Emerging From Covid Means Leadership Matters For Biz Dev

I have long believed that being a leader is critical to succeeding in business development. For more on why that’s true, check this 2009 post.

Michael Hyatt’s blog post The 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership outlines five key aspects of leadership, which include:

  1. Insight
  2. Initiative
  3. Influence
  4. Impact
  5. Integrity

While Hyatt’s post does not focus on the intersection of leadership and the ability to generate new business, each of his five marks reflects a capacity that is necessary for successful business development. For example, Hyatt describes a leader’s insight in this way:

Leaders need wisdom and discernment for the present. They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action.

This insight is, of course, a foundational skill for success in practice, but it applies equally well to business development. Effective business generation tactics will include a display of this wisdom and discernment whether in person-to-person conversation, in which case the comments will be at least somewhat specific to the potential client or in an article or presentation, in which case the comments will focus more generally on a specific legal issue or on a particular client profile. Your legal and, where applicable, business insight is valuable for clients and for developing new business.

As we emerge from Covid and quarantine and move toward business as new-normal, leadership becomes even more critical. How might you deploy Hyatt’s five marks in the context of evaluating shifts in opportunity for your clients and yourself in light of the changes prompted by the pandemic? None of us has a crystal ball, but when you can bring insight to the table to influence the generation of new initiatives and create new impact, all in the context of high integrity, your leadership will affect your clients and your own business.

For an example of how one consulting firm is exhibiting this kind of leadership in a way that’s calculated to develop business, check Korn Ferry’s The Covid-19 Leadership Guide. While your efforts need not (and perhaps should not) culminate in an 89-page glossy report like Korn Ferry’s, you can get some ideas of how you might serve your clients by seeing how Korn Ferry has approached this leadership opportunity.

Read Hyatt’s post and ask yourself whether and how your business development activity reflects each of his 5 Marks of Authentic Leadership. Which do you need to amplify as your business community works to build a new post-pandemic normal?

4 Articles You Need to Read

I’ve found some interesting articles to share with you this week.

  1. How One Company Worked to Root Out Bias from Performance Reviews An audit of performance reviews in a midsized law firm revealed four patterns of racial and gender bias. The authors proposed changes to the evaluation form (breaking job responsibilities into competencies and requesting that each rating be backed by three pieces of evidence) and required those completing the forms to attend a one-hour workshop to learn how to use the form. The result: “people of color and women got more constructive feedback, and the playing field was leveled for everyone: Whereas white men had longer, more complex evaluations in year one, in year two, both word count and language complexity were similar across all groups.” 
  2. Gaining the Power of Metrics Means Looking At More than Just Legal Spend This article addresses the use of data not just to manage legal costs but also to identify and avoid issues that might arise for your clients. This approach also speaks to creating additional value for your clients. Depending on your clientele and practice setting, “data” and “metrics” may feel out of reach for you, but the lessons adhere equally when it comes to studying trends among your clients, in their industry, and in the law as it relates to their interests.
  3. The skills new lawyers need right away The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System published a report of the skills necessary for a new lawyer’s success in practice based on a survey of over 24,000 American attorneys. The survey responses identified the skills necessary for short-term success, necessary for long-term success, not necessary but advantageous, or not relevant to success. The results are fascinating, but my eye was drawn to the responses in “Business Development and Relations.”While “generate new business” was deemed necessary by 63.3% of respondents and advantageous by an additional 14.4%, “engage in appropriate marketing or fundraising” was deemed necessary by only 43.8% of respondents, advantageous by another 31.4%, and not relevant by the remaining 24.8%. While it’s likely that these responses are skewed somewhat by in-house counsel respondents who are not responsible for generating new business, the disparity makes me wonder what we’re teaching new lawyers and what the “we” represented by these survey respondents believe about our own business development skills. Check out all the business development skill ratings here.
  4. Make yourself important! Mark Herrmann’s column in Above the Law is always a favorite, and the column responding to Business Development Gripes does not disappoint. It’s all useful (especially for lawyers concerned about competing with colleagues who have better credentials), but this comment hits home: “And, of course, you could always make yourself important by speaking and writing and developing a reputation. I admit that’s hard, but wallowing in self-pity ain’t a barrel of laughs, either.”

Happy reading!

How’s your biz dev plan?

How do you know when your business development plan is well designed? It may be an easy answer when you have new business flooding in (as long as that flood is due to your effort rather than good luck), but when you’re working and you don’t see new business as an immediate result, what should you ask yourself? Try these questions:

Get productivity help!

