Business development can be a little bit daunting for lawyers and accountants. It’s something new, it’s something you didn’t learn while you were training and there is probably also the lingering specter of all the partners you’ve seen in action who looked like BD naturals. However, the ability to bring in work will directly influence your career progression which is why we need to address the question “how can lawyers and accountants create more effective personal business development plans?”
The good news is good business development is not about copying what you see the ‘naturals’ in your firm doing, it’s about finding out which BD activities best suit your personality, preferences, and skills.
Once you know what suits you best, you can anchor your effective personal business development plans to these activities and business development will immediately become not only easier but also more effective.
What are the different BD activities a lawyer or accountant should include in effective personal business development plans?
When it comes to choosing the right BD activities, there are two common myths we need to bust:
1. Business development is all about winning new clients.
2. Business development is all about networking and networking means formal networking events.
Let’s look at these in order.
For a lawyer or accountant business development is NOT all about winning new clients
New clients are the hardest things to come across; most people and businesses already have lawyers that they are perfectly happy with. Unless you are very lucky, coming across businesses or people at the point they need a lawyer or an accountant is very hard.
New client acquisition also requires a lot of selling which is an art in itself not to mention something lawyers and accountants are often – quite understandably – not comfortable with.
This is where you may want to take a slightly different look at how you can win work. Often the best place to invest your time and effort is in the people you already know. Primarily this will be your clients but you should also include your professional contacts, the accountants, IFAs, property agents, insurance brokers, NOMADS, etc. you regularly work on matters and clients with.
Instead of trying to win new clients, concentrate on developing these relationships.
The first step is to shortlist which clients/contacts you want to concentrate on.
For partners and associates/senior managers this will be slightly easier. You will already have established relationships and know which you think have potential for growth.
For more junior fee earners, it may be worthwhile to identify who on the client side is at your level and who you talk to/email most frequently during a matter. You can also speak to the partners you work with most often and ask them which referrers and professional contacts they are closest to. They can then facilitate introductions to their contacts’ junior colleagues.
From there you can work out why, how, when to see them each quarter so you can discuss their plans, their requirements and the ways you can add value to your relationship.
For a lawyer or accountant business development is NOT all about networking
I’m not going to say networking doesn’t have a part to play in a lawyer or accountant’s personal business development plan. It does. I am however saying that it doesn’t suit everyone, especially when it comes to formal networking events.
If networking does suit you, networking is a highly productive exercise. Do more of it and make sure you are following up on the contacts you meet properly. Also, have a deep dive into the events you could be going to; find the events your competitors aren’t at.
If networking doesn’t suit you, don’t go! You will appear apprehensive and ill at ease which means you won’t get what you want from the time you take to attend.
However if you are going to create effective business development plans you will need to find alternative ways of building profile and starting new conversations. These alternatives include:
If you have 4 or 5 clients and contacts who you think would benefit from meeting each other, choose a pub, a restaurant or an easy activity and invite them all along (better still, to widen your network ask them all to bring a plus one) and just have a relaxed chat.
But if even the informal networking option doesn’t sit well with you, there are two more highly effective ways to build your profile and reach new audiences that you can also consider:
Speaking slots allow you to impart your technical expertise from a position of authority – surely if you’ve been asked to speak you must really know your stuff?
And if you compare speaking at an event to attending an event, as an attendee you’ll probably meet 5 or 6 people but as a speaker, everyone will hear what you have to say and then the majority will come up to you afterwards to swap cards and request your slides.
Hosting virtual events:
For some virtual events are be more comfortable than ‘in person’ events as s you are sitting at home talking to a screen rather than having to stand up in front of a ‘live’ audience.
The format is also important. Traditional ‘chalk and talks’ are far less engaging than interactive panel discussions, round tables and Q&As.
If you don’t want to be seen at all, you could try podcasting. This may sound daunting but with the quality of recording smartphones now offer and the variety of free to use audio platforms available, putting your own podcast together is very straightforward.
Producing blogs and articles is still a highly effective way to reach a new audience. When it comes to what and where to write, I always split the options into two:
1. Internal opportunities
If you write blogs or articles for your firm’s website you can use the links for social media updates or too email to clients and contacts as an excuse to reconnect with them. They will also improve your
Google rankings as the algorithms will see you’re producing relevant, unique content based on the right key phrases.
2. External opportunities
If you like the sound of writing, your ultimate objective is to get published in the publications or on the websites your clients and contacts read.
Depending on your practice area, this may be a local paper or magazine or a specialist trade publication but what they will have in common is they will not only be read by your clients and contacts, they will also be read by lots of other people just like your clients and contacts.
If you would like to discuss how to refresh your personal business development plan or would like some support with content production, podcasting or presentations, please get in touch today and we can find a convenient time to chat.