I did the work… Now what?

You’ve put in your dues.  You’ve worked hard to become the accomplished professional you are now, and you have all manner of credentials that demonstrate your expertise.  You’ve worked with (and probably even held leadership roles with) a variety of organizations, you’ve written articles and book chapters, and you may even have served a turn teaching.

How can you leverage all of that activity to build relationships so you can bring in more business?  The answers to that question are as varied as the number of people who might ask.  The four ideas I share here will form the springboard for what you decide to do.

  1. Be sure you have all of that activity listed in your biographical sketch. I’m always surprised when a new client tells me about past activity that I can’t find anywhere in his or her sketch.  You did the work, so be sure you get credit for it.

    What’s more, listing the work you’ve done will help to build a bridge with contacts who review your sketch.  How so?  Your activity shows your involvement with various groups, and if you and a new contact have both taught at your local community college or law school, you’ll have a connection that can form the basis of conversation.  You can get relationships off to a firm footing by having a well-rounded bio sketch.

  2. Reach out to the people you’ve met while doing your credential-building activity. Most often, you’ll  build working relationships while building your credentials, and it’s up to you to take the next step and to move those relationships outside of their initial context.  So, let’s say you’ve been working on a project with a committee of colleagues who may serve as referral sources.  Reach out to those people, let them know how much you enjoyed getting to know them in the committee, and invite them to coffee or lunch (or, if you aren’t local, a scheduled telephone conversation) to talk about your mutual professional interests.  They already know you, and if you’ve done your work well, they probably like and trust you.  Build on that.

    (What?  The others with whom you’ve been working are in your field and aren’t good referral sources?  Get thee into a new group, where your professional strengths compliment, not duplicate, the strengths of others.  Get started today.  And remember this going forward: it isn’t business development activity if you’re marketing to people who do exactly the same thing you do.)

  3. Leverage your credential-building activity by bringing it to contacts who don’t know about it. So, let’s say you wrote an article that was published recently.  Send it to your clients, your former clients, your referral sources, and your warm contacts who will find it interesting.  Nothing fancy, here: just a copy with a quick note, perhaps offering to chat if the article raises a topic they’ve been concerned or thinking about.

    Sending your article out offers the personal touch, can lead to a further conversation, and shows that you have in mind the people to whom you send it.  And that’s ideal for relationship-building: by showing that they’re at the top of your mind and sharing something useful, you bring yourself to the top of their mind.  (Worried they already received the article through its original publication?  Don’t be.  You’re offering the personal touch, and even if it’s a duplicate, they’re likely to appreciate your effort.)

    You can also use what you’ve created to build relationships with new contacts, and to invite them to receive your useful article and your newsletter.  (You don’t have a newsletter or some other mechanism for providing regular, substantive contact? We need to talk. Click here to schedule a 30 minute complimentary call. )

  4. Take the expertise you’ve developed to a new forum. Once you’ve written or spoken on a topic for one group, look for ways to expand your reach.  Take your presentation to a business networking group, to a specialty association, or to a different educational organization.

    More importantly, for the purposes of this discussion, broaden your exposure in a strategic way with a focus on relationship-building.  If you speak, consider whether you (or your firm or business) might sponsor a reception following your presentation.  Assuming the timing is right, people typically enjoy a meet’n’greet with a featured speaker, and you’ll have opportunities to follow up with the people you meet.

So, what can you do to leverage your credential-building activity for relationship-building purposes?  The basic point here is to think about how you can bring the credentials you worked so hard to acquire to people who can benefit from your expertise and to use the products of that activity to build relationships.  (And, incidentally, this conversation should illuminate for any doubters why the minimum professional credentials won’t cut it.)

Is this all you need to do to build relationships?  No, absolutely not.  The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling offers many relationship-building suggestions for lawyers. But these steps are a beginning point for leveraging your past work for relationship benefits.

4 Steps to Growing Your Leadership Presence

When you talk, you want others to listen, right?  Whether it’s a now-or-never event (making a key point in an oral argument, for instance) or one in a long stream of communications (talking with a colleague about some aspect of a representation), getting your point across and making some sort of advance in what you’re doing is probably at the top of your list every time you open your mouth.