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s an “app for that” when it comes to productivity, you’re going to love the resource I’m sharing this week. Visit this page to view a list of apps and websites that help with the following productivity needs:

  • Notes and Capture
  • Journaling
  • Mind Mapping
  • Storage
  • Time Management
  • Task Management
  • Email Management
  • Project Management
  • Team Sharing
  • Team Chat
  • Calendar Management / Sharing
  • Workflow and Automation
  • Writing
  • Markdown
  • Dictation / Transcription
  • Text Expansion
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Research and Organization
  • Time Tracking
  • Social Media
  • Financial and Business
  • Password Management
  • Personal Digital Assistants
  • Environment

When you get to the page, you’ll see an offer for a PDF of the list plus a bonus, but keep scrolling down to see the list itself. 

This is also a great example of how strong content (like the list of resources) can help you to build a mailing list. The post was so helpful that I signed up to get the PDF, and I’m interested to see what the author will send in his upcoming newsletters. Would a potential client who tripped across your website say that?

What’s the story about your value?

I’ve written over and over and over again about creating value for clients. Value matters in business development too, of course. Check this quote from Seth Godin that puts marketing into the context of value:


How do you tell a story about your value? Case studies? Data and statistics? White papers or other kinds of presentations? Consider today how effectively your marketing communications convey your value. It isn’t your potential client’s job to discover the value that you would bring; it’s your job to illustrate it so the potential client understands.

Why be LESS productive?

I recently opened an email and read a list of 10 tested, proven ways to become less productive. Nobody wants to be less productive, but it just happens some days, right?

Problem is, as I read the list I realized that it’s like a checklist of problems that prevent lawyers from succeeding in business development—or really, anything else.  Nobody wants to fail (especially while working to succeed) but these ten behaviors will undermine productivity. Of these ten, the most common that I hear are:

  • Spend more time planning than doing: creating and honing a business development plan can be a great way to avoid ever taking action.
  • Pack your schedule: being busy is an alarmingly easy way to push business development tasks to the back burner.
  • Work on autopilot: reacting to demands rather than setting a plan and sticking to it absent an emergency is a great way to feel needed and productive, but you may be accomplishing the less important things while leaving your true priorities behind.

If you’re feeling less productive than you’d like when it comes to business development (or to any other priority in your life), check this list to identify the likely reasons… And then do the opposite.

Are you willing to sacrifice to build your practice?

Are you willing to sacrifice to build your practice? The only way to answer that question honestly is to weigh the sacrifice against what you expect to gain as a result. This quote from Simon Sinek offers a neat summary:

What might you sacrifice? This answer will be unique to each person, but common responses include time, energy, money, and missed social and professional opportunities.

What might you gain? Again, answers will vary, but lawyers generally expect increased income, more professional opportunities, more control over their time and their career, and increased professional and personal satisfaction.

When you’re clear on what you may sacrifice and know that your anticipated gain is sufficiently appealing, it’s easier to decide to keep going when it would be easy to stop. Alternatively, if the gains you expect aren’t worth it, you’ll decide to stop more readily and with more certainty.

So… What are you sacrificing to build your practice? What do you expect to gain? And is the gain worth it?

5 Ways to Identify Topics for Writing & Speaking

One of the best ways to build your reputation as being skilled in your area of practice is through content marketing. Offering articles, blog posts, presentations, and the like that are centered on your practice area and that share substantive information useful to your audience highlights your knowledge, adds to your credibility, and shares something about who you are as a lawyer. If used well, these pieces can also lead to website traffic and even direct contact with a potential client.

Content marketing just might be a reluctant rainmaker’s best tool, if used strategically. Assuming you select the right topics and that you place your writings in appropriate online and offline publications and speak to the right audiences, you can benefit because your audience is actively interested in the information you’re sharing and you’re demonstrating your value while marketing. 

