Without a vision and a strategy to implement it, successful Business Development is unnecessarily burdensome and inefficient, if not impossible.
You may win a new client at a dinner party, on a (long-distance) flight or in your sports club. But these are chance events. Your Business Development efforts are most likely to succeed if you have a vision and a strategy for the long haul: the vision defines what you want to achieve or what you want to be. The strategy is the step plan or comprises the puzzle pieces for implementing your vision.
Developing a vision and a strategy involves some recurring principles which may be learned in a general training or as part of a consulting/mentoring relationship.
But often developing a vision is not as easy as perhaps presented in a training and requires some more in-depth brainstorming, discussion, checking and testing. Similarly, once a clear vision is identified, efficient and effective strategies for its implementation (or at least certain parts of it along the journey) may also require some advanced know-how or sharing of experience as to what has worked well or not so well in the past and lessons learned therefrom.
The most effective tool for you to arrive at good Business Development solutions in terms of both vision and strategy, is coaching in its true sense, i.e. facilitating your own thinking process through powerful questions in order to allow you to arrive at your own conclusions, goals, strategies and a vision.
From a certain size of your practice or business, further successful Business Development requires a larger base – an empowered team.
Building a successful practice from scratch may be possible for one person alone. I have started this way with my automotive business. But once there is a certain level of success it becomes more and more difficult to run a successful practice with a – hopefully – growing team and to carry on simultaneously with Business Development at the same level or even in greater measure. At the latest at this stage it is useful, if not imperative, to involve your team in your Business Development efforts as well.
I would not have had the level of success in terms of building a large client base, an even larger network of contacts (most of which, at one time or another, have become clients or have referred clients to me) or the level of turnover which has made me the most successful partner in Germany and one of the top five partners internationally for a number of successive years, if I had not been able to empower my team and release them to run on their own – regarding both client work and Business Development.
Empowering your team for successful Business Development has, however, a number of challenges relating to the different personalities in your team, their level of seniority, their individual work-life-balance requirements and, last but not least, their understanding that their profession requires some ‘sales activities ‘ to prosper and grow.
I have faced all these challenges and can teach, consult or coach from real-life experience on successfully dealing with each of them (and a few more).
In order to be able to empower your team you need to be empowered yourself. If you had no role models or encouragement in that respect I would be delighted to assist you to become powerful yourself to empower your team.
Build on proven and experience based practical skills. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Successful Business Development requires a certain mindset geared towards ‘selling’ yourself, your team and your firm. But there are also quite a number of practical skills which you simply need to be aware of and take into account in order to make the most of your precious Business Development efforts.
In over 30 years of private practice I have tried and tested many different things – some have worked always, some never and a few for a certain period of time. Learning from my experiences and adopting the skills I have developed (with appropriate adaptation to your own personality, skill-set and vision) will help you to save time, effort and money and allow you to invest yourself in proven effective and efficient Business Development activities.
Invading the market and presenting yourself as a key market player may be the simple most successful means of Business Development.
One of the most effective means of successful Business Development is what I call “going to the market”. Rather than relying on the CRM database of your firm for cross selling or inviting to firm events, approaching the market directly and winning clients that have no prior relationship to your firm (and may not even have heard of your firm before) has proven to be my personal single most successful means for successful Business Development (in addition, of course, to setting up some pioneering, innovative as well as more traditional firm events for promotional purposes and cross selling – often combining one with the other).
Let’s brainstorm together what suits you best in invading the market and presenting yourself as a key market player.
What is rarely talked about: Stumbling blocks, barriers, obstacles keep you from achieving your goals and ambitions. Let’s address them, get rid of them and realise your full potential!
Your best Business Development intentions and plans may face obstacles: External obstacles may be a lack of funds/budget (as your firm’s management does not prioritise your Business Development efforts) or the unwillingness of your preferred cooperation partner to perform on time or at all.
But there may also be more personal obstacles: a lack of confidence in selling yourself, a lack of a viable vision, inefficient or bad strategies, a misunderstanding of your identity as both a brilliant professional and a “salesperson” causing you to either undersell or oversell yourself.
And the inability to involve and empower your team may have both, external and personal reasons.
I have seen all of this in my own professional life and among some of my team members over the years – and suffered from it either way. Having navigated all of these obstacles – and some more – at some stage in my career: let me assure you that they may all be overcome.
In particular, a coaching relationship is perfectly suited to deal with any personal obstacles.
A huge network of contacts is great but not enough. Your contacts need to become your clients. That is an art in itself.
It is an obvious truth that virtually every contact in your network is a potential client and therefore a good target for your Business Development efforts. But developing them into fee-paying clients does not normally happen automatically. Many factors play a role from the target’s work situation and available budget to pay your fees, to your own behaviour patterns of simply staying in touch or overselling and pressurising your contacts.
I have plenty of experience from my own life but also from observing many of my peers: there are some very clear “dos and don’ts” that help to navigate your relationships with contacts and targets and, ultimately, to win them over as your and your firm’s clients.
Building good, long-term personal relationships and avoiding pitfalls is often more easily said than done.
In spite of the ever-increasing importance of social media, the relationship between a professional and his or her client remains ultimately extremely personal. The client wants to be sure you have the expertise and experience (‘street credibility’); but the client also wants to feel comfortable with you on a more personal level. The “chemistry” between you and the client must be right.
