One of the most challenging parts of business development is investing the time, patience, and perseverance to turn an initial contact into a trusting relationship. A relationship that can become a long-term client and often friend.
The reward can be rich, yet the investment is often big. Many relationships take years to develop before they reach the “client” status.
One would think that once you reach this point that you would do everything you can over the long haul to protect this investment. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Many professionals spend all their BD time building new relationships at the expense of letting their established trusting relationships go cold.
I asked one of my law firm clients two seemingly basic questions.
“Of your top 10 clients, how many are active right now?”
She quickly answered 3.
“Can you tell me the last time you reached out to the 7 inactive clients?”
She gave me a blank stare for 10 seconds and could not remember exactly when she last reached out to them. She did recall that some were well over a year. Her explanation was simple.
“I just assume that the next time they have a legal need, they will contact me.”
This ignited an active conversation around the importance of staying in regular contact with her trusting relationships that she had often invested years to build. I reminded her that her competition continues to grow, especially in the legal market. Just because she provided excellent service for her client does not mean that they will always come back to her, especially if she loses contact with them.
The competitor who is more active staying top of mind with her contacts and who might also be building that level of trust could easily take the next matter from that client.
When I help clients look for the “low hanging fruit” it is often having them dig through their archives of prior clients to see which relationships need rekindling. The time it takes to rekindle an old relationship takes far less time than it does to build a new one from scratch.
I would venture to guess that many of you have low hanging fruit that you can still find. Leading into the holidays is an excellent time to reach out to those trusting relationships who have not heard from you in a while.
Do not wait until they have a need. When that comes it might be too late.
While building new relationships is a very important part of your business development effort, do not forget about those relationships in your network who have hired you in the past.
The hard work is already done. All you need to do is reconnect. You might be surprised at what this simple exercise can do to refill your pipeline.