Though the market is more competitive now than ever, new revenue opportunities arise regularly. One of the keys to taking advantage of them is through strong relationships and a robust network of contacts. It should also go without saying that having strong client relationships is the best defensive tactic to guard against encroachment by competitors.
As we head into the summer months, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on your client relationship building and business development activities so far this year. If you had to grade your efforts, would you get an A or a C? If a new business opportunity came up, would you be well-positioned to make the call?
If business development doesn’t come to you naturally, or if you find yourself slipping on maintaining regular contact with your clients, consider the following tips to systematize your efforts and create the conditions that will allow you to tend to your relationships regularly, regardless of how busy your practice may be.
- Be clear about who you are covering and why. Write it down. Your list should include a targeted list contacts at your most important clients, your best prospects for new business, and internal and external referral sources.
- Maintain your coverage efforts even when you are busy with active files. Keep it simple: block off as little as an hour each week to connect with clients, either by phone or over coffee, or by sending a note with an article of interest. Better yet, visit your client at their offices.
- Diarize your activities. Lawyers with a more natural affinity for BD schedule their efforts in formal and informal ways, recognizing the importance of business development and relationship management to their practice.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable. Recruit a BD professional in your firm to help you articulate your plan and stick to it. Schedule and keep one-on-one monthly meetings during which you report on your efforts, discuss roadblocks, and reinvigorate your commitment to your business development plan. Allow yourself to be challenged by your BD professionals – we are here to help you succeed.
- Tap into client feedback opportunities. It’s natural to rely on your own experiences interacting with your clients, but clients are almost always more candid when providing feedback to professionals who do not work on their files. Find a way to collect this feedback through formal or informal channels, reflect on it honestly and then act upon it.
These are but a few of the basics. Greater minds than mine have analyzed and written about the many factors for successful client relationships and business development. Here are some suggestions: