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Developing the Business Development Habit

23.09.2010

As Stephen Covey famously pointed out, being successful is all about habits – and business development is no exception. In order to achieve consistently greater returns, business developers (i.e. everyone with an external-facing role in a law firm) need to discover the actions that lead to success, and then perform them habitually.

Habits as Standard

We talk a lot about the need to establish standards, as opposed to targets, to measure performance throughout the law firm business pipeline. These standards, essential as part of a performance measurement and improvement strategy, should be seen as the outcomes achieved as a result of the successful implementation of a habit-forming approach.

Buy-In is the Key

The first step in the habit-forming process is to agree the standards and to define the habits. A good example would be referrals from satisfied clients. The first steps in the process in this case would look something like this:

• Agree together with the fee earner what would be a reasonable number of referrals to expect each month
• Agree what the average value from each referral ought to be (this should be fairly simple if the type of client and case is clearly defined)
• Identify how much revenue should be generated from client referrals each quarter

Once the standards have been agreed, the habits can be defined. In this example, the habits in order to generate £x of revenue from client referrals ought to involve:

• Ensuring each client’s details are entered in full into the firm’s database on instruction
• Setting milestones in each case, at which point feedback should be solicited and referrals should be requested
• Creating a list of the top ten clients, and systematically contacting each to ask if they could suggest anyone who may benefit from the individual’s (or the team’s) services
• Allocating a specific time each week to review progress and to make any phone calls

Public Commitments

Habits will only be formed, and standards achieved, if commitments are made public and evaluation is undertaken together with team members. Regular meetings, ideally monthly, should be held to discuss progress and identify issues.

In tough economic times, sensible firms will assess very carefully the costs attached to any action that involves investment. What many firms forget to consider are the costs of avoiding action, and the opportunity cost of prioritising other commitments over business development.

Investing in developing the habits of successful business developers is a crucial strategy for ensuring prosperity going forwards in a particularly challenging legal market. This approach underpins our Profitable Partnerships Programme, aimed at improving individual business development performance and increasing law firm revenues substantially and sustainably.
 

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