This comes naturally for some, but takes quite a bit of learning and adjusting for others. This is not just about good manners and a friendly face; rather your whole (professional) identity has a bearing on how you come across. This is not dealt with by some training sessions on ‘soft skills’. This goes to the depth of who you are privately and professionally and what your attitude is towards your targets/ clients and how you treat them. And as communication is always defined by the perception of the recipient it is ultimately about how your contacts and clients feel treated.
From being afraid of the strong personalities of your counterparts to the arrogance of being brighter and better than they are I have seen it all. Although these pitfalls may be easily avoided for some it requires more fundamental changes for others.
My coaching on relevant behaviour patterns may be the way out for the latter group of people who are not easily appreciated or accepted by their clients or targets or repeatedly make the experience that the “chemistry” is not quite as good as they wish it should be and could be.
If you feel you are not making the most of your qualifications or you do not reap the fruits that you have worked hard for – please be assured: Your full potential can be realised.
When you start your first job after university and having obtained any other necessary professional qualifications you may often feel that ‘I know it all ‘and ‘I have a brilliant career ahead of me’. The same euphoria may be connected to a change of jobs. But after a while some of us may wonder: ‘Do I reach my full potential? Will I ever reach it (at this firm or in this profession)?’ And perhaps even more fundamentally: ‘What is my full potential?’
Often very personal issues, challenges, personality characteristics and even hurts of the past may play a role in why someone does not reach his or her full potential or doubts that that is possible at all.
I have learned a few hard lessons in my own life but also with some of my team members over the years. These experiences and my training and experience in life coaching will help to define your full potential in the first place and to devise ways and means of realising it.
Be bold and courageous in testing and trying new things in Business Development – be creative in devising your Business Development activities or events.
Professionals and their professions are not usually associated with the idea of creativity. Lawyers, accountants and other professionals are often perceived as pursuing rather “dry pastimes”. Creativity is commonly associated with artists and art. Until a few years ago I would never have considered myself creative because I held the belief that lawyers are not creative people. But a dear friend, herself a seasoned artist (author, book illustrator, painter and musician), saw and affirmed the creativity in me and my profession. Even though I have been involved in some major litigation and arbitration cases in the past few years, I always was – and remain at heart – a contract lawyer. Drafting contracts is ultimately very real and creative ‘art ‘. In my career as a contract lawyer I have had the privilege of developing two types of contracts in two of the three industry sectors I have worked in that did not exist before and became market standard: a reseller contract in the telecoms industry and the turnkey EPC contract for the connection of offshore wind farms to the closest onshore converter station in Germany.
If, based on this, I can accept that the work of a professional may be just as creative as the work and output of any artist, then it should be clear, that business development may benefit from your creativity and may be just as intrinsically creative. And is not the proverbial thinking “out of the box” perhaps just a different expression for creativity?
With hindsight I realise all my various business development ventures resulted from my creativity – I have tried out many different things, some of which never worked but most of which proved to be not only successful but sustainable and repeatable long-term, or at least for a certain season.
Against this background, let me help you to find your creativity in your job and for your Business Development efforts.
Business Development should be done consistently and continuously – it then becomes a culture for individuals, teams and entire firms.
Anyone consistently active in Business Development or pursuing the habit of weekly Business Development activities is developing a culture of Business Development for him- or herself. And this may even be transferred onto the team, but it does not mean that the firm as a whole has a culture of continuous Business Development. And often business development is limited to simply cross-selling services within the firm. But my perception of successful business development is much broader and relates to winning new clients for the firm or new work unassociated with what anyone is already doing for a client (for instance, because I meet a new contact of an existing client at a conference and get new work entirely unrelated to the firm’s existing client relationship). And even if there are a number of partners or team members within a firm that regularly and successfully win new clients and new work in the market, the general culture of the firm may still not necessarily be conducive to continuous successful Business Development as the prevailing and common attitude among the partners.
If you have responsibility in the management of the firm and want to change its culture I would love to share my experiences, my observations, the lessons learnt in two big international law firms – let’s convert this know-how to your firm, make it applicable to your partnership, and work together on the necessary transformation.
Industry specialisation is a key differentiator, creates a competitive edge and is achievable with some tenacity.
Having one interesting assignment in a fascinating industry is not sufficient to make you a specialist in that industry. But it may be a starting point for delving into a new industry, familiarising yourself intimately with the “ins and outs” of the practices, customs, commonly used documents and the jargon, as well as getting to know all the key market players in the industry (or a particular segment of it) that you focus on.
I have become a recognised market leader for legal matters in the German telecoms industry long ago, the offshore wind industry in Germany and, internationally, the automotive industry-specifically the world-wide automotive supplier base for car manufacturers.
I have learned some valuable lessons for successfully invading a new industry sector, which are universally applicable and shareable.
Winning new business is so much easier when you are a brand yourself – recognized as an expert and market leader.
The ultimate goal of successful business development is not only generating more fees for your firm (and making more money/income yourself) and gaining reputation within your firm, but to position yourself and be recognised by the market as a professional leader in the industry or practice area of your choice. Such leadership position will cause recommendations by happy clients or conflicted colleagues, you will be found on the internet and on social media and, most importantly, it will allow you to come across as the problem solver, deal facilitator or trusted adviser in any pitch or competitive tender process for new work. I can safely state that I have never lost a pitch for new automotive work when I was invited to an interview; and I was almost always invited to such second stage of the pitch process because of credentials that reflected my ‘street credibility ‘.
Achieving such a position requires tenacity, time, consistency of effort, but also a clear and well-considered strategy and its continuous advancement. Let me assure you: nothing is impossible in Business Development and I have not come across anyone of whom I would not have believed that he or she could be a market leader.