A few years ago, I had to drive to an important business meeting in an unfamiliar city. Because this was before I had GPS, I printed out directions before leaving my office, so I had a good idea of where I was going. The sun was beaming down and my “pump me up” playlist was blaring, and I was feeling really good.
But then I hit an unanticipated obstacle: a road closed due to construction. I didn’t know the area and the detour wasn’t well-marked. Before long, I had no idea how to get from here to there. I knew which roads I needed to find, but looking at the map was useless because I didn’t know where I was. So frustrating!
When I talk with lawyers about business development, this story feels all too familiar. So often, lawyers have a sense of what they’d like to accomplish (the destination) and even how to get there (the directions), but after hitting an obstacle–sometimes even despite a lack of obstacles–what had seemed clear seems confusing.
If you want to succeed in business development, you must:
- Know where you’re starting. One of my favorite cautions is, “Don’t mistake luck for skill.” If you’ve had success in landing clients, make sure you know why and how to replicate that. If it’s sheer luck, you have to find a way to shift that luck into something you can repeat and transform into skill. What’s going well? What’s broken? What questions do you have, and what resources do you need?I created the Law Practice Profitability Audit to simplify this step. Take the Audit here.
- Know how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you want to be. In other words, you need a plan. You need to be able to describe your ideal clients and referral sources, and you must know how you can reach those people and businesses. What specific actions will you take to get to your goal?
- Know the most effective ways to accomplish the tasks on your list. This is why it’s important to read books and get training on business development topics. You have to master the skills such as effective networking, speaking and writing that builds your reputation and gets you clients, and asking for business.
- Take action consistently on your plans. What you know is important, but what you do is what will make you succeed. It is not sufficient to take action occasionally or at random times; you must act consistently and persistently.
- Track your results. There’s a concept (attributed to Lord Kelvin, among others) that what is measured can be improved. Without knowing whether an activity is producing results for you, it’s impossible to know whether you should expand it, keep to the status quo, or discontinue it. While data may be difficult lto gather (especially in high value, low volume practices tend to have a longer “sales cycle”), it’s important that you have at least a qualitative sense of how successful your activity is at moving you closer to your business development goals.
When you have all of these aspects of successful business development in place, you will be able to adjust your plans when you encounter an obstacle. Equally importantly, you will know how to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, and you will consistently move toward your rainmaker goals.
What more do you need to succeed, based on this checklist?