Developing a Successful Business – Solutions for a further 10 Common Mistakes 

by Dr.ChristianKessel

– Part 2 of a 2-part series – 

For the first part of this series please see my Article on this Webpage “Solutions of Successful Business Developers to 10 Common Mistakes

Cooperation within the firm

There are many forms of cooperating with others in the firm on work, managing clients, resolving billing issues or attending to client concerns or complaints etc. For the purposes of business development cross-selling within the firm is key.

1. Cross-selling does not produce the expected fruits

Crossselling is a wonderful method of generating work from one and the same client across the whole firm. You may generate far more turnover from a client to whom you were referred by way of cross-selling than is made by the partner who originally brought the client to the firm and initially developed it for his or her own area of expertise and personal goals. 

So cross-selling may cause great business success to you, the other partner and the firm and be making money for all. And this is true irrespective of whether new business is referred by you to someone else or you are introduced to clients of the firm and thus are the receiving part of any cross-selling initiative.

However, cross-selling may also be one of the most challenging ways of generating work that you may have to face:

  • Dependence on someone else for cross-selling you to his or her client. An initial simple introduction may already be a challenge.
  • Figuring out which clients of other partners may have a need for your own services. In an ideal world, every partner would always consider who else in the firm could serve his clients. Sadly, that is not the reality. 
  • Needing to chase other partners for their involvement and to coordinate even more people’s timeslots for introductory calls or meetings etc..


  1. More likely than not you need to figure out yourself which clients of the firm may be good targets for you and your service offering or ( possibly even niche) specialisation. But perhaps you can enlist the help of the marketing department therefor.
  2. As you try to persuade partners to “sell” you to their clients ( at least introduce you and promote you with their clients) it is often necessary to initially figure out with whom you can work together well or with whom it is perhaps more (or even too) difficult to build a good, efficient and effective cross-selling team. Some partners do not have the same focus and will simply never put you in touch with their own clients. Then just stop trying to involve them in your business development.
  3. Some partners will only cooperate regarding cross-selling only once they have come to trust you and feel certain that you will not ruin their client relationship or poach the client for yourself entirely.Building such trust is a particular challenge for lateral partners during the first 6 to 12 months of having joined a firm. In that case: Remain patient, build relationships, seek to work for and with your new partners and gain their trust. 
  4. Be aware and take into consideration that even with partners who trust you and have a similar positive attitude to and focus on business development as yourself, it may take considerable time to implement the cross-selling of any identified suitable client for practical reasons: your own availability, the cross-selling partner’s availability and the client’s interest and availability need to match-quite a challenge in practice. Therefore, be patient but persistent in pursuing the cross-selling opportunity with those partners who you feel are seriously interested in going along with such joint business development activities.
  5. Most importantly however: If you do not find suitable partners or colleagues for cross-selling, it is perfectly acceptable for you to pursue clients on your own in the market at your own pace with no one else to frustrate you or for you to blame. This decision “to go it alone” distinguishes you (and many entrepreneurs) and makes you run a successful business with your team within your firm.

Nevertheless, cross-selling is a great way to expand your work and may cause great business success. It requires two entrepreneurs in your firm to cooperate well and it will bring more success to both of them.

A Partner-centric View of Business Development: Lack of Empowerment

Empowering the team and enlisting its help is one of the most important aspects of building successful businesses for yourself and ultimately your team and your firm as well.

2. The Traditional View of Business Development As the Partner’s Prerogative

There are still plenty of partners who consider business development as their prerogative. They hold on to the (traditional) view that their team members should not be involved in business development, even refrain from it and be limited to client work.

Such partners are surprised if their business development initiatives are limited in number and have no or very little effect. Of course, a partner on his or her own can achieve far less than if the whole team was involved.

Therefore, any partners that do not empower their teams are likely to experience far less growth of business than those who involve their team.

Such partners have a mindset or habit of simply doing business development this particular way. They may not have consciously taken a decision not to empower their team (on those that have taken such a decision see below at 5. ) – they just do not do it and are just not used to it.

Sadly, team members who are exposed to such a partner-centric system of business development will have no or very few opportunities to be trained up or gain experience. What they should or could do is discussed below at 4. and 5.


