Let’s massage the ego briefly – as a legal professional, you tend to be confident, highly educated, analytical, organised, astute, and of integrity.
You’re hardworking, creative, compassionate, an excellent communicator, resilient, knowledgeable, assertive when required, of sound judgment, logical and persuasive. And of course, many more.
In fact, you share every attribute with a seasoned business development professional. The horror!
However, let’s not be scared of that or belittle business development (BD); rather, look at why it is necessary these days to embrace your shared skillset and effectively deploy it, for not only your firm’s benefit but also your own.
And let’s be clear too – “sales” and “BD” are different activities, with “consultative selling” the trendy alternative. Simply put, sales is emotionless and transactional, whereas BD is about nurturing and cultivating valuable relationships.
The “new normal”
A phrase which may now appear tired but which, unfortunately, is true. Long before COVID, though, challenger law firms were innovating, utilising technology and creating new business models to compete with the established way of doing things. COVID, with its remote working demands and revenue impacts, has only brought these changes to the attention of slower-moving practices and those which had become complacent.
Many firms do not have a business growth strategy, or know where to start in order to keep moving with the times: they are standing still, caught in the headlights.
It is a situation compounded by homeworking, leaving people across the organisation feeling detached and disconnected, when the industry is accustomed to office working and the sense of togetherness it brings.
And that is why it is imperative that your business and your staff know how to survive and thrive.
From fee earners long in the tooth, to newly qualified practitioners, to BD staff you may already have – each individual should receive support in developing and deploying BD skills: not only to do their job in the new normal but to elevate themselves professionally.
So, why me?
New and junior lawyers: True, you didn’t go to university and qualify as a solicitor to bother about BD or whether you’re bringing in enough fees. And you certainly didn’t receive any courses on BD in the degree or diploma, or even as a trainee. But as you know, it’s a competitive environment out there and if you want to change firms, harbour ambitions for promotion to partner, or want to try setting up your own firm in the future, the BD skills you develop now, combined with the relationships, contacts and clients you cultivate over the years, will be critical to your personal brand and success.
Experienced lawyers and partners: You may be savvier about BD work and its importance, as you’ve become more commercially aware of how the business is run over the years. But is there more you could be doing to differentiate, cement stability and success, and ensure a stable future for the practice and everyone it employs? Are you certain your pool of clients will stay with you long term, keep referring, or will they too become more switch-savvy and tempted by the exciting new firms who are modelling their business success on “client experiences”?
In-house BD staff: If a firm is fortunate enough to have these, it’s half the battle, but if they come and go more than your solicitors then you’re taking two steps forward and one back. Plus, when was the last time they had their skills refreshed?
Outsourced BD support: Yes, that exists, and is often much more impactful and better value for money!
You said I have a BD skillset; what next?
Apply your existing skills specifically for the purposes of BD. For example, learning how to spot a business opportunity and progress it in a manner which you and the prospect are completely comfortable with is key; coming across as “salesy” or pushy is obviously to be avoided.
Ongoing learning and development to maintain confidence, and creating a business growth strategy for practice owners, are critical for success too.
You may have been taught the law, but it’s unlikely you know about BD. Taking personal responsibility now, in the new normal, will pay dividends long into the future.
Interested in learning more about how Allan Panthera can help improve you, your staff and your firm with BD and business growth skills and expertise? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 358 4353 to discover the benefits of our bespoke solutions that set you up for success.