Sunday, January 20, 2008

3 Common Business Development Mistakes

Only about 5-10% of lawyers or key professionals in any single firm are "natural" rainmakers who are born with the predisposition, personal style, contacts and/or skills that help make them significant business sources. Depending upon the total revenue generated annually by that 5-10%, the key issue is in most firms: Is there enough business coming in the door currently and in the pipeline to keep the remaining 90-95% of practitioners 100% billable and collectable? For those lawyers and other practitioners who are not natural-born rainmakers, but have the interest and desire to become one, there is significant hope. Examples abound of self-made rainmakers. To be the best rainmaker you can be, it is wise to avoid the most common mistakes in thinking and approach:

Mistake #1 - Thinking: "I AM marketing! I do seminars, write articles and attend conferences" - Simply "being out there" is no longer enough. Speaking, writing articles, attending seminars and conferences in and of itself will help develop viability and recognition - but not necessarily lead to new business. To successfully compete in today's market, client development must be added to marketing efforts in order to consistently generate new business. Successful client development comes by focusing on whom you know and meet; whom you communicate with; what you communicate and how; and most importantly, your follow-up discipline. The law and all professions are - after all - inherently people businesses. Without a client relationship development focus, wanting to develop business by just "being out there" is mainly wishful thinking.

Mistake #2 - Thinking: "I will do this when I have time" - This mind-set is a slippery slope and fallacy: the more successful you are, the busier you are and the less time you have. So, you may think that time will open up and/or appear, but it rarely happens. The key is to carve out specific and routine time each week or month. Not just to engage in a stand-alone marketing or business development activity - like simply going to lunch. Instead, allocate time to think, strategize, prepare, plan and then execute your client development follow-up.

Mistake #3 - Engaging in shotgun efforts and approaches - The thinking may go something like, "Aha! I have a few hours this week - I will write an item for the firm's newsletter." This is fine if you are trying to build your list of credentials. But the majority of business is developed one-to-one or in very small group meetings - not by articles or media exposure. The best an article can do is generate inquires, but most firm newsletters no longer accomplish that because they are so firm-focused that few clients bother to read them. Clients are inundated with such pieces and unless they are focused on and written for a specific industry, type of company, problem or issue, the old "Smith & Smith Legal Update" has become too generic and cumbersome to generate significant inquiries and/or new business.

To become a better rainmaker, to help increase the number of rainmakers in your firm or the amount of revenue rainmakers generate in 2008 and beyond, consider:

Mastering the "Sales" Process for Lawyers - Thursday, May 22, 2008, New York City at the offices of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, 1133 Avenue of the Americas. For more information or to read what recent attendees had to say about this program, please click here.

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