Plan Gauge Proactive vs Reactive Strategy for SuccessThere are four ways you’ll acquire work and build a professional services practice in 2017.

  1. You’re already connected to someone who knows you and is inclined to use the services you provide;
  2. You are plugged into a group (network) that connects you and will refer or outright recommend you to someone in need of your service;
  3. You will proactively pursue a target(s) for strategic reasons;
  4. You get lucky, and wind up in the right place at the right time.

What does this mean for your business development investments this year? Consider what these four methods for the acquisition of work really mean.

You’re Already Connected

If you’re already connected to the right targets, your reputation speaks for itself. You don’t have to talk much about about experience or expertise; it is a given with this crowd. This reality isn’t the result of marketing initiatives  launched last quarter…or even last year. Being hired based on reputation is almost always the byproduct of having visibility and consistently delivering value over an extended period of time. You can’t buy your way in overnight.

A Network That Connects You

Being plugged into a network that connects you to work is the result of roll-up-your-sleeves-efforts over time. Developing these connections is why you speak, blog, do CLE events, and work through awkward moments at lunches and happy hours where you’re not sure what to say. If you invested wisely — meaning, if you’ve been strategic versus chasing every new “opportunity” that comes along — and focused on developing professional relationships — your business development plan will bear fruit in the coming months.

Proactive Pursuit

Being proactive isn’t about being busy. It begins with the painstaking challenges that accompany the smart identification of a target. Not every potential client is a smart target. In a high functioning business development culture this means doing the work that names those you want to work with, and why. It leverages your networking investments, incorporates an understanding of drivers in the market, factors competitive intelligence and focuses on meeting the target’s need. Effective pursuits utilize strong relationship mapping, create quality visibility and deliver value. If you’re making pitches and not getting work, it is a safe bet you’re taking a short cut somewhere. Viable pursuits are carefully crafted, and take time.

For the most part, these first three ways of acquiring work do not stand alone. They are interconnected in a number of ways.

  • They take time. If you’re just now addressing a need for business development, no matter how much you talk about it or how many initiatives you launch, you can’t accomplish number one, two or three in the span of a month, quarter or even year. Successful business development is inexorably linked to professional relationships; and these don’t materialize over a fortnight.
  • 2 + 3 = 1. If you’re doing number two and number three — focusing on your network and engaging in strategic pursuits — and delivering on your promise, a reputation (a brand) and all that comes with it will begin to flow your way.
  • The past is no predictor. A killer reputation and a robust network are the result of the work you’ve done in the past. But rest on laurels and risk obsolescence. Only number three — proactive pursuit — is focused on the future.
  • What about luck? Individuals and firms focused on numbers two and three are often the ones that seem to enjoy the repeated good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Coincidentally, they often enjoy the big reputation. Translation: much of the time we make our own luck.

The Choice: Be Reactive or Proactive

When it comes to business development in the coming months there are really two options: to wait…and then react to what the market throws your way — and hope for the best; or to take matters into your own hands, get strategic and become proactive.

Being proactive isn’t easy. But unless you have a robust network already in place, and a reputation that drives the market to your door, the smart identification and proactive pursuit of targets represents the shortest distance between where you are today and the practice you want to build. That…or getting exceptionally lucky.