If you’re like most professional service providers I know, the motivation behind your choice of profession had nothing to do with a desire to get into sales…never mind being required to sell in order to do what you set out to do in the first place.

The real-world result of this is a “two-hats” dilemma — requiring one hat for your role as a business builder and a second one as a service provider.

Business development feels like it requires a personality, skill set and tool kit completely different from those associated with the counsel or service you provide.

How do you find prospects? How do you manage your time and create new growth opportunities?

The good news is that there are productive business development strategies that relieve this stress and bridge the disconnect.

The key is to create an approach to business development that grows out of the way you serve your clients. Do this and building a practice becomes much more organic. 

Where To Begin Continue Reading Stressed Over Business Development? Relax, You Don’t Need More Prospects

When was the last time you were in a room where the problem was a shortage of talk?

Each of us has an experience, a perspective or an insight (or two) worth sharing. The challenge, at least as it relates to building productive relationships, is that some of us (I’m looking in the mirror, FYI) act like the insight is so grand as to warrant the lion’s share of attention in any room.

So there is almost never a shortage of talk.

Meanwhile, interactions where the objective is to listen, intent on learning, are rare.

If you’ve encountered anyone skilled at purposeful listening it might have made you a bit uncomfortable. It almost certainly made an impression. Continue Reading Is Anyone Really Listening?

Here’s why so many marketing and sales messages fail to deliver.

The average person is hit with the equivalent of more than 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information in a single day.

That’s more than enough info to max out my 64 Gb iPad in less than two days. In order to deal with this onslaught of input, the brain engages in some amazing mental gymnastics.

What messages cut through the noise? Continue Reading For Greater Return From Your BizDev, Sales and Marketing Messages, Do These Three Things

I’ve spent the last couple of decades believing the surest way for any team, tribe, enterprise or community to realize its mission is to identify and build around a set of shared values. 

The premise is simple. A group will rarely agree on everything. The identification of a set of common values provides a framework against which strategy, investments and actions can be tested.

Does a particular direction run counter to shared values? If so, it threatens the mission, and should be abandoned or reconstituted.

Shared values are the fabric of culture.

But it turns out I have been cutting the conversation short

Strong groups (of any ilk) intuitively understand that alignment around what we share is the initial hurdle to be cleared in pursuit of any goal. Shared values unite us. Continue Reading What Do We Value Most?

Succession planning for many firms is what the preparation of a Last Will and Testament is to a majority of individuals. Who wants to take time today to consider the (distant) end to something?

It is easy to move both of these future focused opportunities to the back burner — until urgency takes over. Continue Reading It’s Time To Rethink Succession Planning

The question I get more than any other from new (and sometimes, not so new) acquaintances — professional and personal — is “what was it like giving a TED talk?”.

That’s easy to answer. 

Sure…standing on a TED stage was exciting. It has opened doors, instigated conversations and most significantly, provided a platform for a topic I deem important.

But the TEDx experience had a profound and lasting impact on the way I think about, prepare for and attempt to engage in any opportunity to convey an idea.  Continue Reading Three Lessons From My TEDx Experience

If you secretly fear your approach to business development is underperforming, you are not alone. In fact, you’re among a majority of law, accounting and consulting professionals and firms I know.

I know there is little comfort in numbers in this case; but this prompts a question: when will the lack of results from the way it’s always been done finally push rethinking the conversation?  Continue Reading Will Your Investments In Business Development Pay Off?

For a long time I bought the idea that some individuals simply don’t have what it takes to become business developers, much less have the DNA of a rainmaker.

I’m not sure why I held this notion other than I had heard it voiced by others and it was easy to buy — certain personality-types and skill-sets certainly seemed at odds with the stereotypical business developer. 

But I was wrong. 

Anyone can be an effective business developer…without sacrificing personal authenticity or becoming someone or something different. 

I have worked with thousands of professionals. Some had natural “gifts” that seemed to suggest developing new work was easy for them. (In honest moments most would admit that they worked very hard at making it look easy.) Some were extraordinary when it came to building productive relationships.

Others possesed almost none of those things we tend to think of as the traits of a rainmaker. But the absence of such was not an accurate predictor of the success many of them enjoyed.

I began to realize this when I was working with a lawyer who was the textbook introvert. Noticeably uncomfortable in anything that resembled a social or networking setting, she  had become convinced that this reality foreshadowed a career of depending on others to do most of the BizDev work.

But she was willing to work at it. Over time (about three years in this case), she went from $100,000 in business she had originated in a mid-sized market, to $1.1 million. Today she does twice that in annual originations.

In fact, this quiet introvert possessed the three things required of anyone who seeks to develop a solid professional service practice…and even rain business down for an entire team.

The Givens

It should go without saying, but we will say it for the record: the work product must stand the test of the marketplace. In addition, the DNA of any engagement must reside in what is in the client’s best interest. Settling for anything short of the highest bar in either of these areas comes at a high price. 

A Willingness To Pay The Price

We can sugar coat it. Or try to finesse the language; but the plain truth is that, assuming the givens noted above, the single greatest indicator of whether an individual (or a firm) will succeed in developing business is the degree to which intentional business development is a priority.

If claiming agency over one’s practice is a major and operative driver, a strategic plan of action can be created that aligns with individual personality, affinity and skill-set, and results in organic growth.

Period. No caveats.

Well…okay…there is one equivocation.

Realistic Expectations 

Solid business development — the kind that is foundational to building a career — doesn’t happen over night. Or even in a season of intense focus.

In the case of the lawyer mentioned above, it took eighteen months to realize a measurable increase. Eighteen months of carving out the time to focus on the BizDev work that had to be done.

Anyone  in search of a quick fix or a way to make up for work not done should move on. I don’t know of one that works.

This is not to suggest that business development should occupy the same priority for every lawyer or service provider in every firm. Specific responsibility and accountability should be matters of strategic management in a team setting. 

But without respect to the size of your team, as you plan for a new year if you don’t have a good idea where revenue in 2022 will come from…it is time to ask relevant questions. 

Accepting the idea that some are born for this part of the work and some are not, or subscribing to any other explanation for anemic BizDev efforts is simply to avoid discussing the real question. 

Is business development a priority?

If the answer is “Yes” the good news is that a plan for success can be built.

Anyone ready to make it a priority can become a business developer. Maybe even a rainmaker. 

Strategic planning involves identifying specific goals and defining the action steps necessary to realize those goals. The squishier the goals (a lofty business term, I know) the more difficult it is to map goal-oriented actions. This approach to planning a critical initiative had better come with a hefty dose of luck.

Continue Reading A Better Roadmap for Strategic Lateral Pursuits

Anyone building a professional service practice appreciates the value of relationships. A portfolio of dynamic connections is what fills a pipeline with new leads, referral sources and recurring engagements.

But staying in touch — creating and maintaining the kind of visibility that places you in the right place at the right time — can be a challenge.

Continue Reading 7 Tips For Professionals On Maintaining Visibility And Nurturing Relationships With Prospects