Business Development Resolutions Part 2

Last time it was about getting the picture, a mentor or a buddy. There are three more resolutions that will build on this good work to help create a tide of success for you or your professionals’ business development efforts over the coming months. These are not complicated things but, if they are missing, the firm’s individual/collective success and achievement can be oh-too-easily compromised.

Get proactive
“I have a good reputation with the clients/partners who have the gift of work. They know where I am”
This is the better mousetrap fallacy as applied by some practitioners. In this mind-set, believing that they have a better professional gizmo than their neighbours is sufficient for the world to beat a path to their door. Except it won’t be and it doesn’t – as some have found to their cost particularly in the leaner times of the past five years.

Part of this problem is about conditioning. Lawyers, accountants, and other experts can grow up in their firms only ever being fed work and then measured on how well they complete it. By the time they are deemed to be mature, it’s a big ask to then overlay the bit that says “I must now go and win my own”. (NB This is often the point at which the mentors or coaches mentioned in Part 1 can become useful). So early exposure to the skills, practice of, and responsibility for work-winning is vital.

But ultimately, it comes down to a simple realisation for everyone. Assume nothing about what your clients are thinking or about the self-perceived excellence of your mousetrap. Proactivity in finding and delivering ongoing ways to engage with them is the key, particularly with the proliferation of communication media now available to all of us. Plan it and then do it.

Build momentum
So for a number of professionals, BD is not perceptibly a primary business function. If it is treated as a ‘nice to do’, the consequences for achievement and results are usually serious. Witness the plans and activity being happily implemented from Tip 1 by Practitioner A that are dropped the moment a new significant piece of work comes in, only to be taken up again perhaps months later, if at all.

Disappearing off the grid thus, it becomes extremely difficult to build any sort of momentum with clients and contacts that will deliver a stream of new future work opportunities. The solution is partly a management one: that means supervising partners or department heads delivering on their leadership remit by setting specific agendas for Practitioner A and other individuals for whom they are responsible, reviewing progress regularly against what was agreed, and providing guidance, encouragement, or sanctions as appropriate. But it is also about individuals themselves recognising their overweening deal focus (often not easy so more guidance required here) and then applying coping strategies to deal with it…

Take it bite-size
The boom/bust nature of business development implementation described in Tip 2 requires an adjustment. Instead of working flat out just on fee earning punctuated by infrequently large and indigestible ‘chunks’ of business development, allocate a small amount of time each day to BD/marketing (say 15 or 30 minutes) and stick to it. If, as often, this is about communicating with people, the beginning and the end of the day are timely periods that minimally impact on work flow and that offer the best chances of success.

Of course, there will also be BD tasks that require more time to complete but this is a good baseline to establish.

Business Development Resolutions Part 1

Another year…and another set of business development challenges. It may be increasingly a ‘given’ that BD is important to everyone, but there are still common gaps between aspiration and reality that have to be bridged. Individuals at all levels can benefit from some simple actions that will contribute significantly to their proficiency and achievement. We’ve identified three below from our experience. There are more – so next time we’ll offer up three more for your consideration.

Get the picture(s)
There are a number of pictures here. The big picture is a firm’s overall direction and strategy: if they don’t exist then nobody should be surprised if professionals (and other ‘actors’) are heading in all manner of unproductive pathways and dead-ends. If they do, then individuals need to ask themselves “are my efforts being targeted properly?” – and it is the responsibility of the firm’s practice and other leaders to ensure that this alignment is happening by engaging with their people.

At more micro levels, professionals can struggle to get their business development activities in perspective. Sometimes, this is because they have no specific goals to achieve. Elsewhere or in addition, they underestimate the size of the active contact base and legwork that is required to achieve new client or customer wins. It doesn’t happen without consistent effort. In all this and more, they often need help…..

Get a mentor
This is “It can be a lonely business part 1”. Quite a number of professionals we meet do not feel they are “natural” business developers: they didn’t get where they are today by doing it, it wasn’t what they signed up for etc. For them, it can feel like a pretty solitary place to be. But it’s what you do about this that is the key.

Certain individuals we know have actively sought out (the firm’s) good BD professionals and asked for their help or advice. That often works. Recognising the need, some firms set up and run their own mentoring or coaching programmes that formalise and organise such activity; others invest in specialist outside help to achieve the same goal. Both of these can work too. But whichever method you choose, if there is a clearly-recognised demand, the biggest crime is to do nothing.

Get a buddy
And here is “It can be a lonely business part 2”. On a day-to-day level, we have observed a more productive and enjoyable time to be had when going about their business development activities (networking, conferences, seminars etc.) for professionals – particularly less experienced ones – who team up. That doesn’t mean that they hang out together rather than get the BD work done. It does means that they use each other for assistance, advice, support, and learning on the job. If they get on, it can work very well. And it makes the task much less of a lonely one.