The life expectancy of “no-one-saw-this-coming” as an explanation for stalled business development is going to run out soon. Or at least, wear thin.

So for everyone who still has a practice to grow, here is a 4-step plan for the last 4 months of a year none of us saw coming. Buckle up…we’ll make it a speed round (because time is wasting).

Step One — Quick — Name 4 Prospective Clients

Don’t be conservative here — identify four prospects you’d give your eye teeth to engage. As you consider the companies or individuals that should be on your list, suspend disbelief. Avoid taking inventory of all the reasons you feel a working relationship is unlikely. You know — they’ve used another firm for years…they’re too big, too demanding, too something. 

Refuse to let the devils you think you know define your future. A good list should contain at least one audacious goal — a prospect that, by itself, will change your world.

If you have more than four, great; but limit your first pass at this to the top four. Go for quality over quantity.

Step Two — Start Connecting Dots

Using your favorite thinking/planning/brainstorming tool — legal pad, post-it notes, whiteboard or electronic device — create a 3-part list for each of your four targets.

    • On Part One — name the relevant decision-makers that you have a personal connection with (any connection — don’t second-guess)
    • On Part Two — include the names of other individuals you know, who are connected (in any way) to the target’s  decision-maker
    • On Part Three — list the names of individuals with whom you have no personal connection, but who you believe to be connected to the target’s decision-maker

This three-part list for each target is the skeleton of a relationship map, and these names will become the focus of the next two steps…more specifically, the focus of your attention for the balance of 2020.

Step Three — Reach Out and Touch Someone

Create an initial personalized communication for each name on your four relationship maps. The purpose of this communication is to deliver something of undisputed value to the recipient.

And on that note, I can sense I am beginning to lose you.

If you’re 100% okay with what you believe the future holds for your practice (or your firm), I get the skepticism, and you should blow-off the remaining few paragraphs.

But if you’re sensing the necessity of a significant shift in the way you go about business development, let’s press on.

Let’s stipulate that “personalized communication that delivers undisputed value” can be a stumbling block. In the best case scenario it implies research and understanding. For purposes of this post, here’s an idea starter.

Consider what you know to be top-of-mind for your target. If you’re right, this is at the center of what drives critical decisions — and, just in case we need to say it, a critical decision is what you’re after.

Have you created or do you have access to thought leadership or insights that relate to your target’s decision-driver? Think about blog posts, market research, industry white papers and the like.

If this continues to be a problematic idea, there is no easy way to say this — you probably need to spend some time doing market research and thinking through your marketing strategy. (If your firm has a strong marketing team, they are already primed and ready to help with this.)

Create this kind of personal communication for each name on your four relationship maps, and you have a disruptive business development tool in your hands.

By its very nature this communicque speaks to what a working relationship with you will be like — characterized by a focus on the challenges and opportunities of your targets.

And now we’re ready for the fourth step in the plan.

Step Four — Instigate Collaboration

Here’s the suggestion.

Invite your targets to a non-commercial New Now Round Table. (Create your own moniker, or borrow this one if it works for you.)

Your invitation and the way in which you describe your round table will vary based on what will resonate with your targets; but the idea is to stage and facilitate a series of conversations that address the realities of the market in which we find ourselves.

For at least as long as Zoom is the primary venue for connecting, please consider bringing in a skilled facilitator. This will set the right tone, and make the best of the technology tools (and there are some cool tools out there that can make your round table transcend Zoom-fatigue), and instigate a conversation where two things happen:

    • Organic conversations will focus on your target’s pressing issues
    • You will become identified as the advisor who facilitated new conversations, and a focus on new solutions

While it is a straight forward plan, we do not suggest that execution will be easy. It will require that you lean in, shake-up the way you might think about pursuing new clients and resist distractions.

If you’ll focus on these four ideas for the next four months — sure…you’ll need to tweak them and personalize them to fit your reality — but use these four steps as a guide, and you’ll find yourself in position to reclaim the momentum you had way back in January.

Eric Fletcher

With more than thirty years of experience, spanning broadcasting, advertising, marketing and professional services business development, Eric Fletcher is a seasoned connector — of ideas, people and strategic growth-oriented solutions. For the past fifteen years he has managed and directed teams focused on…

With more than thirty years of experience, spanning broadcasting, advertising, marketing and professional services business development, Eric Fletcher is a seasoned connector — of ideas, people and strategic growth-oriented solutions. For the past fifteen years he has managed and directed teams focused on targeted business development and client service in the legal industry. Today he consults with professional service providers to create strategies for growth that align with mission and vision. He resides in the Austin, Texas area.