Networking Secret: We tend to like people who like us.

This month, I’ve selected quotes from some terrific blog posts about relationship.  Read the quotes, and then go check out these posts.  They’re too good to miss.

We all like people who like us.  If I show you I’m genuinely happy to meet you, you’ll instantly start to like me.  (And you’ll show that you do, which will help calm my nerves and let me be myself.)
~Jeff Haden, 6 Habits of Remarkably Likable People

A few might dispute the notion, but most will agree — relationship trumps everything.

Whether in the business or personal arena, relationship provides the context in which almost everything is interpreted.  It influences judgment and defines value.
~Eric Fletcher, Deliver the Experience or Lose the Relationship

Social media is the perfect medium for someone like me — someone who’s an introvert, a bit on the shy side, and prefers to have the safety of being behind a computer screen rather than face-to-face.
~Lindsay Griffiths, Taking it Offline 

Business Development: Sales and Service

One of the primary objections lawyers have to business development is that business development equals sales, and “sales” is a four-letter word.
 (Sometimes the stereotype of math-challenged lawyers does stick!)  The word may conjure the stereotypical used car salesman, ready to unload a lemon just to make a quick buck.  And, of course, no one wants to be a part of that kind of sale–to sell or to buy.

A sale, however, only refers to the exchange of money for a good or service.  There’s nothing unprofessional or sleazy about that.  The distaste we feel for sales comes from how the sale is made, not from the fact of the sale itself.

If ethically questionable business development tactics are repellent to you, you will likely take great care to avoid engaging in them.  Be certain by reading your jurisdiction’s ethics rules, and make a note to reread them at least annually since rules and commentary may change.  In most cases, you will find the rules broad enough to encompass any type of activity you might choose to do.  If you have any question, you’ll need to find answers before you proceed, since this is not the place to hope or assume something is acceptable.  Most of the time, within a few well-understood rules, you won’t even wonder.

The bigger concern, then, is not about ethics but rather about appearance.  Does your business development activity look (or feel) pushy?  Desperate?  Obnoxious?  Would someone view the fact or the substance of your business development activity or materials as an indication that your practice is not doing well?  Is there anything unprofessional about business development or marketing?  These are the real questions.

Business development done well is never pushy, desperate, obnoxious, unprofessional, or anything remotely similar.

Consider this:  when you approach your business development activity from the perspective of service, you will almost certainly come across in a positive way.  Service calls on you to explore the potential client’s situation and objectives, to share your skill and experience in the area, perhaps to make some initial suggestions on approach, and to determine whether a good match exists between the potential client’s needs and what you have to offer.

Business development, at its most successful, is an exploratory conversation.  Both sides bring information to the table, and both seek information and a sense of comfort from the other.  If there’s a match, business results.  If not, you have formed a connection that may lead to a referral, or work in the future.

If you approach business development from need (as in, I’ve gotta have this business to make payroll or to make partner), the lines become blurred.  An unspoken self-interest may cloud your ability to explore the potential client’s needs or to give a fair evaluation of the matter’s merits or your ability to meet the need.  The same self-interest may blind you to warning signs about the client:  hints of an inappropriately demanding or unrealistic outlook, signs of inability or unwillingness to pay your fee, or a fundamental philosophical mismatch.

The risk of appearing pushy, obnoxious, or desperate comes into play when self-interest controls the conversation.  It’s up to you whether your business development and marketing activity will seem unprofessional.

When you come first from an attitude of service (even when you also really want the fee or the client relationship), you’ll put the relationship before the retention.  In doing so, you will avoid the risk of feeling like you are being aggressive (as opposed to assertive), too eager (as opposed to deliberate), or rash.

What’s your primary motivation today:  service or self-interest?

Track Your Results, Grow Your Practice

My clients often tell me that they don’t need to track rainmaking results, that they just know what’s working and what isn’t.
 Keeping records may seem inconvenient and unnecessary.  In reality, though, simple tracking will help you to get better results in business development.