The reasons for such behaviour of partners are manifold and so are the solutions: 

Whoever adheres to that traditional view of partner-centric business development 

  • may simply be caught up in old habits
  • may never have been challenged to try it differently 
  • may never have been exposed to any role models who empowered their team

However, none of that needs to remain as is. Rather, empowering people in all its aspects 

  • can be learned (for instance by reading this article or with the help of a coach)
  • any bad habits or negative mindsets to the contrary can be overcome
  • role models can be found within or outside the firm (e.g. a coach that has empowered his team) 

All it really takes is the willingness and intentionality to change one’s ways of leading the team. If you cannot do it alone and have no trusted friends or colleagues, seek professional help externally. It is not a big deal helping along to make you an empowering leader! 

And please see below at 3. and 5. for further reasons why leaders are not empowering.

3. No ability to empower the team

Some leaders/partners may have no issue with the concept of empowering their team members and would love to involve them in their business development efforts. But they simply are not able to be empowering.

Empowering can only be someone who is powerful himself or herself. 

What does it mean to be powerful and empowering?

Empowerment can be defined as passing on or releasing the authority to do something and to make someone stronger and more confident in doing something. Being powerful yourself then requires that you have the ability to motivate, encourage and release out of your control someone in your organisation or team; likewise, passing on and instilling in someone else the confidence to do something requires to be confident oneself. Thus, an empowering leader needs to have the mindset to be able to increase attention and support for certain people and the right strategies for making such people feel more empowered.

If these features of one’s own powerfulness are missing (for whatever reason) in the team leader, such a leader is not able to really be empowering for others. 


It requires a change of mindsets and behaviour patterns to be transformed into a more powerful person as a first step of becoming empowering for others and ultimately building a culture of empowerment in the team or the organisation.

As a starting point, please see the article on Changing Mindsets and Belief Systems on this webpage.

If you want to dig deeper, I highly recommend the book The Culture of Empowerment – Business and Organisation Edition by Steve Backlund and Dr. Phil Backlund. It educates well on what powerful/empowering means and what an empowered work culture can look like.

On your own, it may be challenging, even though not impossible. If need be, get external help from a mentor or coach with positive experiences in empowering team members and making them entrepreneurs. Such mentor or coach will help you in changing your mindset or adopting the necessary habits and routines.

4. The converse perspective: Make sure to get involved in the leaders’ business development

Let’s also look at the other side after we have previously discussed at how the person (mostly the partner) supposed to empower you should address his or her deficiency to do so. 

If you work for a leader/partner who does not involve you much in business development (for whatever reason), but you have the sense that you want to grow in your business development skills, gather experience and start building a business case. 

So, what do you do?


  1. If you want to be empowered for business development by your leader communicate that clearly. Ask for business development opportunities, get enthusiastically involved in your leader’s business development activities, show a deeper interest in why your leader proceeds in a particular way and ask for the leader’s learning points whether the chosen business development activity was successful or unsuccessful.
  2. Believe that you are in the right place for business development or intentionally seek out those leaders in your organization that may be more keen, engaged and successful in business development than your immediate team leader.
    If you don’t have that belief or lose it along the journey, move firms. You need to manage your career! 
  3. Endorse wholeheartedly and run with the vision that your leader has for building his or her own book of business and practice. From the commitment to your leader’s vision will rise and manifest excitement and authenticity in your own efforts both vis-à-vis the rest of the team and the leader as well as with the targets for business development.
  4. Being teachable, asking good questions, pursuing excellence in what you do, being full of enthusiasm and supporting others in what they do, will all contribute to being seen and chosen as someone worth investing in by the leader. And even if your leader is not as empowering as you would like him or her to be, keep growing and find ways to move forward and advance.
  5. If the partner is not a good business developer then at least the firm should provide good training and arrange for business development opportunities otherwise. Ask for it! Insist on it!
  6. In any event, to make your own business grow and have success, simply start drafting a business plan for yourself, analyse the market, look for target customers or clients, create a marketer strategy for yourself, develop the attitude, habits and mindset of an entrepreneur and your personal business development “company culture”. define your core values for your service offerings and your life as an entrepreneur. Work on your social media accounts and include them in your overall marketing strategy.
    Make every effort to succeed in implementing your business plan as much as possible and generate new businesses and companies as clients. Besides, of course, always offer great service. Then yours may become one of the successful businesses in your firm over time.

