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Five foundational steps for business development

February 4, 2011

If you are feeling like you would like you would like to get better at business development here are five steps to get you started:

1. Update your contact list. This contact list will include your clients, past-clients, contacts and referral sources. Once you’ve updated it, review the list and develop your “A” list of contacts. This is a short list of the most important people in terms of new business opportunities.  While there are many people we care about and we would like to invest time in, the “A” list simply helps us to prioritise.  In many cases people on the “A” list will be clients and past clients.  In some areas of practice such as commercial litigation they may be referral sources.

2. Make yourself a weekly connect with list.  Many of my clients develop the habit of setting aside some time on a Sunday afternoon or evening to think about who they want to take action to connect with in the coming week.  It helps to have at your fingertips your short list of priority contacts. Action for a local contact may be to set up a face-to-face coffee or lunch meeting.  Or it may be to connect with them in some other valuable way.  Is there a legal update you can send them? The guiding question to consider is “how can I add value?”

3.  What gets scheduled gets done.  This past year has been about schedule mastery both for my coaching clients and for my own practice.  Get your commitments into your calendar.  Block off time for them.  AND respect the time you have blocked off for these commitments by not scheduling over it.  Schedule time for connecting with people.

4. Focus on listening.  This is one skill that seems easy and yet is surprisingly difficult.  The more our minds are filled with deadlines, the more our blackberry buzzes, the harder it gets to listen.  In your business development meetings put the emphasis on listening and learning about what’s going on for your contact personally and professionally.  What challenges are they facing?  What are they most excited about?  What’s most important to them?  Seek out opportunities to help and to add value. 
Put your blackberry away so that you can turn your full attention to the conversation.  A key step in business development is “discovery”.  That means asking open ended questions and learning all that you can over the course of one meeting or many about your contact and his/her business.  This is how you discover where the opportunities lie.

5.  Track your actions and your time.  Make a commitment to invest a set number of hours weekly on business development.  If you want to dabble then give it 2 hours a week.  If you want to make a serious effort then set aside 4 or more hours.  (This includes time spent planning, emailing, lunching, attending networking events – everything!) Keep a running list of who you are connecting with and what you are learning.   Review your notes to ensure you are following up when and where you need to, and to evaluate what’s working and what is not.

And here are some other great resources to explore:

When you have listened and uncovered opportunities it is time to talk about the benefits of you or your firm’s services.  Here’s a helpful post from Theda C. Snyder that explains features and benefits.

Check out Susan Van Dyke’s post on 10 tips to revitalize your practice with healthy legal marketing habits.

And finally, don’t miss Paula Black’s recent post tip Be yourself.

Posted in: Business Development, Marketing | Permalink | No Comments →

Writing for the web tip – experience lists

November 29, 2010

Experience lists are a crucial part of a lawyer’s on-line profile because they provide clients and prospects with concrete examples of work that has been done.   I just came across an elegant approach to experience lists from legal and business writer Doug Stern.  What he recommends is shifting  the emphasis from the work done to the client served.


Acted for a clean energy company in multiple rounds of venture capital led financing.


A clean energy firm engaged [FIRM’S NAME] to help the start-up through multiple rounds of venture capital-led financing.


Representing a health sciences company and its European subsidiary in an action for infringement of two European patents for evacuated, plastic blood collection tubes brought against members of a competing health sciences group in the Patents County Court.


A health sciences company and its European subsidiary engaged our firm to assist them in an action for infringement of two European patents for evacuated, plastic blood collection tubes brought against members of a competing health sciences group in the Patents County Court. 

By shifting the primary focus to the client and away from the law firm the experience bullets are more interesting to read and less repetitive.  Next time you revise your practice group or personal profile on the web I recommend you read Doug Stern’s post on and try out his recommendation.

Posted in: Marketing | Permalink | 1 Comment →

The fine art of staying in touch

May 8, 2008

In this crazy world of competing deadlines, priorities, sound bites and instant communication technology it sometimes seems harder than ever to nurture the important relationships in our lives. We are all under such pressure to perform and to achieve there is little time left in the day to reach out and show someone that we care.  For a list of tips on how to keep in touch with the important people in our lives check out my article on Slaw.ca this week.  And please, if you have some additional tips to share with the readers post a comment here or on the Slaw site.

Posted in: Client Relations, Marketing, Solo and Small Firms | Permalink | No Comments →

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