How you present yourself, how you communicate, how you listen, how you connect, and how you respond to feedback you receive creates leadership presence.  Think about stage presence, that indefinable something that makes magic as soon as an actor steps onto a stage.  Leadership presence is the business version of stage presence.

Leadership presence can be cultivated.  Belle Linda Halpern and Kathe Lubar of The Ariel Group wrote a book titled Leadership Presence, in which they outline the PRES model.  To develop your own presence, consider these aspects:

P – Being Present.  Being “present” means being fully focused on what’s going on in the time and space you’re occupying, so that you’re able to respond to whatever happens, however unexpected it may be.

R – Reaching Out.   Leaders must listen to others and build authentic relationships.  Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in reaching out to others in a genuine and effective way.

E – Expressiveness.  Use your words, your body language, and the tone and rate of your speech to express your message, and ensure that each of these routes for communication is congruent with the others.  We’ve probably all seen someone who shakes his head in a “no” gesture while saying, “What a great idea,” or a manager who stands in front of a group to announce an “exciting new initiative with lots of opportunities for us to do well,” while her body is slumped and her voice is halting and quiet.  Harness the power of communication and express your message clearly.

S – Self-knowing.  Effective leaders tend to be self-aware, authentic regardless of situation or circumstance, and guided by core values and priorities.  Bill George uses the analogy of True North in his book of the same title.  A leader who knows her True North and acts accordingly will exhibit a stronger presence than one who shifts based on context.

Practice using “PRES” when you speak over the next few days or weeks.  Notice how you feel and how others respond to you.  Notice where you feel comfortable and where perhaps you need additional practice.  And notice, most importantly, the effect your presence has on your leadership.

Do you have the right rainmaking mix?

Before engaging in any rainmaking activity, you must determine the investment to payoff ratio.  Simply put, what results will your investment of time and energy buy you?  Is there another activity that likely has a better yield?  Your goal is to determine whether a given activity is likely to move you closer to your rainmaking goals in proportion to its expense in time, energy, and money, recognizing that your estimate is only an estimate.

Although each business development plan is unique, the most successful plans tend to have a distribution of high, medium, and low investment/result ratios.  High-yield activities tend to indicate low-hanging fruit, meaning opportunities that will likely result in new business reasonably certainly and reasonably quickly.  Medium-yield activities are more uncertain and take longer to show good results, and low-yield activities tend to be experimental or subject to removal from your list.

Some general guidelines are useful here:

  • Activities with clients are the most valuable activities you can do. The more you can do to develop a client relationship, the more likely you are to retain that client’s business and to receive more business and referrals from that client.
  • Activities with “warm contacts” (those with whom you already have some relationship) have a higher yield than activities with strangers. Developing relationships with others and enhancing the “know, like, and trust” factors is almost always more valuable than one-time meetings with complete strangers.
  • Writing and speaking tend to be time-intensive activities with low immediate payoff. If you are looking to generate business quickly, writing and speaking rank as a low-yield activity.  If, however, your goal is to enhance your credentials, writing and speaking can be high-yield activities.
  • One-to-one activity generally has a higher value yield than one-to-many. . .
  • But group participation is more valuable if you hold a leadership position. If you hold a leadership role in an organization, you will become known to more people more quickly than you will if you meet other one-on-one.
  • Sometimes an activity’s value cannot be measured in purely financial terms. For example, a client may request that you speak at a conference, and doing so would be a favor to that client.  While you are unlikely to see any financial value directly traced to delivering the favor and the presentation, the client’s gratitude may be equally valuable.

Look at your business development plan and begin making an estimate of the investment/result value of each activity that you have planned to incorporate.  If you’re not certain how to estimate that value, no worries.  The Reluctant Rainmaker includes a chapter that will teach you how to track your activities so you can make an estimate of the dollar-value of each hour you spend.

To my U.S. readers, I wish you a safe and happy 4th of July celebration with friends and family!