Business Development Marketing

Five foundational steps for business development

If you are feeling like you would like you would like to get better at business development here are five steps to get you started:

1. Update your contact list. This contact list will include your clients, past-clients, contacts and referral sources. Once you’ve updated it, review the list and develop your “A” list of contacts. This is a short list of the most important people in terms of new business opportunities.  While there are many people we care about and we would like to invest time in, the “A” list simply helps us to prioritise.  In many cases people on the “A” list will be clients and past clients.  In some areas of practice such as commercial litigation they may be referral sources.

2. Make yourself a weekly connect with list.  Many of my clients develop the habit of setting aside some time on a Sunday afternoon or evening to think about who they want to take action to connect with in the coming week.  It helps to have at your fingertips your short list of priority contacts. Action for a local contact may be to set up a face-to-face coffee or lunch meeting.  Or it may be to connect with them in some other valuable way.  Is there a legal update you can send them? The guiding question to consider is “how can I add value?”

3.  What gets scheduled gets done.  This past year has been about schedule mastery both for my coaching clients and for my own practice.  Get your commitments into your calendar.  Block off time for them.  AND respect the time you have blocked off for these commitments by not scheduling over it.  Schedule time for connecting with people.

4. Focus on listening.  This is one skill that seems easy and yet is surprisingly difficult.  The more our minds are filled with deadlines, the more our blackberry buzzes, the harder it gets to listen.  In your business development meetings put the emphasis on listening and learning about what’s going on for your contact personally and professionally.  What challenges are they facing?  What are they most excited about?  What’s most important to them?  Seek out opportunities to help and to add value. 
Put your blackberry away so that you can turn your full attention to the conversation.  A key step in business development is “discovery”.  That means asking open ended questions and learning all that you can over the course of one meeting or many about your contact and his/her business.  This is how you discover where the opportunities lie.

5.  Track your actions and your time.  Make a commitment to invest a set number of hours weekly on business development.  If you want to dabble then give it 2 hours a week.  If you want to make a serious effort then set aside 4 or more hours.  (This includes time spent planning, emailing, lunching, attending networking events – everything!) Keep a running list of who you are connecting with and what you are learning.   Review your notes to ensure you are following up when and where you need to, and to evaluate what’s working and what is not.

And here are some other great resources to explore:

When you have listened and uncovered opportunities it is time to talk about the benefits of you or your firm’s services.  Here’s a helpful post from Theda C. Snyder that explains features and benefits.

Check out Susan Van Dyke’s post on 10 tips to revitalize your practice with healthy legal marketing habits.

And finally, don’t miss Paula Black’s recent post tip Be yourself.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.