Many lawyers, law firm marketers, and other highly educated professionals mistakenly assume that once they graduate from college or law school or earn their CPA, all they need to do to be successful is to practice. This may be true for the elite in their field – a very select few. But for the vast majority of lawyers and other professionals, history demonstrates that college or graduate degrees alone do not necessarily guarantee success. True success is a lifelong process, and many subjects and skills not taught in school are required for a person to be truly successful.
One such critical skill is the ability to get new clients and/or new work. Without the ability to secure, develop, maintain, and retain a client relationship, all the credentials and schooling in the world will still leave a practitioner with little to work on. Without clients, there are no problems for you to counsel or advise on, solve, or resolve. So sales, client development, or business development (whichever phrase you use to define the processes of developing qualified leads and getting new work in the door) are fundamental and crucial skills and disciplines for all professionals.
The most effective and successful professionals – whether they are practicing lawyers, CPAs, business advisers, sales coaches, consultants, or in-house marketers – have at least three traits in common:
1. They are personally committed to self-development and continual learning.
2. They are self-disciplined and willing to work with others to complement and augment their own capabilities.
3. They work to be effective communicators and are willing to address difficulties in working relationships as they arise.
The bottom line is that personal attitude, mind-set, capability, and commitment over time are crucial to attaining any degree of success in business development or any other field.
So, would you benefit from a personal business development coach? Ask yourself:
1. Do I already know all there is to know about “sales” and client development? Too many professionals assume that selling is nothing but common sense and instantly think to themselves, “Yes, I think I do know everything I need to know about developing business – it’s just common sense,” and don’t pursue ongoing formal training or coaching. However, the fact is that client/business development is a specialty, both a science and an art, just like the practice of law or other professions. For example, when the field of life sciences emerged, were legal experts already in place? Hardly – those lawyers who were interested specialized in the field, conducted personal study, took continuing legal education courses on the subject, and gained the experience to become competent and eventually experts. The same is true for business development, which is a science that arguably came to the forefront in professional services fields approximately 30 years ago. Consequently, the practice of business development for the professions has become increasingly sophisticated and complex.
If you answered no to question #1 and you do think there is more you could learn to improve your performance in the client/business development area, ask yourself: “What is it that I don’t know?” Studies have shown that the more educated people are, the more they THINK they know about any given subject, when in fact they actually know less than a person of average education. Bottom line: we don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. In other words, knowing a lot about a subject and doing it well are two separate issues. If you accept that there may be things about client/business development that you don’t know or may want to improve, you have the right attitude to enhance your performance and results.
2. What are my NATURAL abilities/aptitudes, and what areas do I need to work on? The best strategy is to focus on and maximize your natural gifts while being aware of and making efforts to minimize those traits that may negatively affect your performance. If you are a natural “people person,” you are relatively unique, in that people with those skills represent a fairly small percentage of the general population and an even smaller percentage of lawyers and other professionals. Most professionals are more naturally cerebral and consequently need to work on developing their people skills. Even if you have natural people skills, in this competitive environment, if you do not know the proposal process (both reactive and proactive) and/or do not close the sale, all the people skills in the world will not be as effective as they could be in building your book of business. If you are not sure of your natural skills and abilities in the client/business development area, a professional, thorough assessment will help you gain insight.
3. Do I respond well to suggestions/ideas? Or am I already set in my ways or mentally stuck? The answer to this question is what makes the difference between someone who will benefit from training and coaching and someone on whom it will largely be wasted. At most law firms, 5 to 10 percent of partners are highly resistant to input and suggestions on business development subjects and feel fully capable themselves without help. In this highly competitive environment, if you are a partner who is resistant to any assistance in client/business development AND develops at least $2 million annually in new business, keep doing what you are doing! Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Often, it is those lawyers who need to adapt and enhance their skills the most who are the greatest naysayers or put up the most resistance.
In this world of consolidating legal and professional services, bringing in business, and developing and maintaining client relationships are no longer optional for any partner, any professional striving for partner status, or any law firm marketer/business developer coaching lawyers to bring in new work.
Register to attend this webinar - “Best Practices in Sales Coaching for Law Firm Marketers/Business Developers” being held Wednesday, August 23, 2017 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. Eastern time.