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.