How your thinking influences your client development success
In times of economic crisis you cannot afford to sit back and let someone else do the rainmaking for you. What truly puts you in a strong position in your law firm is a client base which supports not only you, but also others in the firm, and which your firm does not want to see leave. – Therefore, if you are a lawyer and you haven’t made business development a priority, now is the time to reconsider.
Over the last six years of my training and coaching practice with lawyers I have observed that business development is not always an easy thing for lawyers. Many struggle with it. Here some examples I have encountered in different settings:
- Senior partners are suddenly confronted with the fact that in times of crises cases do not “fall on their desk” anymore. They are not prepared for and not at ease with a more active client development approach.
- Many young female lawyers cannot identify with the predominant masculine-image of rainmaking and leave law firms before entering into the path for partnership.
- Lawyers who are more calm and introverted, yet excellent and passionate about the legal work, become frustrated and lose grip, because they perceive more extroverted colleagues advancing faster on the law firm career track.
One of the insights I got from the numerous sessions with lawyers around these issues is, that these lawyers often have thoughts around business development, that limit them to be more active and successful in client development. Mostly, these thoughts are underlying assumptions and beliefs that the lawyer is not consciously aware of, but which are drivers to his or her motivation and behaviour. As long as self-limiting beliefs have not become conscious they can create strong resistance and act like negative “self-fulfilling prophecies”. Let me give you some typical examples of such self-limiting beliefs: “I cannot sell; when doing client development I have to sell”, “I am too shy to do networking, it’s not my nature”, “only outgoing extroverts can become rainmakers”; “I cannot talk about my achievements and grand talk”, “I am a lawyer, not a salesperson; I have to do what I have always done and what I do best, provide excellent legal work and not sell” etc.
You can easily understand that such beliefs are not a very powerful blueprint for a proactive business development behaviour.
One aspect of my work is to help lawyers become aware of the blockages caused by such thoughts and find a more empowering way to approach business development. After some work around these issues my clients generally come up with a different view on business development. Which thought is powerful depends from person to person: what works for one lawyer does not necessarily work for another lawyer. Here some examples of empowering thoughts that have given great results to some of my former clients: “Client development is about creating high-quality trust relationships”, “business development is a discussion with a person who might have needs for my services to evaluate if what I have to offer is of value to that person”, “I love to discuss with other people and share my experience”, “client development is fun”, “I am genuinely interested in and care about other people”, “I deserve it to represent this case/this client” etc.
Changing your thinking gives you the key to change your behaviour. When lawyers change their thinking about business development they become highly motivated and naturally active in client development.
Let’s end this article with a quote from David Maister. I think for lawyers seeking to increase their business development activity it is valuable to contemplate his advice on how to sell: “the best way to sell is not to sell, but to care.”.