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Why business development works best when you're in your comfort zone, not out of it

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lawyer, accountant, consultant, adviser or architect. Being a professional in 2017 means you face a choice: learn to code or learn to be yourself.  I think your dilemma really is that stark.

I say this because we’re seeing a polarisation taking place in the market. The scalable, repeatable work is getting swallowed up by the people who can do it cheapest. For almost everyone else, it’s a matter of fighting it tooth and nail over what seems to be a diminishing set of fees.

And one thing that anyone who’s had to fight hard will tell you is that it becomes so much easier if you believe in what you’re fighting for.

Let’s start at the very beginning….

What I’m saying is that the surest path to success in today’s professional services market is to authenticity. You must know who you are, what you stand for, what you do well, what clients you want to work for and what work you want to do. If you don’t, your professional life won’t just be an unhappy one, you’ll also have trouble convincing clients that you really are the right person to advise them.

Bring your BD in line with your values

But it shouldn’t just start and end with what motivates you professionally either. I think you should also give some thought to where your interests lie outside your profession. (I’m assuming you don’t read the tax act, building code or High Court judgments in your spare time, but I may be wrong.) Then work out ways to bring the two together.

Why I say this is because I think business development works best when you’re in your comfort zone, not out of it.

For instance, how often do you see professionals who think they’re building client relationships by taking clients they don’t really like to a sporting event they have zero interest in? Why torture yourself if you’re really not that into it. You’re giving up your precious free time for something you don’t enjoy and people you don’t want to be with. And when that happens the client you’re trying to impress will sense your lack of passion and see that you’re really not being yourself, just in an effort to do business.

On the other hand, if you’re into sailing and you take a group of clients out with you, your passion can’t help but shine through. You won’t just be in your element, doing what you love, you’ll also come across as competent, knowledgeable and in control.

But it gets better....

Better still, when both your firm and your firm’s business development efforts start from a place of authenticity, building your client base and marketing your practice will no longer be a chore. You’ll find yourself doing things consistently and regularly. You’ll look forward to getting stuck into your BD tasks, not sticking them on the backburner or forgetting about them altogether.

So, if you need a little inspiration on how to make your practice and your BD efforts more authentic, here are six ways professionals said they were doing it at the recent Legal Marketing Association conference I attended in Las Vegas.

1.    Screening clients. If you’re going to have an authentic practice your clients should align with your values. So be upfront with who you’re looking for. Put what you expect from your clients on your website, develop a client intake process and start culling the existing clients that are bringing you down. And, if someone comes knocking on your door and they don’t match what you’re looking for refer them elsewhere.

2.    Blogging. If you’re really going to be true to your values, share your take on the world with the world. Give your clients and potential clients the chance to see that you have a considered opinion that differentiates you from others. This will automatically help you attract the right kinds of clients to your practice.  That said, there are some things to avoid.

3.    Writing down your personal mission statement. Sure, it might sound corny, but Mark Chinn, the founder of a very successful small legal practice said it was the best piece of advice he ever had. “It makes sure you are doing what you want to do,” was his reasoning. And his own personal statement was a simple one: “I want to do the finest legal work for someone who is grateful for it and becomes a friend afterwards.”

4.    Cultivating good referrers. This means you need to track the path a client takes to get to your door, including who referred them or who they verified you with. As an aside, many firms use Client Journey Maps in their business development but they usually overlook any analysis of referral sources. Do what you can to cultivate the referrers who are sending you the kind of clients you want to work for. Have lunch or coffee with a good referral source every week. Ask your best referrers why they send you business and let them know how much you appreciate it.

5.    Bringing marketing into line. How often do you see a firm’s website that doesn’t really reflect what the business is about? Make sure yours does and that the words, images, articles and videos build this too. Make it engaging too, not full of boring or technical speak. Most people shop emotionally, not rationally, even for professional services.

6.    Reaching out. Part of who you are is the causes you support. So reach out to the charities and NFPs you believe in and see how you can help them. It doesn’t have to be through pro bono work. You may be able to let them use your boardroom or even be able to introduce them to the right people.

 Want more?

Contact us if you’d like help building an authentic practice from within your comfort zone.

Sue-Ella Prodonovich attended the 2017 LMA Conference in Las VegasGet in touch if you would like to find out more about the insights from the session.