5.  No willingness of the leader/partner to empower the team

However, the lack of empowerment may also be caused by the deliberate unwillingness of leaders or partners to empower the team and release them on their own journey. This scenario is less related to their inability but rather reflects the conscious decision not be empowering.

The 2 reasons for such behaviour I have come across most are the following:

  • Sometimes it is the fear to lose control over the team if team members are (more) successful business developers than the partner is.
  • Members of the team who become successful business developers are likely to become partners and set up their own team; their previous partner is then left on his or her own or with rather young and inexperienced team members who had previously been supervised by the more senior team member.

Thus, it is ultimately rather selfish behaviour patterns of leaders/partners that cause them not to empower the more senior members of their team but rather to keep them bound to themselves and under their control.

Therefore, the unwillingness to promote experienced team members to partnership is often coupled with the unwillingness to empower them to become good business developers.


Be aware that you may be prevented purposefully from building your own book of business to such degree that the final hurdle to partnership is overcome, but if you realise that, you need to deal with it. You need to manage your career!

On the latter point, please see my articles on LinkedIn.

As an associate or counsel, the first solution is to speak up and expressly request to be trained in business development and, in particular, be actively involved in the partner’s business development activities.

If that does not work, try to escalate it to the management of the firm or the HR or business development/marketing departments and discuss your situation and concerns with them.

A partner’s unwillingness to empower his or her team members for business development is also a firm management issue and should be addressed and taken care of by management.

Internal Challenges of Each Individual 

6. No self-confidence 

A surprising number of senior lawyers – whether at counsel/local partner or even equity partner level – lack the confidence to boldly seek and proactively pursue business development opportunities. They have too little self-confidence to trust that they know what to do or do it successfully, or to dare to go for it at all. 


  1. The simplest way of dealing with a lack of self-confidence is practice. Confidence comes from doing. It is probably fair to say that everyone starting in business development starts with all fear and trepidation. It would be worrying if it was not so. It is normal to have great respect for the people I talk to – whether in a pitch or a speaking opportunity before 50, 200 or more people – when endeavoring on the very first business development activities. This kind of respect – in contrast to an almost crippling fearfulness – will diminish over time as you practice your business development skills and increase and improve on them.Practice itself may not necessarily make perfect, but good and continuous practice will make you near-perfect.
    The more often you tell your background in a particular area of law or industry sector, share your passion for it and successfully discuss the targets’ questions, the more confident you become.And the more fluent your story will be, the more passionate for your chosen specialisation you will come across and the more authentic you appear altogether the more successful you will be. And successes breed confidence.
  2. The second way of addressing a lack of confidence in yourself and your business development activities requires to work on your belief that you can be successful to achieve the desired business development result. Please see the following section 7. for details on beliefs.Healthy self-confidence comprises the firm belief that you’re capable and adequate for successful business development. If that belief is missing, it needs to be changed and the belief system transformed from ‘cannot do’ to ‘can do successfully ‘.

7. Limiting Belief Systems/Negative Mindsets

Limiting beliefs or negative mindsets keep people back when it comes to their potential, it prevents them from realising their full potential. 

Here are some typical negative mindsets and limiting beliefs/belief systems:

  • I am still too young/too inexperienced to be successful in business development.
  • I am too new in the firm to be successful in acquiring new business or be effective in cross-selling
  • I have had several bad experiences regarding business development
  • I’ve lost many pitches
  • The likelihood of success in acquiring this new client is limited anyway (from the beginning)
  • I’m not good in business development anyway
  • I do not have many new ideas normally
  • I am shy/reticent
  • I cannot speak well in front of others
  • I do not come across very well
  • I am not really worth the money that my firm charges for me
  • Our competitors are too good, and I will not win this pitch/client
  • I’m more of the back-office kind of guy
  • I am not a good salesperson
  • I am not the right person for powerful innovations
  • I am never sure how to make my business successful
  • My marketing efforts rarely pay off
  • All around me seem to be entrepreneurs, each with a great business idea, but not me
  • Most successful businesses are run very differently from mine


If any of these sentences have ever come up within your own thoughts or are recurring ways of thinking or reflect your normal feelings, this reason for not realizing your full business development potential may be relevant to you. 

There is a full article on this topic on my webpage on Business Mindsets which also deals with different ways and tools to renew your mind and discard negative and limiting mindsets and belief systems in favour of positive and limitless ones. Therefore, I will keep it short here:

Negative mindsets and limiting belief systems are often formed on account of bad experiences, their interpretation and application as truth applicable to me or my life. As a result, there is often the decision to live according to this alleged truth.

The change of a belief (and oftentimes a mindset as well) requires therefore to a large degree a different experience and the replacement of the alleged truth of the original experience by the new truth derived from the interpretation of the later good/better experience.

It is noteworthy that we cannot intellectually talk ourselves out of the belief, we can only have a positive experience that changes our belief and replaces the lie of the old experience with the truth of the new experience. When we encounter different experiences, we can choose a new interpretation of what they mean and are then able to live out of that new belief.

This in turn means: As we transform the way we think of ourselves, as we renew our minds, we change our mindsets and belief systems and exchange the lies of wrong beliefs for the truth that we are capable of becoming successful business developers.

And: Only great beliefs and in particular also a Growth Mindset (please see the article on the Business Mindset for details) allow for and create big visions 

8. Lack of identity as a salesperson

Identity relates to how solid, comfortable and confident a person is in their own being and therefore provides answers to these questions:

  • who am I really?
  • what am I supposed to do with my life?
  • what actually makes me me?

This is also more fully covered in the Article on Business Mindsets and therefore I will keep it short here:

So, the question is, whether selling myself, my services, my know-how and my experience (and/or those of my team or my firm) is actually part of who I really am. Am I a salesperson in addition to being an excellent lawyer, accountant, tax adviser, business consultant or other kind of professional? 

Typical examples of a lack of identity as a salesperson are: 

  • I do not really perceive myself as a lawyer, I really only want to be a notary publicly ( and therefore certainly not be selling my services )
  • I do not understand why I need to sell myself; I am such a brilliant lawyer, clients should flock to me
  • I am a great lawyer/accountant/tax adviser/business consultant, but selling is not part of my job description
  • I am not and don’t want to be one of those entrepreneurs that easily attract new businesses or companies and get work from them
  • It is not within my remit to create a new business idea and the related marketing strategy – for all of that we have a marketing director, social media management and social media platforms to address our target audience.


Identity is about being someone who feels valuable and has self-worth for who he or she is and not about earning value and self-worth from doing something. Identity is formed in the first place by the parents’ constant reassurance, approval and validation as to who I am and not by what I do (e.g. am I loved and affirmed by my parents for my pure existence or only when I perform successfully at school, sports, in the household or otherwise). Other influences contribute as I grow older.

When we know who we are, doing becomes easy. Conversely, when we try to do things without knowing who we are first, we may well hate it or we derive our entire self-esteem from our doing, more specifically from our performance.

My identity as a professional is deeply influenced by my general identity and built further by my training, the influence of role models and my work experiences from college to the first years of practicing my profession.

On top of that comes the identity as a salesperson. If my mentor or role models immerse me into “sales” as part of my job description as a professional, kindle a sales mindset in me, instil confidence for selling and I have good experiences in my initial attempts to sell myself and my team’s services, my identity as a “seller” and business developer will form and selling becomes part of who I am.

Being a salesperson ( and not merely performing sales) means you enjoy selling, it is natural to think about new business opportunities and to have an easy going way in conversations with potential customers or clients rather than pursuing “hard sale” tactics and striving to get an engagement letter signed or an order for your services.

My own personal experience and the journeys I have seen many of my former team members and my coachees take are great testimonies that anyone can become a great and very successful “ salesperson”, business developer and even rainmaker.

9. Lack of motivation 

 Some professionals simply are not motivated to get involved in active and consistent business development. There are a number of reasons why there is no motivation:

  • There may not be any ambition to grow the business, the team or their own reputation. What such professionals have is enough for them – turnover, team size, and income. What they have inherited from another partner or what is assigned to them by the firm or what they have built in the past for themselves now seems sufficient. They are satisfied with what they have and there is no hunger for more
  • Maybe there is a lack of passion for a particular area of business, an industry sector or, for lawyers or tax advisers for instance, a particular area of law. 
  • There is no vision as to what to achieve in the next twelve months, three years or until retirement. Without a vision, there will be a standstill, decline and danger of perishing ultimately.
  • Even those who have a vision for the growth of their own business and/or their firm’s business often do not manage to transfer that into a winning strategy – they may lack the motivation (or are even outright unwilling) to go that extra mile to develop the strategy or business plan and to implement it.
  • The fear of failing or not meeting expectations can limit the motivation to try or move forward, in particular, if the task of business development looks daunting or much too big to accomplish.
  • Insufficient benefits deriving from the efforts, especially inadequate remuneration ( perceived or real) may hinder motivation.
  • Last but by no means least, you never had any real interest in the subject (here: the industry sector, legal area, niche you focus on) or you have lost it over time, or you may be disenchanted with how your field of practice has developed generally. Any of these factors may stifle the motivation to grow your business in that area.
  • Even physical exhaustion, fatigue, and bad sleep may impact motivation.

Obviously, some of the factors listed above may also be limiting beliefs (as discussed above at 7.).


To successfully deal with a lack of motivation requires to find out the underlying reason for it. As set out above, there are many different sources of motivation and the challenge is to find out what currently limits your motivation to do more (or more consistently ) business development.

All motivations as well as the motivating factors need to be looked at, analyzed and then dealt with. This may be a complex process and you may need some external help for it, but the reward is huge if, at the end of the process, you feel really motivated to pursue business development efficiently and effectively and even reap the fruits of your planting (business development) and harvesting (new paid work).

Thus as a key component of moving forward, the motivating reasons to go for or pursue business development actively and continuously need to be explored and those that are identified as resonating with or appealing to you, will need to be adopted and become ingrained as driving powers of your future behavior. 

A passion to excel in a particular area, to form the market, to be or become a thought leader are normally very motivating to pursue growth. Praise by clients, recognition by peers and the market, personal growth, collaboration with like-minded colleagues or clients/customers, progressing in the career, promotions and financial reward can all be very motivating. And so is the prospect of building one of the more or even most successful businesses within a firm.

And a coach is well-trained to help you on the journey from being unmotivated to being greatly motivated.

10. Waiting for perfection

Many think they cannot invade a new market and promote themselves and their services unless and until they are really fully mastering their field of expertise. Ultimately this is a limiting belief system as well (see above at 7. please). And it may limit motivation.


There is no reason to wait for perfection. Passion and enthusiasm and some basic knowledge, some expertise, and some relatable experiences are sufficient to embark on the journey of business development and celebrate the growth of your book of business that results from it.

If challenged, be honest that you do not have come across a particular issue but offer to look into it (free of charge of course) and revert.

Conclusion: Your own reason— awareness is the key

The common mistakes discussed above and in the previous Article are the most common reasons why professionals have not succeeded as business developers and have not been able to build a super profitable business or be among their firm’s successful businesses, teams or departments. All of these issues, challenges, obstacles and mistakes I have experienced personally, observed in the law firms that I was a member of, heard from colleagues in other law firms or have gathered from my coachees more recently.

Hopefully, the above discussion raises your awareness of the huge variety of possible reasons that may keep you from the success as a professional that you aspire to have and that you lack even in spite of all you business development and marketing efforts. Awareness of your circumstances – whether your key capabilities /tools, in your firm, in your leadership or internally in your inner being – is the key to start a process to attend to them and to find solutions for them.

If you sense there may be any such reasons that keep you from realising your full potential, but

  • you cannot put a finger on them (the awareness does not go far enough),
  • you do not seem to find a proper solution,
  • you quickly realize the challenge is too big to deal with it on your own,

please seek help.

For all the challenges and common mistakes discussed above, help is available.

You do not need a psychologist or psychotherapist for any of the above, but a well-trained coach familiar with the business development challenges of your professional life and the underlying professional and personal reasons that may play a role is quite sufficient.

And there is no shame in seeking such support; to the contrary, it is so common, established and often even required in the industry, that it is fair to say that professional service providers still need to catch up on professional coaching and the help and support coaches can provide.

Let’s realize your full potential!

Become one of the successful entrepreneurs and business developers and succeed with your business goals in your target market. Build a profitable business that reflects your clear vision and personal goals for the short, medium and long haul and impresses your peers and firm management alike and is among the most successful businesses in your field.


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