I was struck by the idea shared by David Ackert on his blog last week, and I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already. We spend considerable time and space exploring tactics for effective business development, and frequently note that — when it comes to professional service practice development — relationship is the name of the game.

Invest time and resources doing the things that build relationships, and many of the questions about the action items of a business development plan tend to disappear — specifically, creating (and maintaining) visibility and delivering value. David’s post is a timely reminder that there are times when a word of comfort or empathy provides the most appropriate visibility.

There are moments when the most valuable thing anyone can offer might be a helping hand that has nothing to do with the work you do or the service your firm markets.

If you’re in this for the long haul — if you’re not simply playing a numbers game as you work your way down a prospect list — your plan must include doing what it takes to build and nurture relationships.

This means a focus on three things:

  • Creating visibility;
  • Delivering value; and,
  • Engaging in 360-degree-communication — meaning not just having dialogue when working on a matter or when sending the obligatory occasion-based card or note.

Every single real rainmaker I know consistently invests in relationship. For many, it is intuitive. For others it is carefully thought through and strategic. Either way, if you’re looking for a good place to begin, I’ll refer you to the three ideas suggested in David’s post for starters.

1. Check in on clients and colleagues who reside in the areas affected by the recent hurricanes. Make sure they are okay.
2. Take an inventory of those who are recovering from an illness (however slight). Wish them a speedy recovery.
3. Think of those who have changed jobs over the past six months. Ask them how they are settling in. — David Ackert

One caveat — and if this isn’t clear I’m guessing relationships are an ever-present issue for you whether professional or personal: a real investment in relationship is unconditional…and cannot be manipulative in nature.

The work of business development can be particularly challenging for many professional service providers. But when action plans are rooted in identifying and building relationships, the work will produce lifetime connections…even friendships. And this is the source of the most rewarding work around.