There are markets where sales is little more than a numbers game. Send enough emails, make enough calls, knock on enough doors, ask the question over-and-over, ignore objectionns, and you’ll close some deals.
But you won’t build many relationships.
And that means that next month…or next quarter…or next year you get to start all over again. Call. Knock. Ignore. Persist.
In the cases where this works, tenacity and a list of suspects are the building blocks; and though perhaps effective as the cornerstones of a churn-and-burn strategy, this is not the way to build a vibrant professional services practice.
In stark contrast, here are four characteristics present in the best professional service sales and business developers I’ve known.
1. They are PEOPLE people. Over the long haul — through market dips and turns — if this is just a job…if you don’t like people…that will eventually come through loud and clear. All things being equal (read if you’re competing with another excellent lawyer) the market is going to opt to work with the professional who is easy to work with. If you don’t like them, you can’t fool enough prospects enough of the time to build a practice that will last. Be prepared to move from one commodity to the next.
2. They derive satisfaction from assisting. The best business developers find ways to deliver value to those with whom they work — whether in the context of a billable matter or not. I know a lawyer who, upon learning that a client’s child was looking for an apartment in his city, spent his weekend scouting out locations to recommend. Not billable. Not conditional. But at the heart of why the attorney is a good business developer.
3. They are Connectors. Limit your network to those who need the specific service or product you offer, and your network will almost certainly be too small. Service providers become trusted advisors, in part, because of a propensity for connecting dots…facilitating solution without respect to whether the problem is in my practice or not.
4. They have super powers. No leaping buildings in a single bound here. But while scores of excellent advisors can see every facet from one perspective, rainmakers see the big picture. Even in the midst of chaos, they listen between the lines, hearing what others miss. Master these powers and the struggle to differentiate your firm or practice becomes much less daunting.
One of Dan Pink’s best sellers is titled To Sell Is Human. There are other important characteristics, of course. But one of the reasons these four are on my list is they go a long way toward communicating humanity — the kind of humanity that connects and motivates.
You can fake it and do okay. Maybe. But if you want to be a better business developer, work on these characteristics. Build your plan of action with these as foundational elements. You will be onto an approach to practice development that you can actually stick with. One that will deliver.