Are you merrily plodding away at your so-called business development activities? Or have you not achieved much at all in the last few weeks or months? To check that you’re on the right track, here are 10 brightly waving red flags that are waving to show that you’re in real trouble with your new business development activities.
1. You’ve just finished a big deal/project/assignment which has taken up all of your attention for at least a month
There is a reason why your pipeline of new business is called a ‘pipeline’ and the ‘sales and marketing’ funnel is called a funnel. Effectively, the more you put in the top of the funnel, the more work will pop out at the bottom of the funnel. It’s the same with your pipeline of work. New business rarely turns up out of the blue and is converted during the first phone call. Hence, the phrase ‘pipeline of new work’.
The reality is that if you stop your business development activities, and stop putting stuff in at the top of the ‘sales and marketing’ funnel, then stuff will stop popping out at the bottom and your pipeline of new work will dry up rapidly. The larger and riskier the type of service you sell, the longer the sales process. So if your average client takes 3-6 months to convert from a lead to a paid-up client, if you have no live and warm leads then it will take on average 3-6 months to gain new work.
Now, a large gap in your pipeline may happen because you’ve been tied up in a long deal or assignment. It could be because you get really busy for 2-3 weeks ahead of a two-week summer break. You might take your summer break and because all your key contacts are away on their summer breaks, before you know it you’ve not done any meaningful business development activities for 6-8 weeks.
2. Large assignments are coming to an end (and you’ve neglected your business development activities)
Given how all-pervading major contracts and assignments can be, you can be forgiven for getting stuck in and neglecting your long-term pipeline of new work. After all, a truly big assignment can feed you for months and potentially years. If you are in this situation you always need to have one eye upstream on what will be coming to fill the gap after this assignment has finished. You may have seen this happening with contractors and interim managers. They do a full-on 6-month assignment and then have a 3-6 month forced layoff whilst they wait for their next contract to appear.
3. Your clients and introducers are not taking your call
The best way to win work in the short term is to talk with your existing clients and introducers. However, if they are not returning your call (or email) then this is a very worrying sign and suggests that there are major problems with the relationships you have with your key contacts.
4. You have an unfocused network
Whether you realise it or not, you are always networking. Every time you have a conversation with someone, you are networking. This means we all have a network at our disposal. However, if you’ve never focused your network-building on the people you want and need in your network, there is a likelihood that you will struggle to get the right results from your business development activities.
5. You are known as a good generalist
Have you noticed that good generalists are never really in demand? That’s because clients rarely want a generalist, unless it is for a very easy and small piece of work. Good generalists rarely stand out enough in their network to get a steady stream of high quality and profitable referrals
6. Your network rarely, if at all, sends you any referrals
Referrals are the lifeblood of any fee earner. Most lawyers, accountants and consultants get 90%+ of all their new work from referrals. This could be from existing clients, your internal firm network or external firm networks. If you are not getting at least some good quality introductions from your network, then this is real cause for concern.
7. Everyone else is busy but you’re not
It could be a temporary blip, but if there is lots of work going around and you are doing all the right things business development-wise, then you should be getting a decent share of the work. If not, then you need to take a long hard look at why not and get working on some new business development activities. READ: 7 deadly business development mistakes – which ones are you making?
8. Highly experienced members of your team are worried about the pipeline of new work into the team
The fee earners (who have been around the block and lived through the good times AND the bad times) are often the best barometer of when to be worried. If they are concerned about how ‘hard it is to win work’ at the moment, then this is a sign to be worried. If they don’t seem that bothered then it’s time to relax a little.
9. Your best clients are proactively taking cost-cutting measures
‘Reforecasts’, ‘recruitment freezes’, ‘travel bans’, ‘layoffs’ are all signs of a company actively looking to cut their costs. These easily identifiable signs often then lead onto projects getting delayed or cancelled and before you know it, your main sources of billable work suddenly disappear.
10. You’ve not been consistently building your profile and reputation with the right people
Consistent results from business development activities are reliant on a consistent level of business development activity. Stopping and starting your business development activities is the best way of reducing your ability to reliably win work.