Do you think about what you’re doing?

How often do you think about what you’re doing? Probably more often than you should.

Consider this quote:

When it comes to business development (and practice in general), building good habits will help you to accomplish the tasks you want more consistently. For example, if you make it a habit to connect with a new contact on LinkedIn and to send a “nice to meet you” note, then to update your contact management system and calendar a keep-in-touch schedule, you’ll never let a great new connection slip through your fingers. If you routinely enter your time at the end of each day, you’ll never have to spend an entire morning (or more) to recreate your records at the end of the month.

Where might you incorporate habit? If you struggle to establish new habits, enter your name and primary email address here to receive an immediate download of the book review for Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

You’ll also receive my weekly email newsletter strategies and insights to strengthen your business development activity and your practice.

What’s your agenda?

One of my favorite questions is, “What’s your agenda?” I’ve noticed, however, that we tend not to ask that question of ourselves often enough.

Setting an agenda is a classic time management strategy. If you’re looking to make meetings shorter and more productive, circulate an agenda in advance and expect everyone to come prepared. If you want to make your day more productive, set your own agenda. Of course other issues may arise in the course of the meeting or the day, but if you set your agenda first, you’ll at least know what you intended to accomplish and you won’t lose track of necessary tasks.

Knowing your agenda is critical for networking. Meeting new people requires you to have a sorting agenda in place: do you want to meet lawyers, bankers, or parents? Are you interested in officers in closely-held businesses, or would you prefer to meet officers in public corporations? Knowing whom you want to meet will help you to identify the best groups to investigate and to target the right people for follow-up, which is where the networking magic happens, if at all.

Having an agenda is the difference between effective follow-up meetings and purposeless coffee dates that accomplish nothing. If you have some idea of what you’d like to discuss during a follow-up meeting, you’ll be able to tailor your conversation to be sure that you ask the right questions or offer the right information. It’s easy to wing it for follow-up meetings, but taking a few minutes to think about what you want from the meeting will make you much more effective.

Finally, when you’re talking with someone with whom you’re considering joining forces (for marketing or to form a new practice, for example) ask them directly (or ask yourself) what their agenda is.  Poorly phrased, the question is a bit confrontational, but the more you know or intuit about someone else’s objectives, the better your decisions will be.

Take a few minutes to answer these questions (or others that fit your circumstances):

  • What’s your agenda for today?
  • What’s your agenda for your practice?
  • What’s your client’s agenda?

Share your best ideas with your best clients.

When do you share your best ideas? BTI Consulting, a group known for its deep research in client satisfaction and preferences, reports that:

“[j]ust over 2/3 of clients tell us the best new ideas they see coming from law firms happen during an RFP process. Somewhere among the sea of bland boilerplate submissions lies one scintillating idea, suggestion or nugget. One firm invested the time and energy to simply blow their potential client away.”

Being the firm that came up with an amazing nugget is great, but as the BTI article continues, “why wait until an RFP to strut your stuff?” RFPs may be a necessary part of business, but preserving—and perhaps expanding—client relationships is critical to a prosperous practice.  (The article is directed to large firms, but the principles adhere to small firms as well.)

Read the article for a suggestion on how you can do better by proactively sharing your best ideas with your best clients. In the meantime, ask yourself…

  • How often do you offer the “scintillating idea, suggestion or nugget” in an RFP? How can you increase the frequency?
  • How often do you proactively bring a fresh idea, insight, or approach to your clients? The BTI article focuses on corporate counsel, but regardless of your practice area, you must spend time thinking about what will make things better for your clients. For example, a litigator might recognize a trend in litigation and offer that to clients to help them avoid unnecessary suits.

If you tend not to have repeat business from core clients, identify your ideal client profile and ask what would blow that kind of client away. In other words, is there a new process or resource that would be incredibly helpful?

  • More globally, what do you do when you’re trying to win business that you might do to strengthen the relationship with your current clients? Building a relationship with a current client will, in general, deliver much better results than trying to land a new client. (That doesn’t mean you need not pursue new business, though.)

Offering something eye-catching in an RFP is good, but bringing the nugget to a current client is even better. Read the BTI Consulting article, then apply it.

Business development trades in promises.

Sales. Selling. Sales pitch. How do those words come across to you? Positive, negative, or no charge at all? Studies show that a significant number of people have some bad impression about selling, though most people have no negative association with buying. (See Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human for more on this.)

But if you’re to grow your practice, you have to be able to secure new work, and that requires sales skills. I know, you didn’t go to law school to sell stuff (nor did I)… And yet, if you’re uncomfortable in a sales conversation, your potential client will perceive that discomfort and may think you’re uncomfortable with the matter or the client, or even that you’re trying to hide something.


 I’m always on the lookout for alternative ways of looking at  sales, because you must master your comfort with the idea of sales  before you can master the skill itself. And I found a new perspective in a  recent article that you cannot afford to miss.

Here’s a teaser: “What we’re really trading in is promises.” 

Take two minutes to read the post, then five or ten to contemplate its implications. It’ll change your perspective on both sales and client service.

Plans are useless, but…

I see two huge mistakes among lawyers eager to build a book of business:

  • the urge to jump into action without designing a plan, and
  • the tendency to plan and revise and plan some more without ever moving to action.

Today I’ll offer another perspective on planning, from Dwight Eisenhower:

In other words, when circumstances change and disrupt your carefully-laid plans, the process of assessing all of the factors that affect your practice will show you how to adjust. (Want to know more about how to create a plan? Check Chapter 3 of The Reluctant Rainmaker.)

How effective is your practice planning?