at these tactics, all of us lose our tempers sometimes. When that happens, don’t be afraid to apologize and admit to being human.

Legal business development: You’ve got to stand out.

All lawyers in any given practice area are a dime a dozen, right? Think about your own area. Who stands out in your mind? It’s likely (assuming you’ve been in practice for a while) that you can identify at least a few lawyers who catch attention. Maybe it’s the divorce lawyer who’s known for high-profile divorces. Perhaps it’s the patent lawyer who’s created a curriculum to educate her clients on what to expect in the patenting process and what to be doing to maximize the chances of business success. Or it could be the litigator who’s known for baiting witnesses so effectively that fireworks always erupt.

Every lawyer has some skill, experience, attribute, or approach that distinguishes him or her from others. Those distinguishing factors demonstrate to your potential clients what makes you different and why they should hire you. Equally importantly, they also pave the way for you to market yourself in fresh ways.

The points of distinction that you highlight must be those that matter to your clients. If a client wouldn’t see the value in something that sets you apart from others, you’ve merely identified a distinction, not a real difference. You might have to connect the dots in some instances (for example, some clients might not immediately appreciate the benefit of a lawyer who draws on her background in tax law to support her clients’ licensing needs) but when explained the client must understand why that aspect offers an advantage.

When it comes to marketing, identifying a point of distinction will allow you to a marketing message that answers potential clients’ questions or concerns (some of which they may not even be aware of yet) by highlighting your relevant experience or skill. You are able to speak to something valuable that other lawyers can’t, and you immediately rise above the crowd.

To identify what sets you apart, ask yourself:

  1. What past experience (professional or personal) bears on your practice?
  2. What skill, knowledge, or experience do you bring to your practice that will be helpful for clients?
  3. What kind of practice-related opportunities can you forecast, and how can you position yourself to meet them?

If you’re practicing in a large firm, consider too the advantages that flow from having numerous colleagues in widely divergent practice areas. You may have a leading authority on speed dial, or you might be able to find a resource to meet a client’s need no matter the issue he’s facing. This is especially beneficial for newer lawyers who may not yet have the experience or reputation to stand on their own for marketing but who can market their firm quite effectively.

You might also consider how can you serve your clients in new or innovative ways. In addition to your primary services, for instance, perhaps you could offer ancillary services or products to offer a fuller solution to your clients’ needs. Are there free or reduced-fee services that you might offer as a way of introducing yourself and your skills to a class of potential clients or referral sources?

You might stand apart from others by offering a quarterly free Q&A meeting (ideally in person) during which you present must-know points and respond to potential clients’ questions about topics related to your practice area. For example, if you practice elder law, you might host a monthly gathering to help adult children learn what legal issues they should plan for as they assist their aging parents.  You could offer a fee-based group in which you cover key issues in more depth, and you might have certain forms or templates for sale that the adult children could use to implement your suggestions. Although some clients will get what they need from those free and low-cost offerings, others will want or need your help and will hire you.

If your practice spans geographic areas in such a way that you don’t often have an opportunity to meet face-to-face with your clients, look to technology to bridge the distance. Videoconferencing is one common approach that isn’t used as often as it probably should be. You could craft a marketing message around the personal service you offer and the importance of tailoring legal solutions to each individual (or business); weaving in your enhanced communication opportunities will set you apart from others who merely use the words but don’t actually deliver the value.

How might you create a different approach to client service? Consider these questions:

  1. How can I meet both legal and non-legal needs that my clients frequently present?
  2. How can I build innovative services that will benefit my clients?
  3. What might I do to answer potential client questions, introduce my clients to beneficial resources, or otherwise extend my services in unexpected ways?

Identifying your points of differentiation and using them to craft a marketing message requires analysis, insight, and sometimes even an intuitive leap. Hold a brainstorming session with the proviso that no answer is too wacky to be considered.  Sometimes impractical or unpalatable ideas provide the leap to a truly unique marketing message and practice. And don’t hesitate to seek help with this: sometimes outsider vision reveals what an insider will never see.

Tend relationships to grow your practice.

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of business development coaching recently, and I often tell my clients that rainmaking is all about relationships.  I also tell clients that good relationships, personal or professional, should be nurtured – even that low-level employee of a corporate client may prove to be a valuable contact one day.  This past weekend confirmed that for me.

Clients sometimes question why I suggest maintaining friendships from college and law school, and the weekend offers the explanation.  I hosted a reunion for six of my closest friends from college last weekend.  Although we stay in touch by email and conference calls, we rarely see each other face-to-face.  I was struck by a realization as I looked around at my friends: we’ve come a long way since college.

