One of the best things to do on a regular basis is to look outside the legal profession to find a fresh perspective on things, anything from operations to HR practices and certainly business development. Gay Gaddis, contributor to Forbes Magazine addresses entrepreneurs in many industries in this article entitled, 3 Networking Tips To Grow Your Business. Maybe the legal profession isn’t as different as so many believe…
1. Don’t get bogged down in your own industry groups. Although they can be helpful, I don’t spend much time with people in my field because they don’t buy our services; they are usually our competitors. Instead, I seek groups that bring together an array of industries and perspectives. Many times they are our clients and prospective client events. The big message is to get out from behind your desk. You should be your own brand ambassador because no one is more passionate about your business than you are. Your travel budget may skyrocket, but so should your bottom line.
In the legal profession there are two sides to this coin. A referral base of lawyers who don’t do what you do is one approach, and many have built an entire firm on this principle. On the other side there are many lawyers specializing in practice areas which put them smack in the middle of an industry that contains a gold mine of prospects. But do they regularly attend their trade shows and conferences… not often. Create industry teams with colleagues in your firm and network together. Participate as though you belong there… because you do!
2. Building relationships takes time. Follow up is imperative, but easier said than done. When you meet a person who you think will strengthen your business, you should be in touch at least once a quarter. Send something relevant and of value to them. This takes planning, discipline and creativity. Eventually you will be on their radar. If I asked your top five prospects, “Who wants your business,” and they cannot name you or your company, then you will never get their business.
I love Gaddis’ comment… if they are a prospect for you, your name should be on the tip of their tongue. Stay top-of-mind and sooner or later something will come your way. The incumbent will screw up or be too busy to return a phone call… and then YOU will be the one this prospect calls.
3. Get involved in a big way. If an organization is worth your time, you should be right in the middle of the action. Seek to serve on their boards and committees. Otherwise, drop out. When you are all-in, you will build relationships that matter. People will see how you work when you are at your best. These types of relationships build trust and friendships that almost always lead to business opportunities.
I can’t tell you how many lawyers I talk to that tell me they are members of 5,6 or 7 organization. This tells me all they are doing is building their bio… not relationships! I believe like Gaddis that unless you are participating in a meaningful way in an organization… why bother. On the other hand if you are committed, participation is the best way to demonstrate your character, values and expertise. If you are a lawyer of your word; you return phone calls, you follow through, you do what you say you will do… that gets around fast. People will want to do programs with you because they know they can count on you. On the other hand, if you horde the project, grand stand and act like a bully… that gets around even faster!
Business development takes focus and commitment no matter what profession you’re in. Find what feels good for you and you will do it more often. Join organizations with people you like to be around, become friends with them… and it will be more fun than work.
If you would like to explore some of theses possibilities, shoot me an email!