What does Business Development (BD) mean to you?
Thinking the i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e?
Imagine being offered a blank sheet of paper and asked to write out how you would develop your firm, practice area or people in your charge.
How far would you get without looking sideways at the competition or at what you had done before?
You will struggle.
In part, this is a consequence of the term BD. It is too nebulous and, in many ways unmitigated crap, when it comes to anything other than doing more of the same.
For me BD is just that.
This is not just me saying this with tongue ever so slightly in cheek.
But, think about it.
How much of the ‘business’ is being developed?
How much are you recreating?
How much of what you do is different to last week, last year or even 10 years ago?
OK, OK, I know this is another broken record theme but, if your truly aspire to be great at BD, you have to be prepared to challenge the status quo, rip up the script and start again.
You attend meeting after dreary meeting. How many genuinely innovative ideas are promulgated, let alone acted upon?
My experience is that there is very little movement.
I call it incremental thinking. You might like to think about Blue Skies but, come on, how far do you really raise your eyes to the skies? Sometimes, you might as well be blindfolded.
Take one (small) issue: telephone technique.
How many of you have received formal training?
Training in what, you ask?
Using the bloody thing would be a start.
How many lawyers think of using the phone to:
- Update their clients;
- Call a client that they acted for in the last 6 months where the file has been closed;
- Ask a client on the telephone for a recommendation;
- Call their opposite number more often than they write;
- Call to follow up a letter or email to a new client;
- Call someone following a networking event to go for a coffee; or
- Call someone who you think would be interesting to meet.
Hardly tricky or complicated stuff, but, having sat around innumerable lawyers, I don’t recall anyone hitting all or very many of these.
But is this really BD?
Isn’t it just good old fashioned customer service mixed with a dash of sales flair. You would have thought so, but remember that professional services prides itself on staying put. “This profession is not for turning!”
Fine, but don’t expect to see things get any easier.
In these hyper-connected times, you may wonder what’s the point?
Clients know how to get hold of you – ddi, email, Twitter and websites – but that’s just the point. They want to hear from you and not through the medium of some cold device.
What is it you fear after all?
Don’t be daft?
Failure doesn’t come into it?
Looking stupid (in front of who?)?
Of course it is easy for me, sitting here, to challenge you all the time, but, in this new world in which you operate, you can’t afford to keep ploughing the same furrow. Your career demands more than that. Being technically competent shouldn’t always be seen as your launchpad to success. You have others to turn to for that.
My suggestion is that you stop talking about the same stuff that is on the same agenda.
Rip it up physically and metaphorically.
You are better than you current circumstances, and you bloody well know it.
If you really want to see change then you have to drive that from within yourself. Stop talking yourself out of doing something and live by the fail faster creed.
You only get one shot at this game.
This moment is all you have it.