Of the 6 of us, I’m the only lawyer.  Two are in high-level corporate positions, working with multiple law firms and (coincidentally) dealing with issues that were at the core of my interest when I was in practice.  And three of the women’s husbands (who are invited for co-ed get-togethers) are in corporate positions as well, responsible for hiring or coordinating efforts with lawyers for some aspects of the business.

The other three women are teachers, and each is also active in the community in some way.  One is a community actor and director who serves on several theatre boards in her city, another holds offices in various groups that her sons have joined, and the third is a leader in more community groups than I can count.  These women are well-connected.

In the years since college, we have all advanced in responsibility.  Through long history together, these friends (and their husbands) know, like, and trust me, as I do each of them.  If I were still in practice, these connections would be ripe for business development – not because I would “use” my friends to bring in clients, but because my friends would feel confident in hiring me (or others I recommend) and referring others to me.  (And here’s proof: a special “welcome” to the lawyers who have recently subscribed to this newsletter at the suggestion of one of my college friends – you know who you are!)  The reverse is, of course, true as well.

Multiple referrals have passed among us over the years, and anytime one of us needs to meet someone for business purposes, working through this extended network almost always gets results.  If any of us had judged whether these would be professionally fruitful relationships twenty years ago, the answer would probably have been no.  We were either poor graduate students or eager but hungry young teachers, hardly ready to refer business to anyone except perhaps a great restaurant.  Circumstances have certainly changed over time.  But my friends’ basic attributes have not: they’re sharp, nice, trustworthy, and service-oriented.  Those attributes have led them to success in a variety of businesses and relationships, and our connections are now fruitful professionally as well as personally.

This is only one example of how contacts grow.  The same is true of former colleagues, junior employees of corporate clients, and so on.  Regardless of where or how you meet, maintain connections with people you like and trust.  You cannot possibly know where life will take you and your contacts or how (or whether) connections will shift over time, but solid relationships often yield business or other useful resources.

A client recently told me that he wished he’d learned years ago to keep in touch with clients and friends at his peer level.  As you advance in experience and responsibility, so will your contacts.  In our mobile society, today’s low-level employee at one company may be tomorrow’s vice president at a competitor.

Coaching challenge: Think about good contacts (those whom you know, like, and trust) with whom you have not talked recently.  Pick up the phone today and reconnect with a few, or perhaps issue an invitation for lunch or coffee.  Nurture these relationships and you will likely find that they pay dividends over time.

Working Your Practice

I recently attended a business seminar focused on hiring and managing employees. I was surprised that the program started by asking us attendees to identify our business vision and what we stand for. I was even more surprised to find how difficult that was to do!

You may have heard the distinction between working in your business as opposed to working on your business, popularized by Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. The former is what you do to earn money, and the latter is what you do to design and build your business.

Marketing lives and thrives, however, when you’re working on your business. That’s when you come up with a new way to talk about what you do and identify an under-served client sector that needs your services. That’s when you come up with a great idea for an article, you write that article, and you consider who might help you land a speaking opportunity to develop further and share what you wrote in the article.

So, here’s today’s question: how much time are you spending on your practice? And is the time you’re spending effective?

Effectiveness is driven by not just the degree to which you’re able to raise your professional profile and the business you bring in, but also by the number of smart ideas you have and implement. As Seth Godin writes, “Pretty good ideas are easy. The guts and persistence and talent to create, ship and stick it out are what’s hard.”

Take some time today to work on your business. If you don’t know where to start, start with asking what is your vision for your practice. Consider your practice area, your sub-niche within that area, the clients with whom you work, how you serve those clients, and your practice setting, for starters.

Burning the candle at both ends?

I burn my candle at both ends
It will not last the night.
But ah my foes and oh my friends
It gives a lovely light.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

What do you think when you read this?  If you’re like many lawyers, you felt a flutter of recognition — perhaps just before you recoiled at the idea that, perhaps, your candle won’t “last the night.”  It’s just the weak who can’t burn and burn and burn, right?

Sustainability isn’t an exciting word, and most of us don’t see it as something to aim for.  After all, we tend to want bigger and better and more, not homeostasis.  What does it mean, though, to have a “sustainable practice”?

According to Merriam-Webster, “to sustain” means (among other things) “to supply with sustenance: nourish” and “to keep up, prolong.”   And sustainable means, of course, “capable of being sustained” or “of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods.”

How do you nourish your practice?  How does your lifestyle support you in keeping up and prolonging your ability to work effectively?  My clients have experimented with many different approaches, and the list that follows recounts some of the most successful.

