As it turns out, the process of identifying the BD activities that you like and that you're good at so that you can pursue them is essentially the same for all lawyers, irrespective of the stage of their career. Because winning business development isn't about asking the right question. It's not about finding the magic bullet. It's not even about connecting with the client (or group of clients) that are going to make you rich and famous. Successful BD is about work. Honest, old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-at-it work: to identify your strengths and weaknesses, to define your targets, to craft the plans for going after those companies and to execute on them, to refocus your efforts when Target A doesn't (or does, for that matter) pan out.
So what are the questions that senior lawyers can ask to refine and improve their business development plans?
- What's working that I should do more of?
You're no stranger to the game. You've spoken to scores of trade groups, written dozens of articles, established hundreds of meaningful relationships, you've set aggressive targets, and you've achieved them. Chances are that you're already focusing your time and efforts on activities that have been successful in the past. What are they? And more importantly, what are you doing to be able to do more of them? Developing and growing a practice isn't like investing, after all: past performance is entirely indicative of future results. Figure out what works, and do more of that.
- What's not working, that I should stop?
Just as it's important to determine what works best, you need to identify the BD activities you're currently engaged in that are not going to lead to more work. Not because you need to necessarily stop doing them completely, but rather to be honest about what you hope to get out of them: your role on the board of the local food bank may never drive paying business your way, so maybe you shouldn't be looking at it as your main business development initiative of 2017. And there's a bonus: freeing yourself from BD efforts that have never produced an hour's worth of client work will allow you to devote more times to those that have.
- What else would I like to try, and why?
Most of the lawyers I've worked with over the course of my career are creative problem solvers who have great business development instincts. They're don't lack new ideas about how they can better reach clients and prospects. But it can often be such a challenge to translate those new approaches into viable initiatives – for a wide variety of reasons – that they wither on the vine. The first step in breaking that cycle? Writing down the new ideas, fleshing them out, figuring out what has to happen for them to come to fruition. Accordingly, you need to spend some time thinking about the new things you'd like try, so we can work together to find a way to make them happen.