Attorney Business Development Planning for 2021 (Part 1)

The normal November activity of updating your business development plan for the coming year feels anything but normal as we face rising numbers of COVID infections around the globe and the need for social distancing is projected to last well into (and potentially through) 2021. Pre-COVID business development activities– the ones that likely fill your BD plan from this time last year– now live on a spectrum from challenging to no-longer-possible. All is not lost. Relationships, the bedrock of attorney business development, remain your top priority. You just need to work it differently. 

One of my favorite business development philosophies is: “You already know everyone you need to know.” Any BD plan should focus on active engagement with your existing relationships to help you fast-track new ones and get hired more. In 2021 especially, your BD Action Plan needs to reflect your understanding of three things:

  1. The shortest path to success
  2. The marketing tools that support your business development
  3. The opportunities and potential in your pipeline

In this three part series I discuss the elements that put intention and action into your business development plan.

The Path to Success

Many attorneys believe they need to cast the broadest net possible to be successful business developers. This is based on a belief that they’ll be able to capitalize on any opportunity that comes along. This is also why so many business development plans are on a rinse and repeat churn without producing significant results. 

In my BD coaching, narrowing the focus of an attorney’s offerings is one of the first things we work on. This is sometimes scary, but focus accomplishes several important things. First, it helps the attorney frame up his or her practice strategically by focusing on the highest potential rather than the most broad reach. Second, it also reduces the time it takes to create meaningful outreach to contacts and targets since the high potential practice area is top of mind. Finally, it frames up your offering for the potential client or referral source. This gives the potential client a reason to interact with you and helps your referral sources sell something specific to their network.

I asked an attorney once, “What are you selling?” The response was, “Whatever the client is buying.” Ideally we do want to build relationships in which we are the trusted advisor and the first call for help. In the early business development phase, however,  we need to be specific. I said to that lawyer, “I can’t help you sell everything. I can help you sell something.

In developing new relationships, a potential client is rarely looking for a one-size-fits-all attorney. More often than not, they’re looking for an expert to solve a specific problem. Your plan needs to position you to be that expert. Over time, you’ll have the opportunity to become the trusted advisor. In the meantime, stay on the shortest path to success.

Up next: Marketing Tools to Support Business Development

Published by Kristo Sween

Law firm marketing and business development professional, RFP guru, voice actor, healthy lifestyle advocate.

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