  1. Discover what’s meaningful to you and focus your attention and practice on that. If it’s client service, you will draw a strength and energy from serving your clients that someone who’s in practice because of the intellectual stimulation won’t experience.  Connecting to what matters to you illuminates your purpose.  Having a purpose nourishes your practice.
  2. Delegate.  If you can identify aspects of practice that you personally don’t have to fulfill, you’ll increase your energy by passing it along to someone who can handle it.  If you find yourself thinking that you’ll spend less time doing it (whatever it is) than teaching someone else to do it, consider whether you’ll save time over the long run if you turn it over, even if it requires an investment of time now.
  3. Connect.  If you enjoy socializing, make sure you have a group of lawyers you join for lunch or drinks or a volleyball game on a regular basis.  You’ll increase social contact, have a group of colleagues to use as sounding boards, build a resource for giving and getting referrals, and more.  You can even do this online, but consider whether you’d get more out of interacting with flesh and blood colleagues.
  4. Notice how your body feels when you have adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.  Just notice.  If noticing convinces you that you feel better and have more energy, do something with that knowledge – noticing alone won’t change anything.
  5. Develop discipline.  You can put a schedule in place that will support you.  Plan time when you put your calls on hold and get concentrated work done.  Set time aside for meeting with your support staff, the lawyers you supervise, and those who supervise you.
  6. Take time for outside interests.  Hike, read, act, whatever… But don’t allow yourself to be one-dimensional.
  7. Do you live on adrenaline and caffeine?  If so, chances are that you’re running from crisis to crisis.  Ask yourself whether there’s a way to limit the crunches to times when there’s really a crisis.  What feels good about putting out fires?  Spending some time resolving this will provide support for making changes that leave you working on a non-emergency basis, which facilitates having more energy.  Adrenaline and caffeine are great, but they’re hardly the key to a sustainable practice or life.

Set aside time to check your progress on these and other habits that support you and your practice.  Because it’s easy to get sucked into a hectic schedule (with your candle burning not only at both ends but in the middle, too), arrange a relationship that will hold you accountable to whatever adjustments you may decide to make.  Consider whether coaching might be the appropriate relationship.

Billable time or biz dev… Or both?

Last week, I delivered a business development workshop for an Atlanta law firm, and gave my recommendations about how much time lawyers should spend on business development.  Although the exact number depends on several factors, in general I recommend 1-5 hours a week, with more time suggested for more senior lawyers.  Some participants bristled at the idea of spending that much time on business development.

But here’s the easy-to-miss, critical distinction: done properly, time spent with clients is business development time.

That’s because, “All things being equal, people will do business with – and refer business to – those people they know, like and trust.” This quote, from Bob Burg’s excellent book Endless Referrals, sums up why it is that relationships serve as the basis for rainmaking. It also clarifies why your current clients should be your top priority for business development, followed by former clients and referral sources, then “warm” contacts, and only finally strangers.

Focus first on those who already know, like, and trust you, and then seek to expand those sources of business. That order of approach dictates, in turn, the priorities that you should set as you work to develop your book of business.

Your current clients are your “low hanging fruit.” Your top priority should be providing excellent client service to your clients. Consider these aspects of client service:

  • Communicate with your clients and observe their preferences for amount and kind of communication that they want.
  • Be responsive. Manage your clients’ expectations and ensure that your clients always know how to contact you or someone in your office.
  • Share bad news appropriately. Deliver the news as soon as possible. Explain the news, what it means, and advise the client about next steps.
  • Be reliable with cost estimates and billing.
  • When you bill, do so in a comprehensible way that’s explained sufficiently to forestall questions about what was done or why.
  • Facilitate your work with your clients. Anything you can do to make it easier for your clients to do business with you is likely to be well received by them.
  • Spend time with your clients. Consider spending time with clients in a social setting or (where appropriate) by visiting their place of business to develop a more full understanding of their business.
  • Deliver extra value to your clients. By providing some assistance, promotion, or service to your client that is over and above the legal services you’ve agreed to provide, you demonstrate the importance you place on your client relationships generally and on that client specifically.
  • Conduct client satisfaction interviews or surveys. Unless you ask, your clients are unlikely to volunteer their level of satisfaction unless they’re dissatisfied to the point of considering terminating the relationship or effusive in praise.

When you apply these priorities to your business development efforts, you’ll begin to view your billable work as a rainmaking activity as well as the heart of your practice. You’ll also begin to see relationships as the “must do” meat of your business development plan, and you’ll understand why you shouldn’t expect to move a new contact quickly from stranger to client. As a result, you’ll be able to stage the rainmaking work you do so that you put time in where it’s most effective. And over time, you’ll find that your business development work yields much better results.

Proper planning can help relieve pressure.

“Pressure is what you feel when you don’t know what you are doing.” Peyton Manning

This quote stopped me in my tracks. My first inclination was to disagree, because I sometimes feel pressure because of a deadline or because of the importance of some activity, even though I know what I’m doing.  Digging a bit deeper, though, I think Manning has a point.

