The fall back-to-school time has always been a better time for me to incorporate new habits or routines than January. I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. There is something about the shift from carefree, long and hot summer days to shorter, crisp fall days that seems to encourage a back-to-business attitude. So with budget preparation and other planning exercises occurring in law firms and with clients, it’s a great time to evaluate routines and create better business development habits.
At WPG, we get to talk to clients about what they value from their law firm relationships and often ask how successful firms cultivate better relationships with them. We also talk to lawyers in law firms about their business development successes and challenges. The most successful business developers have developed a business development style that plays to their strengths and recognize that to be successful, business development has to be a constant focus. Some habits of highly successful business developers include:
- Block time to make calls and visit clients on a daily or weekly basis and preserve it.
- “I spend sixty minutes every day on my commute communicating with clients—on the phone if I drive and via email if I’m on the train.”
- Prioritize business development activities regardless of billable workload.
- “Every day, my clients are deciding whether to send me the next matter. Every one of my clients has an option. I have to earn that decision every day.”
- Build diverse teams to reflect the clients they serve and complement their own strengths and weaknesses.
- “One of the keys to growing the relationship was they knew it wasn’t just me. The thing that paid off is that I really built a team.”
- Maximize time at conferences by recognizing multiple opportunities for meaningful and intentional interactions with clients and prospects before, during and after the event.
- “I am very intentional about the conferences and I pour over the list and send invites to ask for coffee or a meeting during a break.”
- Recognize that persistence pays off and that it can take months and even years to cultivate a new client relationship.
- “[BD] is like a pension. Nothing gives you an immediate return. You have to look at the return in 10 years. If you don’t put anything in the pension, you won’t get anything out of it.”
- Make face time with clients a priority.
- “I have guaranteed four meetings per year for my top clients. Twenty days are dedicated to face-to-face meetings for my top five clients. Plus, [there are] another five days per year that are ad hoc.”
- Demonstrate empathy/walk in their shoes.
- “Take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the client as an individual and a part of the organization. Try to understand what makes them tick.”