It is safe to say that one of the most difficult parts of business development is investing the time, energy, and effort to develop a relationship from scratch to the point where that person trusts you and is willing to give you a shot. It usually requires a strong dose of patience and persistence.
Case in point: When I was the National Sales leader for a consulting firm prior to starting my own practice, I asked my top three performers a very simple question. “What is the average time it takes to build a relationship from the first time they meet you to the time they give you your first matter?”
All three of them gave me the same answer – “Between 1 ½ to 2 years.” That sounded about right. Remember that this is the average time. There are times when a new prospect could give you an opportunity after meeting you for the first or second time. That is simply called being in the right place at the right time. This doesn’t happen very often, however the more active you are in the marketplace, the more you increase your odds of experiencing this “dumb luck.”
On the flip side, other targeted prospects can take upwards of 3-5 years until they reach a point of trust and/or need to hire you.
Anyone who has spent enough time conducting business development understands the exhaustive efforts some relationships require until they start to bear fruit. Many of these same people also tend to forget to look for the low-hanging fruit. For example, former clients or colleagues who already know them, trust them and understand the quality of work they can offer.
Let’s not forget about the easy part of business development, i.e., rekindling relations that may have gone cold. The hard work of building trust is already in the bank. This is now just a matter of reconnecting with those you might have forgotten about.
Think of those contacts who might have slipped through the cracks over the past few years and reach out to them. Business development is often about working smarter, not harder.