But the need for content generation can also be the bane of a lawyer’s existence. The content must be timely (or evergreen), relevant, easily consumed, and—most importantly—good. Creating qualified content isn’t necessarily easy. If you imagine sitting in front of a blank computer screen, wracking your brain for an interesting topic you can cover effectively in the time you have available, not to mention trying to squeeze in one more activity in your already-overburdened schedule, you aren’t alone.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be so painful.  Many of my private clients find that coming up with ideas is the most difficult part of content marketing.  Here’s how to make it easier:

  1. Use listening tools. Twitter and LinkedIn can be useful for tracking trending topics. Skim or read periodicals relevant to your industry as well as some from outside your industry. One of my favorite tools is the app Flipboard, a “personalized magazine” that pulls news from a variety of sources grouped by the categories selected by the user.
  2. Use your clients’ questions and concerns. You probably field questions day in and day out. What themes do you notice? What questions should your clients be asking? If you’re stumped, skim your sent emails. You’re almost certain to find topics suitable for inclusion in written materials and presentations.
  3. Ask your clients what they’re thinking and wondering about. Not only will you learn more about your clients’ needs, which is a useful business development activity in itself, but also you’ll notice themes that interest your clients and are ripe for content generation.
  4. Review a book or service that your clients will find useful. Chances are that you’re aware of sources that your clients don’t generally follow. (For example, I periodically review business books in this newsletter. Most lawyers don’t make the time to read these books, and I often get notes of thanks for highlighting useful information.) Bringing information your audience might not discover otherwise adds value.
  5. Myths, misunderstandings, and outright lies. Chances are that there are some incorrect but commonly-held beliefs or approaches related to an issue that your clients face. Sometimes it’s a simple factual misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and sometimes it’s all about the deeper truth. Debunk those misapprehensions or challenge the common wisdom. When you explain myths and truths, you can quickly get the attention of your audience. And it’s ok to take a controversial position in doing so as long as you have facts and logic to back up your position.

Most importantly, keep a running list of your ideas for content. You’ll probably find that the best ideas occur to you while you’re exercising, showering, watching TV – anything except sitting at your desk. Use Evernote or a simple Word document to list your ideas. That way, when you’re facing a blank computer screen, you’ll have a list of ideas ready to go.

What can you learn from cell phone carriers?

Pop quiz: why are you a customer of your cell phone carrier? Take a second to answer. Got it? You likely gave one of these reasons:

  • Your carrier is the cheapest (price)
  • You’ve been with the same carrier forever with no reason to change (inertia)
  • Your carrier offers an advantage that others don’t (distinction)

Legal services are no different. If you’re competing on price alone, you’ll wind up in a race to the bottom, just like the carriers who have introduced their cut-rate brands to capture the cost-conscious market. If your clients are working with you simply because it takes too much effort to hire another lawyer, they’re ripe for the plucking.

But if you offer an advantage that others don’t, clients have a reason to hire you and to stay with you. Your point of distinction not only sets you apart: it establishes your value proposition, and as long as you deliver that value, your clients are less likely to explore other representation.

Points of distinction take many forms, but examples include:

  • Special knowledge (legal or factual, especially “inside information”)
  • Valuable connections and demonstrated willingness to make introductions
  • Ancillary services that are especially useful in conjunction with your legal services
  • Ease of working with you
  • Billing approaches that represent value to your clients

To return to the cell carrier example, I was with AT&T (and its predecessors) for many years—inertia—but then I began spending more time in Wyoming, where AT&T’s coverage was pitiful. Verizon offered much better coverage (their point of distinction), and so I switched even though Verizon is more expensive than other options.

What would make a client prefer to work with you rather than someone else? If you can’t answer that question persuasively right now, you have some work to do.

Motivation and action

Have you ever caught yourself thinking about a task you need to complete and wishing you could just get yourself motivated to do it? That happens especially with tasks that don’t have a specific deadline, and even more so if the task isn’t one that feels like it comes naturally.

Business development tasks are one example of “must-have motivation” activities. The tasks take significant effort: writing an article, having lunch with a contact to accomplish some specific goal, and similar tasks take time, energy, and thought. If you don’t particularly enjoy the effort, it’s easy to delay it until you feel motivated. So you wait, but what happens if the motivation never comes?

I saw a great quote a few days ago that may bring this struggle into new focus:


This applies to business development in two ways: 

  1. If you aren’t feeling motivated, take some action. It’s often challenging to start something new, but once you’re in process, it may be easier to continue. If you want to write an article, for example, try outlining it first—both as a way to organize your thoughts and as a way to get started with something easier than actually writing. Once the outline is done, you may feel more willing to start writing, and you’ll certainly find it easier to do because you already know where you’re headed with your text.
  2. As you see positive results, you are likely to find yourself more motivated to continue. If you have lunch with a contact and it leads to something good (an introduction to someone you’ve been wanting to meet or a referral, for instance), you’re more likely to set up lunch with another contact. This is where momentum comes into play, too: consistent action tends to beget more action.

So, the bottom line: if you’re feeling unmotivated, do something. Take even a small step. You’ll likely find that your action will increase your motivation, which will lead to more action.