When it comes to business development, the lawyers most under pressure are those who don’t have a cohesive plan, who aren’t implementing their plan consistently, or who haven’t fully committed to one or more activities that are likely to help them secure work.  Although they know what they’re doing on certain levels, there’s a disconnect between intellectual knowing and buckling down to do the work. If you know that you should request an on-site meeting with a client, for example, and you expect that you might well land more business or receive a referral or even deepen a valuable relationship, but you don’t ask for the meeting, you’re going to feel pressure.

In contrast, if you have a plan that you’re implementing consistently, though you may feel tension until you see results from your plan, that tension is different in nature. When you know what you’re doing, both in terms of the specific activities and the timing, you also know that you can shift your plan as needed to tweak your results.

You know that you have something that’s fundamentally workable. You’ve done your homework and you’ve prepared yourself and your plan.

Do you feel pressure about business development? If you do, take a few minutes today to get to the source of that pressure. You’ll probably find that it’s one of these issues:

  • You don’t know what you’re doing (you don’t have a plan or you don’t know how to implement some aspect of your plan)
  • You don’t know how to make time to implement your plan consistently (so you never have an opportunity to reach momentum)
  • You don’t know how to perform one or more activities incorporated in your plan (and so you haven’t even started)
  • You’re terribly uncomfortable about some aspect of your plan (you aren’t confident that you can engage in business development activity without harming relationships… or your ego)
  • You need to bring in new business now and you don’t yet know that your plan will work (you haven’t implemented your plan and you’re focusing on the need for business rather than on your ability to meet that need

Which of these issues underlies the pressure you’re feeling?  Once you’ve identified the problem, you’re that much closer to solving it. If you aren’t sure where to start, please schedule a complimentary consultation so we can get acquainted and mutually decide whether I can help.

How to avoid amassing untouched stacks of business cards that you should use for follow-up.

Here’s how it happens…

You get back to your office, having met some interesting new contacts, armed with their business cards and good intentions of following up. You take those cards, maybe flip through them to remind yourself of who’s most interesting, and then you put them somewhere safe, so you won’t forget. My “safe spot” was always on a bookcase just behind my desk. Yours might be your credenza or your desk drawer.

You think about following up with your new contacts. You want to find just the right opener. Something personal, to help recall your conversation, or better yet something you can share that brings value and is connected to your conversation.

And then you get distracted by a deadline or a phone call or someone dropping by your office with a quick question. Your thoughts shift to the task in front of you, and you remind yourself that you need to get back to that stack of cards.

The cycle repeats itself over the next few hours or days or even weeks. Having delayed this long to get in touch with your new contacts, you feel a pressure to have a strong follow-up. “Nice to meet you” just doesn’t cut it after two weeks, does it? But the memory of the conversations is getting dimmer, and you’re finding it harder and harder to come up with a good enough follow-up. Plus those distractions just keep coming.

And then, weeks or months later, you look at the stack of cards, sigh, and throw them away, resolving to do better next time. And you rationalize it. The contact wasn’t that interesting. The opportunity wasn’t that promising. Besides, they didn’t contact you either. Networking is a two-way street, and if they didn’t do their part, it’s ok that you never quite got around to the follow-up.

Sound familiar? Here are three steps you can use to shift this experience, follow up consistently, and get better results from your networking.

  1. Make a few notes immediately after networking so you can remember your new contacts. As soon as you leave the meeting, jot a few key words on the back of your new contact’s business card. If you’re a talker, dictate your notes using a service that will email a transcript to you right away. (You can find multiple apps, or use a service like LegalTypist.) Import the notes into a contact management system so you can use them for initial follow-up and to lay the groundwork for future contact.
  2. Have a deadline for your follow-up, with a personal “no extension” policy. Resolve that you will follow up within one to two days at the absolute outside, no matter what. (Nancy Fox suggests using the 30 minutes after a meeting for follow-up.) Set your deadline in advance and make it a part of your follow-up system.
  3. Extra credit: plan “connection time” at least twice a week. Use it for follow-up when you’ve met new contacts, or to connect with someone on your “A list” of contacts if not.
  4. Use a template to make your initial contacts easier. Use a template that you adapt to the circumstances, so your follow-up is always personal but never created from scratch. Having a starting point makes it much more likely you’ll get the initial follow-up done, whether your system calls for follow-up by telephone, email, or handwritten note. 

Once you’ve made your initial follow-up contact, calendar your next contact. You may not get a response to your initial follow-up, so be sure you know when you’ll be back in touch and how you’ll make that contact.

Networking without follow-up is a waste of time. Consistency builds relationships, and successful business development requires relationships, not just contacts. Implement your follow-up system today—especially if you have business cards collecting dust!