Most lawyers and law firms rate business development as their number one priority. Curiously, for all of the conversation about the need for new business and the amount of money firms expend in the name of business development (typically 2.5% to 4.5% of gross revenues), it is a wonder that firms are satisfied with a relatively low success rate from these efforts. Considering that the average small to midsized firm is typically built around relatively few books of business, these firms are right to recognize the importance of business development.
The trouble is that most successful business developers are unable or unwilling to translate their success into a blueprint for others to follow. Lawyers at all levels are in need of a system for business development that is built around their individual capabilities. While a complete discussion business development systems and planning is more than I can handle in this short piece, I can offer a number of business development fundamentals to at least steer the conversation in the right direction.
- Lawyers should recognize the need to develop new business, especially when busy with existing client work. Busy lawyers often develop a false sense of security and lose sight of the reality that one settled case or change in a client relationship can change fortunes in a day.
- Lawyers and firms should consider the effectiveness of existing business development methods. Lawyers are quick to reduce marketing to entertainment. In person contact is an important aspect of business development, but without a plan these efforts are likely to fall short.
- Clients choose lawyers for their own reasons. Learn what these reasons are and why they are so important to the prospective client. Lawyers who understand the way a client thinks will be better able to connect with the client and enjoy a higher success rate.
- Plan client calls and allow time for substantive conversation centered on a client's issues, the impact of these issues on the client, the client's desired solution to these issues, and how the client will know when these issues are addressed. Lawyers who approach client calls in this manner will be able to evaluate the level of new business opportunity that exists and also demonstrate that they are interested in a different kind of relationship with the client.
- Recognize that part of the marketing budget should be allocated to training and education in business development. Proper training will increase the effectiveness of marketing efforts.
Business development includes both a marketing and a sales effort. Firm marketing should provide the foundation and credibility for a lawyer to procure new business. Procuring new business is a sales function. Sales training for professionals is available and invaluable to those making a sincere effort. Successful business development is about possibilities and places one in proximity to high levels of performance and rewards.