Sometimes lawyers ask why they don’t seem to be as successful as other lawyers in developing business. They may be equally competent as lawyers, yet don’t seem to do as well as rainmakers.
According to Sara Holtz at ClientFocus, successful rainmakers have seven habits that make them stand out from those who are not. Those habits include (with my usual parenthetical comments):
- Treating clients as if they are the most valuable asset (not just because they pay the bills, but because they are the best source of new business and referrals);
- Making business development a priority (not only by making it a state of mind, but by focusing on a system that brings it into play on a daily basis);
- Having a plan (as Sara and many others say, avoid “random acts of lunch.” Rather, set goals and objectives, and target those you’d prefer as clients for the type of work you most enjoy doing);
- Focusing on the high-potential opportunities (which, more than likely, will come from existing, desirable clients and referral sources);
- Following up consistently (just by meeting someone, giving a speech, writing articles or entertaining potential clients will not normally close the sale. Plan on at least five meetings to get the deal done);
- Listening more than they talk (at least you should listen 50% of the time, but 80% is preferable. How else will you really learn what the client needs and wants);
- Asking for the business when appropriate (or at least getting advances in the process).
I would only disagree with one statement where Sara says “rainmakers are made, not born.” Many of the natural rainmakers I know do seem to be born that way – what else would explain their inability to make clear their secrets of success to other partners and associates. But all isn’t lost, since those habits above, plus a few more, can be taught to those to whom it doesn’t come naturally.
Habits that we at the LegalBizDev Network would add for a successful business development program include:
- Measuring your activities, advances, time spent on developing business (and successes), since only that which is measured will get done;
- Allowing some friendly peer pressure to put a little accountability slant on those business development activities; and
- Evaluating whether your approach is working over time, and changing the things that are not.