Conventional wisdom for lawyers suggests that we’re fast approaching a moment when the die for this year will be cast, and there’s not much that can be done to impact this year’s revenue picture.
Before you buy the idea that there is nothing to be done that might increase revenue this year — not to mention, jumpstart 2024 — can we talk.
Timing and regular business cycles can dictate many things; but last I checked, the marketplace doesn’t come to a screeching halt because of the date on the calendar.
More to the point, the pain experienced by your potential clients is likely as intense as ever. The thought of having to deal with the same problem or challenge as a new year approaches can be debilitating.
So if you’re not ready to resign to the idea that the year is pretty much over when it comes to revenue generation, here are three things you can do this fall that will build and strengthen BizDev relationships in the near term.
1. Have A Conversation
When it comes to growing your practice, relationships are your greatest asset. And relationships can tend to stagnate without intentional conversations.
So between now and the end of the year let’s get intentional.
Begin by compiling three lists of names:
- your best clients;
- your best prospective new clients (prioritize based on the strength of your existing relationships);
- your strongest allies (those who know you, trust you and represent a personal link between you and new clients.
If possible, note as many as 5 names in each category…but don’t fret if you have as few as one or two.
Now, make this list the focus of a proactive initiative for the balance of the year.
(If coming up with even the beginnings of a list is challenging, we should have a separate conversation about target identification.)
As for the conversation you should initiate with each name on the list, here are three foundational guidelines.
- This is a conversation you want to have face-to-face if possible. If circumstances dictate, resort to a video or phone visit. Email is better than no contact at all; but consider it a last resort.
- Relax…and forget about selling. Plan to listen way more than you talk. (See if you can pull off a 3-or-4-to-1 ratio.) Relationships grow stronger when we feel heard. So listen up.
- No matter what else transpires, your number one priority is to build a bridge to the next conversation.
With these guidelines in place, approach each visit with two or three questions in mind. The best questions will generate valuable information and ideas that serve to keep the conversation going. With each new layer of information or insight, ask a question that, in essences, says tell me more about that.
It will be tempting to wing it here; but preparation is the difference between simply touching base and getting closer to interaction that will generate new revenue.
Stipulating that the questions you ask should reflect the nature of the relationship, here are idea starters.
- Is there a challenge you face — internal or presented by the marketplace — that will determine what the next 12 to 18 months will look like?
- Are there specific issues/challenges that you’ve been waiting for someone to address in a practical and helpful way?
- For existing clients — depending on timing, consider referencing the most recent matter you worked on, and ask for an update.
- For allies — is there anything the ally has on the calendar for Q4 that you can help with.
Cookie-cutters are not your friends here. Invest in research. Think outside your normal BizDev box. And remember the minimum acceptable outcome — to build a bridge to ongoing engagement. Afterthe call you should have a solid idea of the timetable and topic for your next conversation.
2. Distribute Value
Nothing builds a bridge more quickly than bringing something of value to a relationship. The challenge here is that your target’s is the only definition of value that matters.
How do you identify what is appropriate here? Through conversations. And research. And additional conversations. The solution might be:
- An introduction
- Access to relevant information
- A framework or checklist
Identify what will be received as value, deliver it in person (because this is what you do when a relationship is important to you) and schedule another conversation to explore further.
3. Create An Offer
Depending on how much strategic business development you’ve engaged in over the past six to eighteen months, instigating conversations and delivering something of value, while not necessarily a piece of cake, should be relatively doable.
Going to the marketplace with an offer may be a bit more difficult.
With that stipulation, this needs to be said — action here represents the shortest distance between where you are and a measurable increase in revenue.
Why is creating an offer a challenge? Largely, because we have been taught or grown accustomed to waiting for the market to come to us. And then, reacting to an exposed need.
So let’s spend a moment on what creating an offer looks like. Here’s a framework you’re invited to experiment with.
Name the problem you solve.
For many this is a stumbling block. You have deep experience, and you solve scores of problems. Zeroing in on one risks missing out on anyone with a different challenge.
Without geeking out on communication theory and marketing research, here’s the bad news: try speaking to everyone and you most likely connect with no one.
On the other hand, boldly addressing a pain point experienced by a market you seek to serve (1) differentiates you from those touting full service; and (2) attracts prospects poised to hear about the solution you offer right now.
Establish empathy and authority.
When a prospect senses you understand their pain you’ve begun constructing a bridge to engagement. Noting deep experience and even citing referral sources is a good way to signal your authority without writing volumes about yourself.
A cautionary note here: in your marketing efforts, resist the temptation to recount an entire case study and/or list every credential. Remember that the goal for your marketing outreach is to instigate a conversation. The empathy and authority piece of this framework can be accomplished in a maximum of four sentences.
Decide on the terms, and extend a clear offer.
Some FREE offers can be golden.
An informative PDF, a relevant checklist, proprietary research and a diagnostic tool are examples of offers you might extend on a complimentary basis in order to get a conversation started.
Other offers come at a price and take the form of a definable reduction in the pain. A package of tightly defined services, a set of templates, specified access to counsel by phone, a turnkey solution to a specific challenge — your niche and your targets will dictate the specifics.
In any case, the objective is to extend an offer that delivers unquestioned value around the pain your targets are experiencing. And to present said offer in a way that initiates a productive conversation.
This is a call to be creative, innovative and focused on a problem you know to be in play.
Once you’re clear on your offer, it’s a good idea to revisit the guidelines outlined earlier in this article. In particular, remember that your ultimate goal is to build a bridge to conversation and personal engagement.
Then make your offer a central piece in marketing efforts with the names on the three lists we referenced at the top of this article.
A Focused 120-Day Campaign
If you’re not ready to accept that the tale of 2023 has been written, test this revenue generating framework for the next 120-days or so.
- Instigate conversations with 15 carefully identified clients, prospects and allies
- Deliver something to each of these targets that they deem valuable
- Create an irresistible offer that is relevant to your target’s concerns
You will build and deepen valuable relationships…and uncover new opportunities.
If you have the capabilities, add extend the offer to a broader marketing outreach by using tools at your fingertips — your website, email marketing, blog, podcast — and you’ll create a robust jumpstart for the first four months of 2024.
(I work with professional service providers who are focused on growing a 7-figure plus practice. For information on a 12-week digital course, one-on-one and team consulting offerings, click here.)