A potential client called to discuss how I might help her with her business development activities, and I asked what she’d tried. As I often discover in those conversations, she’d tried a number of approaches, all to no avail. On her list: writing articles, teaching seminars, advertising, attending networking events, posting her profile on various social networking sites, and so on. But she had no results to report. Not surprisingly, she was ready to conclude that she wasn’t meant to be a rainmaker.
If you see no results, it’s easy to conclude that it’s time to throw in the towel. It’s discouraging to work at something — especially something as important as business development — and get poor results.
This inclination to accept failure is even more common for those who believe that rainmaking is a skill reserved for a few special lawyers. (As a sidenote, ponder this: not every lawyer will be a superstar rainmaker. But every lawyer can be a “mist-maker,” and depending on your practice setting, that may be all you need to shoot for.) But should you accept failure as permanent and give up business development activity? No.
Three mistakes are often responsible when a lawyer has worked hard at rainmaking without generating meaningful results:
- The lawyer is measuring the wrong thing. New business is the clearest measurement of rainmaking success, but that’s like starting a diet and measuring success only by reaching goal weight. There are all sorts of midpoints that indicate success: making new contacts, developing relationships, building a strong reputation in your field, and so on. These “interim successes” indicate forward movement — assuming, of course, they’re measured as progress toward the ultimate goal of bringing in new business and not as an end in themselves.
- The lawyer hasn’t brought in new business. . . Yet. “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish,” John Quincy Adams observed. In other words, don’t give up before an activity has had time to produce results. Networking is a key place where lawyers fall short. A single conversation is incredibly unlikely to generate new business, and mere membership in a group without any real involvement is equally unlikely to be successful using any measure. Whether it’s networking or another activity, hopping from one activity to another generates a lot of motion but very little forward movement. Choosing one or two marketing tactics is almost certain to bring better results — unless. . .
- The lawyer is doing the wrong things, or doing them in the wrong way. No matter how persistently the task is undertaken, if it’s fundamentally flawed, it won’t work. Let’s take networking again. If your idea of networking is attending meetings, talking incessantly about yourself, your skills, your qualifications, and your experience, plus pressing your business card on anyone who happens within an arms’ length, you are destined to fail. That’s networking at its worst and it’s unattractive to just about everyone. Similarly, well-performing activities that don’t involve talking directly with potential clients and referral sources likely won’t produce business. Bottom line: good activity done wrong doesn’t work.
Your task this week: are you making any of these mistakes? Check especially to see how you’re measuring your success. Because lawyers are trained to focus on the end game (here, landing the new business), this is one of the key mistakes that I often see among new clients.