When an attorney is focused on business development and is implementing consistently a strategic plan designed to reach clearly identified goals, magic happens. Often it’s magic that brings in new business, and for practices with longer sales cycles, it’s magic that first brings in connections and opportunities that eventually lead to new business. The magic that always exists in the presence of consistent activity, though, is momentum.
Momentum is defined by the Macmillan Dictionary as “progress or development that is becoming faster or stronger,” and Merriam Webster adds that momentum is “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” Momentum is a force that seems to take on a life of its own. In business development, momentum occurs when opportunities begin to flow from one another, introductions materialize, and all of the work that you’ve done yields a noticeable uptick in rainmaker results.
I’ve identified several steps to create momentum in business development.
- Develop a plan that includes activity in several complementary domains. In other words, when you identify one activity to include in your plan, look for related activities that naturally build on that one. For example, if you plan to write articles or a blog, look for ways to repurpose that content, perhaps by launching a newsletter (which is a good complement to a blog) or by speaking once or twice a year on themes that you’ve identified through your writing.
- As soon as you’ve decided to commit to an activity, put it on your calendar. Momentum requires action, not just plans. It’s easy to “decide” to have two lunches a week with good contacts and then to “decide” to start next week. Or the week after. Or the week after that… You know, when things slow down enough for you to catch your breath.
If a commitment isn’t in your calendar, question whether it’s really a commitment.
- Take consistent, concentrated action. One push may be all it takes to roll a perfect boulder down a perfect hill, but business development doesn’t exist in a perfect world. Committing to an activity requires committing to consistent engagement. One lunch isn’t momentum. Five lunches might start to create momentum. Twelve lunches in a month may be enough to get some momentum going: not only will you know that you’ll have lunch with strategically selected contacts three times a week, but you’ll be in the habit of mentally sorting your contacts to select the right lunch partners, identifying why you should meet, and planning what you’d like to realize from the lunch. You’ll also likely get into the groove of offering and asking for assistance.
Concentrated action is usually required to create momentum. Taking action once a month is consistent, but unless the action is massive (such as hosting a seminar and then implementing a follow-up strategy that requires additional action) you’re unlikely to see momentum build. In today’s world, our attention spans are shorter, and momentum both thrives on and creates attention. Make business development your top priority for a set amount of time (the length of which will depend on your specific plan and practice) and that concentration may create the right content for momentum to blossom.
- Measure your results. Tracking results quantifies outcomes (even when the only measurement is qualitative, as it often is especially in the beginning stages of business development) and helps to create momentum. When you see that doing X leads to positive outcome Y, you’re more likely to repeat X. Measurement also helps to avoid fruitless activity.
- Once a quarter, review your activity and results, looking specifically for synergy and complementary opportunities. For example, if you’ve received several referrals from CPAs, perhaps you should consider how to spend more time with selected CPAs. If you’ve sponsored a meeting, review the results of the sponsorship and your planned follow-up steps, then think about how you might build on that activity—for example, you might invite attendees to hear you speak on a topic of interest.
We all feel momentum when it happens: the phone starts ringing, one great idea generates another (and both get implemented), and you discover that your network of contacts really is a network that you can access. Calculated steps can create momentum, but you must also prepare yourself to recognize it and to analyze what specifically created it. When you’ve identified that what, make sure you build more of that into your plans.
A caveat about momentum, though: when it comes to business development, think of momentum as an accelerator, not as a continuous motion machine. Remember that we commonly talk about losing momentum at least as often as we discuss gaining it. Momentum leads to strong results, but it is not an independent force that will continue in perpetuity.
The key to creating momentum is also the key to keeping it going: consistent action.
Do you have momentum in business development? What would it take? If you’re uncertain, a good place to start is by evaluating what activity has delivered the best results over the last six months and then asking yourself how you might create momentum around that activity.