WRA 12/1/09: Are you doing it wrong?

I recently spoke with a lawyer who had tried a variety of business development activities, all to no avail.  She’d written articles, she’d taught seminars, she’d advertised, she’d attended some networking events, she’d posted her profile on various social networking sites, and so on.  But after all of that, she didn’t have any results to report at all, and she was about to conclude that she just wasn’t meant to be a rainmaker.

That reaction is so common.  It’s so discouraging to work at something — especially something as important as business development — and to see no results.  But three mistakes often come clear when I talk with someone who has worked hard at rainmaking without meaningful results.

  1. The lawyer is measuring the wrong thing.  Sure, new business is the clearest measurement of rainmaking success, but that’s like starting a diet and measuring success only by reaching goal weight.  There are all sorts of midpoints that indicate success: making new contacts, developing relationships, building a strong reputation in your field, and so on.  These “interim successes” indicate forward movement — assuming, of course, they’re measured as progress toward the ultimate goal of bringing in new business and not as an end in themselves.
  2. The lawyer hasn’t brought in new business. . . Yet.  “Patience & perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish,” John Quincy Adams observed.  In other words, don’t give up before an activity has had time to produce results.  Networking is a key place where lawyers fall short here.  A single conversation is incredibly unlikely to generate new business.  Mere membership in a group, or attending a meeting once or twice, is equally unlikely to be successful in any measure.  Hopping from one activity to another generates a lot of motion but very little forward movement.  Choosing one or two marketing tactics is almost certain to bring better results — unless. . .
  3. The lawyer is doing the wrong things, or doing them in the wrong way.  No matter how persistently the task is undertaken, if it’s fundamentally flawed, it won’t work.  Let’s take networking again.  If your idea of networking is attending meetings, talking incessantly about yourself, your skills, your qualifications, and your experience, plus pressing your business card on anyone who happens within an arms’ length, you are destined to fail.  That’s networking at its worst and it’s unattractive to just about everyone.  In the example that opened today’s post, the lawyer was doing a lot of good activities, but none of them involved actually talking with potential clients and referral sources.  Good activity done wrong does’t work.

Your task this week: are you making any of these mistakes?  Check to see how you’re measuring your success especially.  Because lawyers are trained to focus on the end game (here, landing the new business), this is one of the key mistakes that I often see among new clients.


1 reply
  1. Michelle Alford
    Michelle Alford says:

    You’re absolutely right. I often attend networking events, and it’s amazing how often they’re filled with people who aren’t actually interested in meeting other people, but who instead just want to broadcast who they are and move on. It’s like the difference between meeting someone in a supermarket and having a meaningful conversation that results in future engagements, and using the overhead system to announce who you are, what you do, and your contact info in case anyone wants to meet with you later.

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