Photo by Dean Moriarty
Trying to figure out who the best prospects to target can be one of the most challenging parts of business development. We can spend years courting promising clients only to scratch our heads wondering why they never hire us. We wine and dine them, provide free advice, remain diligent in staying in regular contact, yet generate little if any business from them.
So, what is it that prevents them from engaging us?
One of the most common reasons I see is that professionals don’t learn enough about their prospects to determine if they are the right prospects. They may think they are going through the proper motions to build a new client, yet they are doing it blindly. It is like flying a plane without instruments. You may still get from point A to point B, but with the proper flight information, the chances of reaching your destination safely and accurately are much higher.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
I have had several client coaching sessions over the past few days where I have heard, in so many words, “I know how to do that. I just need to do it.” Well, that seems easy enough. Then why do so many experienced professionals struggle with getting back to the basics?
Business development does not need to be a complicated mystery. It is a combination of exercising our innate personal skills and incorporating newly learned skills to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
I was talking with one of my clients, John, a couple of months ago who was dealing with a challenge that many professionals face – short-term burnout. He was buried with client work, had a wife and two kids who wanted to spend time with him, needed to conduct business development per his coach’s instruction, and had no time to pursue his own hobbies.
John is a sports nut and recharges his batteries by attending sporting events. His only problem was that he had no time based on the other responsibilities mentioned above. The fix was relatively simple. Start combining work with pleasure by inviting clients to sporting events. Whether it is attending a live baseball game or catching a basketball playoff game at a local venue over a beer, John was much more motivated to reach out to his network to find ways to keep his relationships warm while recharging his batteries.
In a conversation with a good friend and client, Pete, who was the head of litigation for a large law firm, I asked him what was one of the costliest business development mistakes he has made. It was safe to assume that even someone who was as successful as Pete has made a mistake or two in his career.
Pete didn’t hesitate in his response. He said, “Oh that is an easy one. It cost me a lot of business at the time, yet it also helped me build a successful practice thereafter.
I was talking with a client, Jessica, last year in a coaching session who shared with me one of her “aha” moments. This particular discovery pertained to how to describe to prospective clients what she does. Jessica is a white-collar partner at a large international law firm who works with companies that face complex white-collar issues.
She was practicing her “land and expand” approach by meeting additional colleagues of her main contacts at existing clients. In a conversation with a large Silicon Valley client, a colleague of Jessica’s main contact asked, “Jessica, do you mind if I run a problem by you?”
Before Jessica could reply, Jessica’s contact said to her colleague, “Kathryn, that is exactly what Jessica is here for; to make any of your problems her problems.”
It was Fall of 2016; I was staring at my computer screen for at least a half hour for the fourth day in a row. I was stuck trying to come up with the perfect article to add to my new blog on my website. I had never created a blog before, nor had I written an article that would be shared with a large audience. It was only logical to think that the article had to be perfect.
It took me four months to post that first article, and it was far from perfect.
I had a recent conversation with a new client who was licking his wounds after losing an opportunity and we tried to break down the reasons why he might have lost it. It was a proposal for a significant amount of work, and he thought his prospective client was on board. It was just a matter of receiving the green light and getting started. He followed up the week after he submitted the proposal. No word back. He then followed up three more times in a two-week period. Crickets.
It was 10 years ago when I walked out of a client meeting embarrassed, angry, and frustrated. I had just met with one of my most important target clients and brought along a colleague. This colleague happened to be our national practice group leader and a partner at the firm for more than 20 years. He was visiting from out of town to meet with some of the West Coast target clients. The result of this one client meeting I set up – we not only turned the client off but never heard back from him again.
The Lake Tahoe region is a resort area that relies on Mother Nature to deliver snow during the winter to help businesses thrive in one of the busiest times of the year – the Christmas holiday season.
This past November, Lake Tahoe experienced one of the warmest and driest months that I can remember. It was wonderful for mt. biking and other summertime activities, but it spelled disaster for local businesses that rely on visitors to book their ski vacations during the last 2 weeks of December.
The mountains were brown going into the first week of December until the dismal outlook started to change. Snow arrived. And then more came. One storm after another. When we reached the end of December, Lake Tahoe recorded a record month of snowfall – more than 16 feet in less than four weeks! Local businesses breathed a sigh of relief while residents went into hiding to avoid the mass crowds. Another successful holiday season after all.
As we approach the end of the year, it is a great time to reflect on how the year went and what we want to accomplish in the coming year – professionally and personally.
Normally, this is the time when gyms start to salivate for all those people who want to launch the new year with the intention of getting back in shape. With the ongoing pandemic, I question how many people are joining gyms, and instead, are buying Peloton bikes or other stationary equipment for their home gyms.