If you’re getting new business, you know something is working, but you may not know what.  If you don’t track your rainmaking activity and results, you risk three problems:

  • You may find it difficult to make a rational decision about whether to continue an activity.  Without data on whether a particular effort is paying off, how can you know whether your investment is worthwhile?
  • You may overlook a valuable source of new business.  For example, one of my clients reported that an acquaintance sent him three potential clients in a ten-month period, yielding income of close to $30,000.  If he hadn’t tracked where that business came from, he might not have been able to express his appreciation and further develop the relationship, which in turn led to even more business.
  • You may mistake luck for skill.  Beginner’s luck isn’t limited to card games, nor is it limited to beginners.  Sometimes new business comes flooding in for coincidental reasons.  Without tracking the source of the business, there’s a risk of overlooking the coincidence, focusing on the results, and reducing activity.  The consequence?  A drop in business when luck dries up and skill has not taken its place.

Many lawyers believe that having a sense of how new business comes to them is good enough.  And for a handful of lawyers, that may be true.  In most cases, though, an informal, memory-based, qualitative system for tracking results is not dependable.

Memories fade and may be inaccurate.  Just as mental tracking is unreliable for balancing a checkbook, it is insufficient for making decisions about business development activity.  Every lawyer must have a client intake routine that includes determining how that client became aware of you and your practice.

Remember this insight from business performance improvement expert Dr. H. James Harrington:

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement.  If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it.  If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it.  If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.

If you aren’t tracking the sources of your business, start today.  Here’s how:

  • When a potential client contacts you, make sure you or your staff asks how she found you.  When getting this information becomes habit, you’ll start to build useful data.
  • Incorporate questions about how the client came to contact you or your firm into your client intake form.  You may find that you get clearer results if you offer check boxes for the activities you’re engaged in (speaking, a blog, or referral, for example) rather than leaving a blank for the client to complete.
  • If you are working in a larger firm that does not use intake forms, consider creating your own form.  Request sourcing information as well as information about how and when a client wants to be contacted, who else should be kept apprised of the matter’s progress, and other information that will help you to deliver better client service.
Recognize too that your data probably will not be 100% accurate.  Depending on your practice area, some clients may not know how they found you, and some may be unwilling to tell you.  Nevertheless, any information you get will be more useful than a baseless guess.
What records will you keep to track the sources of your new business?


Where Are You In Your Rainmaking Journey?

A few years ago, I had to drive to an important business meeting in an unfamiliar city.
 Because this was before I had GPS, I printed out directions before leaving my office, so I had a good idea of where I was going.  The sun was beaming down and my “pump me up” playlist was blaring, and I was feeling really good.

But then I hit an unanticipated obstacle:  a road closed due to construction.  I didn’t know the area and the detour wasn’t well-marked.  Before long, I had no idea how to get from here to there.  I knew which roads I needed to find, but looking at the map was useless because I didn’t know where I was.  So frustrating!

When I talk with lawyers about business development, this story feels all too familiar.  So often, lawyers have a sense of what they’d like to accomplish (the destination) and even how to get there (the directions), but after hitting an obstacle–sometimes even despite a lack of obstacles–what had seemed clear seems confusing.

If you want to succeed in business development, you must:

  • Know where you’re starting. One of my favorite cautions is, “Don’t mistake luck for skill.”  If you’ve had success in landing clients, make sure you know why and how to replicate that.  If it’s sheer luck, you have to find a way to shift that luck into something you can repeat and transform into skill.  What’s going well?  What’s broken?  What questions do you have, and what resources do you need?I created the Law Practice Profitability Audit to simplify this step.  Take the Audit here.

  • Know how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you want to be.  In other words, you need a plan.  You need to be able to describe your ideal clients and referral sources, and you must know how you can reach those people and businesses.  What specific actions will you take to get to your goal?
  • Know the most effective ways to accomplish the tasks on your list.  This is why it’s important to read books and get training on business development topics.  You have to master the skills such as effective networking, speaking and writing that builds your reputation and gets you clients, and asking for business.
  • Take action consistently on your plans.  What you know is important, but what you do is what will make you succeed.  It is not sufficient to take action occasionally or at random times; you must act consistently and persistently.
  • Track your results.  There’s a concept (attributed to Lord Kelvin, among others) that what is measured can be improved.  Without knowing whether an activity is producing results for you, it’s impossible to know whether you should expand it, keep to the status quo, or discontinue it.  While data may be difficult lto gather (especially in high value, low volume practices tend to have a longer “sales cycle”), it’s important that you have at least a qualitative sense of how successful your activity is at moving you closer to your business development goals.

When you have all of these aspects of successful business development in place, you will be able to adjust your plans when you encounter an obstacle.  Equally importantly, you will know how to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves, and you will consistently move toward your rainmaker goals.

What more do you need to succeed, based on this checklist?