Writing Your Business Development Plan for the New Year? Aim for the Impossible...

by JD Supra Perspectives
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We must always aim for the impossible; if we lower our goal, we also diminish our effort”
- Dorothy Day

Although it’s only October, many lawyers in my firm are already beginning to look towards updating their business development plans so they can hit the ground running in 2017. It’s my favorite part of the year because it’s a time to focus on possibilities and opportunities and aspirations. And aim for the impossible: rather than building plans around easily achievable targets and objectives, I encourage my colleagues to set their sights on goals that will only come together if they work really hard at it. I tell them:

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone 

Whether it’s public speaking or attending networking events or even writing three blog posts a day, of course it’s going to be easier to do more of the things you’re comfortable doing. But that doesn’t mean that those activities will help you get more business if they’re not targeted at the right people. If you’re reaching the right people but not telling them what they need to know. If you’re not following up to establish the relationships that lead to growth. What’s more, because you’re spending a lot of time on those things, you probably don’t have the time or energy to work on getting better at things you’re not already good at, things that might be better client acquisition activities. That’s why it’s a good thing to step out of your comfort zone: maybe you’ll even create a new one.

Set Meaningful (and Measurable) Objectives 

Let’s be honest: “Attend three networking events in 2017” is not particularly meaningful as a business development goal, because all that it requires is the effort to sign up for an event, to leave the office an hour early, to stand around nursing a watered-down drink while you make awkward small talk with a lawyer from a competing firm. Contrast it with “take five new-from-networking-events contacts to lunch in 2017.” With “make two presentations on intellectual property issues for entrepreneurs.” With “increase billings for clients in the utilities industry by 25%” and “land two new microbrewery clients” and “introduce Client X  to Client Y.” Establish goals that you can measure, preferably ones that involve an action plan detailing the steps that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. 

Commit to making your efforts extraordinary...

Don’t Settle for Average 

Most of the lawyers I’ve worked with over the past 25 years are high achievers. They push themselves zealously to represent the best interests of the people they work for, to bring novelty and innovation to the law and all its applications, to create more value for their clients than do the competition. Yet when it comes to targeting new clients and new industries, they settle for average. They plan for activities they can do – like mass mailings, joining a different club, sponsoring an event – without actually having to do anything (or do much). And all they get are average results. Commit to making your efforts extraordinary, your presentations focused and timely, your pitches smooth and on topic, your communications relevant and useful. Don’t tell a potential client how much you know about the trucking industry: tell her how you’re going to solve her problem. And what it’s going to cost and how often you’ll update her and what you’ll do if things go wrong. Make everything you do stand out from the crowd, even it takes a lot more time and requires a lot more work.

It’s OK to aim for what might at first glance seem impossible. Because even if you don’t get there, you’re likely to be far better off than you were.

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[Lance Godard is a business development manager at Fisher Phillips. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his new work on JD Supra.]

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