Clients often tell me about the business development advice they have had from well-established partners in their firm. Lots of these tips are spot-on and very helpful. Others are . . . well, we have a chuckle! Some of the tips I have heard have been at best unhelpful and sometimes actually damaging to winning clients. In this blog article I share two bad examples of business development advice that my clients have been given by their partners.
1. Just do a good job – and the work will flow in.
One of my new clients, a property litigator, asked her partner for advice about the niche she should focus on for the future. Her partner said:
“Don’t worry about going to go out and win new clients, if you do a good job the work will eventually come to you.”
Yes, really! That may be the case if you are an established litigator and partner in your practice. It isn’t so if you are an associate who needs to show potential at business development to be noticed for promotion. If you just “do a good job”, the new work will never come to you, it will always go to the person who is running the matter: the partner. These days, doing a good job is not enough. You need to be the person who should get the work. You need to show your internal and external network, as well as prospects that you are open for business. This means developing a specialism (i.e. differentiator) and taking consistent but active steps to build your profile.
2. Get yourself out there – and the work will flow in.
The well-trodden way to win work for any professional in practice was to go to networking events: just getting themselves out there. Times have changed. Have you noticed a reduction in the number of networking events? Have you also noticed a reduction in the quality of attendees at many networking events? There is a reason for that! These days you need to do more than just go to external networking events. You need to build a strong personal brand, grow a decent profile and reputation AND be prepared to go out and meet people. If you choose to ignore your online profile or refuse to engage in the online world, you will be leaving business on the table.
Why do some partners give such bad business development advice?
So, why do established partners trot out such poor advice? They have built a successful career after all, but if you follow what they say, you won’t do the same. Well, if a partner is over 55 they’ve probably had at least a decade of a stable client portfolio and a strong network of proven referral sources. They are not as hungry as they once were to grow their practice. They may have forgotten what it is like to start from scratch. Winning business is easy when you are well-known and have reliable referral sources to fill your pipeline! As well as forgetting what it is like to win their first few clients and how hard that is, many established partners have not moved with the times. Too few of them have embraced the social media revolution, and too few realise that clients now want an expert to work on their affairs. Winning business 10-15 years ago was very different to winning business now. As a result the best business development advice from 10-15 years ago many actually be poor quality advice now. Of course, most partners have a wealth of experience and advice that you’d be foolish to ignore, but don’t blindly accept everything as gospel. The professions are very different now, and you need to offer what clients want in 2017, not in 1997.
There are many other articles on this site about winning your own business. Here are just a few that you will find useful. How specialist do I need to be? Getting great results from networking events. 6 ways in which what clients (really) want has changed. Download our FREE guide to choosing and capitalising on your niche. And remember to sign up for your FREE career kitbag – packed full of tools, templates, and business development advice for advancing your career.