When you think about business development, do you think more of “yes” or “no”? Most people seem to think “yes.”
- YES, I’ll attend that networking meeting
- YES, I’ll write that article or blog post or newsletter
- YES, I’ll meet with that potential referral source
- YES, I’ll get another certification or specialists’ certificate
- YES, I’ll speak at that seminar
- YES, I’ll serve on that board
- YES, I’m on Twitter… And Facebook… And LinkedIn… And App.net… And Pinterest… And Google+… And YouTube… And….
- YES, I can take a call at 9 PM
- YES, I’d love to meet for breakfast
And so on, until there’s a shift to… Yes, I’m spread too thin. Yes, I’m feeling stressed. Yes, things are slipping through the cracks. YES, I’m burned out.
“Yes” is undoubtedly a crucial word for business development. Saying yes to strategic, carefully selected activities creates more opportunities that open the door for results.
But time and energy are finite. That means you need to choose wisely how and where to spend your time and energy.
Every “yes” is in effect a “no” to one or more other opportunities. You can’t be in two places at one time, you can’t invest your business development hours on all the activities you might like if you’d also like to have time available for your clients, your professional activities, and your personal life.
Rather than saying “yes” to everything that seems like it might possibly be a good opportunity, pause and critically evaluate the openings that come your way. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the cost of doing this? Consider time, money, and political or relationship costs.
- Does this opportunity move me closer to what I want to accomplish? A strategic lunch will move you toward your goals. A “random act of lunch” will feed nothing but your stomach.
- What’s the potential upside? What might you get from doing this activity? Getting business is a significant upside, of course, but don’t overlook other potential such as developing relationships, creating exposure for yourself and your practice, or learning something that will support your practice. Launching a blog can help you to get business. It may also lead to referrals, collegial conversations, other writing opportunities, speaking engagements, enhanced insight into issues in your practice area, and even friendship.
- How valuable is the potential upside? In the blogging example above, the potential includes not just new business but also increased substantive knowledge, new and enhanced relationships, and a higher professional profile. That’s rather valuable.
- What’s the likelihood of realizing that upside? You may not be able to answer this in detail, especially if the activity you’re considering is new to you, but you should have some qualitative sense of the likelihood of success. If you take up blogging, your deeper knowledge of the subject area is entirely within your control; put in the time, you’ll develop the knowledge. That means acquiring more substantive expertise has a high likelihood of realization if you’re committed to blogging. Landing a speaking gig is less certain, simply because it will take time for you to meet the right people through your blog, to develop the requisite perceived expertise, and for the speaking opportunity to exist before you’ll be offered the chance to speak.
- What must you say no to, if you say yes to this opportunity? You might give up other business development opportunities, billable time, or sleep. You might have to give up cash. This is another way of looking at the cost, but it puts the issue into sharp focus. If you decide to commit two hours a week to blogging, you will be unable to spend that time in face-to-face meetings. That may be a deal breaker or no big deal – but you’ll know only if you ask the question.
It’s easy to see positive potential and to overlook the costs. Doing so may keep you from making strategic choices, however. Especially if you’re newer to business development, take the time to evaluate before you accept an opportunity. By necessity, you’ll always give up something. They key is to make sure you’re saying yes to the right opportunities, no just every one that comes your way.
Sometimes, you’ve gotta say NO so your practice can grow.