For lawyers and accountants, when it comes to business development where and when do you start?

One question I get asked an awful lot – and last week seems to have seen it asked more often than ever! – is when it comes to business development, where and when should lawyers and accountants start?

This question comes up in a number of guises.

It might be posed by a trainee, a pupil barrister or a reasonably newly qualified solicitor, accountant, business adviser or patent attorney.

It may be posed when a lawyer or accountant is first tasked with writing a personal BD plan or business plan.

It may come up when someone’s been asked to attract some new clients and increase their billings for the first time.

It may have come up because the person’s been asked to strengthen their internal links to people at similar levels in their firm’s other departments.

Or more recently it’s probably come up because with the return to the office, people want to know how best to get back into BD now restrictions are finally slackening off.

For me. the hub of the issue is we are all creatures of habit.  The recent changes we’ve all been through have impacted on these habits.

For example, before March 2020 you would ordinarily and effortlessly:

Bump into colleagues from other parts of your firm and naturally start the conversations that lead to stronger relationships and new opportunities.

You would naturally see clients, intermediaries and professional contacts in person.

You would naturally ring-fence some time in your diary to attend the events you enjoyed going to.

However, as all of this has been forced to change, attitudes toward and – dare I say it, appetite for – BD has changed too.  Here are some real life examples (verbatim) from some conversations I’ve had over the last few days:

“People have become more casual in their approach to BD, they just expect work to appear.”

“Fee earners have stopped BD, they think they can wait until the events that they were going to before start up again.”

“The time they used to use for BD has been consumed by personal activities.  BD has been replaced by family chores and a bit more time for themselves.”

This is a real cause for concern.  It must be addressed to future-proof your fees. The solution lies in helping your fee earners to learn new habits.

What are the 7 golden business development rules for lawyers and accountants?

To adopt new habits your training must address 7 critical success factors:

1. Focus on helping your fee earners to take small achievable steps, for example each fee earner has to make one telephone call a week to a lapsed contact or write one blog a month for your website.

2. Measure BD activity (the number of coffee meetings you have, the meetings with colleagues you have, the LinkedIn updates you  post, the talking slots at webinars or events you deliver or the articles in external titles you have published).

3. Make a distinction between Key Performance Indictors (inputs) and Key Result Indicators (outputs).  They really aren’t the same!

4. Recognise there will be a time-lag between activity and output, e.g. new referrals or instructions.

5. Make fee earners accountable for their own BD activity and share progress firmwide to encourage more participation and, eventually, cement your BD culture.

5. Match BD activity to individuals’ interests, skill sets, and personalities. Let the writers write and the presenters present.

6. Map fee earners’ BD activity to your business plan and objectives.

7. Embrace new media to adapt to our changing environment, improve efficiencies and improve return on investment on your marketing spend.  Replace advertising, sponsorship and exhibition stands with 1on1 meetings and social events with small groups.

Introduce podcasts, video, infographics, WhatsApp and other channels like Vimeo and YouTube to reach a broader audience and appeal to all the different ways people like to absorb information.

If you’d like to find out more about the strategic planning services we offer or chat through how we can help you make your business development more effective and more productive, please drop us a line today and we can find a good time to talk.

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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