With the recent wackiness of the economy, it is easy to get caught up in the drama and accept prevailing ideas about what is and is not possible. But when you get clear about where you stand and what you do have control over, you are in a much better position to take advantage of business development opportunities. I invite you to focus on the following:
Do What You Do Best. Get clear about your own strengths and interests. Experts can provide valuable information, but as you strive to expand your business development, don’t forget that you know yourself far better than they do. Make a list of things that you enjoy and plan accordingly. If you enjoy socializing, focus on developing your network through coffee or lunch dates. If you enjoy staying up to speed on industry news, send relevant articles to people in your network. If you enjoy organizing, plan an event for your professional organization. There are many avenues to success, and if you chose one that builds on your strengths, you will reach your goals much more quickly and easily.
Communicate Clearly With Existing Clients. Developing a large book of business is as much about maintaining existing clients as it is about getting new clients. Communication and personality issues are cited by one third of in-house counsel as a reason for terminating relationships with outside counsel. (See the Association of Corporate Counsel Serengeti Survey, 2008.) In order to effectively address client concerns, you have to know (not just guess) what your clients care about. Talk to your clients and find out how they think you could improve your services. Even if you disagree and choose to not follow a suggestion, knowing where the client is coming from will allow you to address the underlying issues and strengthen the relationship. Even if clients say that everything you are doing is perfect, they will appreciate that you asked; and in the future, they will be more likely to communicate about any upsets or concerns.
Take Extraordinary Care of Your Existing Clients (After All, They Are Your Best Source for Referrals). You care about doing a great job for your clients and helping them to succeed; but if you are not in regular communication, all your hard work and commitment may not be clear to them. Clients frequently complain that attorneys are not sufficiently responsive. If you call clients before they call you it lets them know that they are a priority and that you really are on top of their case. Doing occasional favors for clients is another way to let them know that you are thinking of them and have their best interests in mind. For example, you might offer to look over a document for free. If clients mention a need, try to provide resources to help them fill that need, such as a recommendation for a banker, accountant, business consultant, acupuncturist, etc. Make introductions to people who may be able to do business together or help each other. Or just send a birthday card. These things show that you care and that you see them as more than just a source of cash.