Last week, I visited the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, Wyoming. This multimedia-focused tourist/educational center presented stories about the emigrant trails that passed through Wyoming: the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail. The primary focus was on life on the trails, of course, but the exhibit started with an examination of why the emigrants left home.
Some left in search of adventure, some for the promise of great fortune, and some for the hope of freedom. Whatever the pull, it had to be strong, because success on the trail was by no means certain. Most travelers walked the entire 2000ish mile journey, and graves littered the route. Boredom and exhaustion were constant companions, and accident, disease, and attack threatened with every step. What would be enough motivation to make you leave home under those circumstances?
As I walked through the center, I realized that the impetus to get on the emigrant trail isn’t so different from the motivation to begin business development activity. Whenever I have a consultation with a potential client, one of the first things I want to know is, why do you want more clients? Answers vary. Some senior lawyers have built a practice as a service partner and then discovered that the new economy demands that everyone bring in new business — or else. Others are setting out on their own to launch a new practice or a new business and they need clients to survive. Generally speaking, a strong motivation is apparent, something that’s drawing this person to embark seriously on the rainmaker road.
But occasionally, I’ll talk with someone who seems so lackadaisical that I suspect they won’t make it. Without a strong pull forward, the effort required may be too much. The pain of learning new approaches and new ways of being can easily overwhelm someone who isn’t truly committed to bringing in new business. I won’t coach those who lack commitment, because I know they’ll probably see lackluster results (at best) because they’ll be too quick to throw in the towel — and we’ll both end up frustrated.
So, before we embark on the trail (even though you’ll view the tips from the safety of your office or your home), consider these questions:
- Why do you want to get new business?
- What are your goals? (Think both immediate and long-term.)
- How important is it to you to meet those goals? (Are they your goals? If not, are you willing to adopt them as your own? If not, I can virtually guarantee that you’re going to struggle.)
- What will stop you? Lack of time? Lack of money? Hearing “no” from a potential client? Be honest with yourself here.
I insist that my clients be clear on why they want new clients and what they want to achieve. That kind of clarity offers something to hang onto when the road gets difficult and long — and it will get difficult and long. Knowing what you’re moving toward and why is one of the best insurance policies you can have for business development — in fact, it’s the only one you can have.
Your assignment: make a list of at least 20 reasons why you want to land new business, and post it in a place where you’ll see it often. If anyone asks why you have that list, just tell them… this is your insurance to guard against failure.