In the world of professional services, the key to success is effective business development (BD). The key is to discover opportunities, build valuable relationships and drive growth in both established and untapped markets.
Thoughtful BD strategies play a vital role in the advancement of lawyers and legal practices, but developing an effective plan to achieve visions and goals can often be a difficult task. By leveraging thoughtful insight and a targeted approach, even the most overwhelmed and hesitant lawyers can turn their goals into reality.
I recently asked two of my clients, Alexander “Alex” Davis of Mayer Brown and Kathryn “Katie” McConnell of Littler Mendelson, to share the mistakes they made when setting out to create a BD plan. Did. They shared several examples, but the most obvious mistake was overestimating the amount of time they could spend on non-billable initiatives. This is where professionals can become discouraged and give up on their goals long before they can gain momentum.
So how do you build a viable and successful BD plan? Let's look at this from two angles. This article explores the most common reasons why plans fail. In the next article, we will focus on how to create a dynamic BD plan that will put you on the path to success.
Why BD plans fail
One of the most significant and frequent mistakes lawyers make is failing to clearly define the goals and objectives of their BD. Without clear direction, it becomes difficult to develop a focused and effective plan. “Moreover,” McConnell added. “People are looking at both ends of the scale, either being too ambitious or not ambitious enough.” Balancing reaching difficult goals while setting achievable goals. is important.
There are several other main reasons why BD plans fail.
People who are too ambitious run the risk of becoming discouraged and giving up on their goals too early. But people who don't set high enough goals tend to reach their goals faster than expected, accomplish nothing meaningful with the time they have left, and wonder why their efforts gain momentum. You start to wonder if you won't be able to achieve great success.
Start with “easy” wins to gain confidence and work your way up to stretch goals. In my experience, getting that initial “yes” from a client or prospect increases motivation and makes subsequent efforts much easier.
poor time management
“It's important to know what you want to accomplish and how much time you have to spend to achieve your end goal,” McConnell says. Being honest and realistic about how much time you spend on non-billable activities will help you determine which goals are achievable.
Identify specific target markets, lines of business, industries, or customer segments you want to pursue to ensure your efforts are aligned with your overall strategy. Think through the weekly or daily activities needed to achieve these goals. Are they doable given your current workload, company and community commitments, family and social obligations, and everything else in your life? Don't overcommit. Burnout is real.
Operation in vacuum
If you create a plan without market research or client feedback, you will be working in a vacuum based solely on your understanding of the market and the skills you offer. Understanding emerging trends, needs, and competitive insights within the clients you serve and the industry you serve is critical to identifying opportunities and effectively positioning yourself.
Additionally, it's important to know how others can positively influence your plans. “If lawyers don't know the expertise of others in the firm, the plan will fail,” Davis said.
Identifying opportunities based on your colleagues' strengths is a great way to provide services that meet your clients' demands and improve their experience with you and your company.
lack of accountability
Lawyers often fail to establish accountability mechanisms and track the effectiveness of their business development efforts. Without proper tracking and ways to measure efforts, it becomes difficult to evaluate the success of different strategies and make data-driven decisions.
To avoid this common pitfall, set key performance indicators, regularly review your progress, and adapt your strategy based on real-time feedback and results. McConnell and Davis agree that accountability can take the form of a business coach, mentor, or informal check-in with a colleague. Keeping you on track and working toward your goals is the key to success.
Pursue bright things and new things
Finally, attorneys often fail to prioritize consistent client relationship management rather than new client acquisition. Building trust and loyalty requires continuous communication, understanding customer needs, and providing excellent service, which are essential elements of a successful BD plan. Establish a system to follow up with your customers regularly, maintain open communication, and always keep your customers top of mind.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “It's common sense to take a method and try it. If you fail, admit it openly and try another method. But above all, try something.”
When taking on challenges, you can rely on the experience of others to avoid common mistakes, which will help you adopt a careful and strategic approach to business development. By doing so, you can develop a solid plan to effectively drive your practice, retain your current job, attract new clients, and foster a career trajectory that aligns with your long-term goals.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.
Heather McCullough is co-founder of Society 54, a consulting firm for professional services firms, and co-founder of Society Tech, a technology software company for marketing and business development teams.
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