I was reminded of a very important, very underutilized tool this weekend… practice! Sure… the tool seems so simple, but it is so often overlooked. It became very clear to me in a recent encounter with my teenage son. He and some buddies made a golf date and needed to set up a tee time. So, he looked up the golf course and gave them a call. Then the most interesting thing happened. The person on the other end of the line picked up and my son’s mind went blank. He had a struggle getting his thoughts lined up to ask the questions he needed answers to. It all worked out and the other person figured out what he wanted and they booked their time together with that person’s help, but it was a little difficult to listen to! When he got off the phone, I asked him what happened. He told me his mind just went blank and he couldn’t get the words out straight. Can happen to anyone, right? It’s true. Any circumstance, any time. We talked about it and he told me that had he taken a second to think through what he needed to know, he could have formulated his thoughts ahead of time, resulting in an easier conversation. I would venture one more step… perhaps even speak through the questions out loud first, a ‘practice run’ of sorts.
So, what does this have to do with business development? A lot. Business development conversations can be difficult to begin with. Why not make them easier on yourself with a little pre-planning? Try this tip… before dialing the phone or seeing someone in person, ask yourself the following three questions:
- What do I want to learn from this conversation?
- How will I ask for the information?
- What follow-up questions may I have?
Next, study the answers and develop your message to the person on the receiving end. Your not quite done… practice delivering the message(s) you develop from the answers to those questions before making that call. This practice helps you have much smoother conversations. It will also help you gather the answers you need to make subsequent decisions. Build this into a habit and you will be a much more effective communicator in the long run. Practice really makes the difference!
At a recent LMA New England chapter meeting, I listened intently to David Ackert discuss motivating attorneys to consistently use business development in their practices. It was a great program and I gained lots of ideas to implement. However, one thing David said really stuck with me. It is very similar to something I often tell my clients. Marketing and business development is a learned behavior for many of us. It doesn’t just happen naturally without any effort. People often declare that they will make a commitment to business development once or twice a year but never act upon it. How about this: instead of making an annual commitment to business development activities, let’s try starting with a daily 10 minute commitment each week? Instead of starting to market your practice or business in January or September, don’t wait. Start Now…. yup, on February 19th. Nothing special about today. But it’s a good day to begin taking small steps towards your success. So, what kind of marketing can you get done in 10 minutes? Here is a starter list:
- Update your bio. Make any edits that add interest, value or credibility.
- Call your best referral sources and thank them for sending you business.
- Connect two people you know who may benefit from knowing each other.
- Look up the next networking event at a bar association, trade group or other business organization and sign up for the next event. Put it in your calendar and commit to attend it.
- Email a referral source and set up a lunch date.
- Set up a time to visit a client on their location.
- Use social media. Follow clients, post status on Linked In or Facebook and Tweet a few times.
- Walk into one of your colleague’s offices and ask them what kind of work they are doing right now.
- Start a post/article to use on the firm’s blog or website or in your social media outlets.
Whatever activity you choose to undertake isn’t really the focus. The idea is to make a 10 minute weekly investment in developing your relationships, building marketing communication tools and giving yourself visibility. Once you have this habit in place, build on it. Add 10 more minutes each week, either consecutively or on an other day. By doing something routinely, you will see the cumulative effects. Good luck!
As many of you may know, we are in the middle of a blizzard here in Massachusetts! It is very exciting to get 2-3 feet of snow in one storm, especially if you get to keep your power! While I can’t promise the power will stay on, I can promise that I am happy about being snowed in for the next 24 hours. I have batteries, firewood, food, ice, a full gas tank in my car and an army of shovel-bearing kids. What does this have to do with marketing and business development? Perhaps not much, but the topic of preparation has a lot to do with successful marketing.
Being prepared is all about having the right items for a predicted scenario. What you need to be prepared certainly differs depending on what you want the final outcome to be. But almost anyone needs to have the following components at the ready in a marketing scenario:
- A solid network. Creating your networks and keeping your connections close is very important so that you may be opportunistic on a dime. Use a range of tools to maintain your network… social media, in person meetings, email contact or phone calls. They all build relationships that support your business development efforts.
- A quick pitch. I have posted about creating a quick pitch in the past and encourage everyone to draft a few versions of their pitch and practice them until they are perfect.
- An updated database. Whether you have a formal database program, or simply use your outlook, make sure your email addresses are up to date so that you may communicate in a timely fashion. Nothing worse than having something important to share and no way to do it.
- A follow-up strategy. Sometimes the most important piece of the sales cycle is the follow-up. Effective follow-up will always help you win a pitch.
Of course there are so many more tools that you will want to draw upon for successful business development, but these are definitely the essential items to include in your marketing preparation kits!