More than any other type of executive coaching that I do, business development coaching of attorneys, accountants, consultants, and other professionals produces an identifiable return on investment (ROI). The improvement in business originations, coupled with the satisfaction experienced by my clients as they begin to succeed, amazes even me at times.
A joint study done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Centre revealed that the mean ROI of coaching is roughly seven times the investment.
The figure aligns with the real world experience of my clients.
Here is but one example. An associate at a BigLaw firm felt his career was going nowhere fast. Generating only about $300,000 of new billable work annually when we began working together, he knew that was not enough to make partner. Moreover, his income was not growing. With my coaching, in a fairly short time his billings were well over $2.3 million, a global law firm offered him a partnership, and, after three years, he became the Chair of an important international practice group.
It took this client three years to increase his billings nine-fold. Not every lawyer, accountant, or consultant will enjoy this level of success although some will. The point is that for most professionals, business development coaching based on an individualized plan, will result in a positive ROI where the profits from new business will far outweigh the cost of coaching.
New Times Require New Attitudes About Business Development Coaching
I have worked with attorneys my entire career, starting with my first job after law school in 1971. For many of those decades, a business development coach was viewed as a last resort, somebody who was brought in when a lawyer was on the cusp of being asked to find another place to practice.
But over the past decade, business development coaching has become a more widely accepted and valuable tool for practice and professional development, becoming integral to an attorney’s future success. Indeed, recognizing that a law practice is a business as well as a profession, some state bar associations now allow a few hours of continuing legal education credits to come from programs that involve business development training and coaching.
The reason is simple: It is no longer enough to be a skilled practitioner to attract and retain clients. There are a large and growing number of attorneys chasing after a finite number of clients. The competition among lawyers (and other professionals) for new clients and business is intense. Yet despite this, relatively few law schools offer courses in marketing and practice development.
Obviously, the goal of all business development coaching for lawyers is to generate new matters from current clients, and to draw inquiries from prospective clients and referral sources. But because marketing for all professional services can be a long game, there are intermediate benefits that should be encouraged, recognized and applauded.
A changed attitude towards business development is one such advance whether a lawyer is a sole practitioner, works in a boutique or midsized firm, or is part of a global BigLaw institution. Too often business development goes to the bottom of the pile on their desk under all the client matters and administrative tasks to be performed. For many, this paradigm needs a shift – to be successful, business development is a daily “to do” item.
Every day you should spend some time on business development.
The key to business development is a steady flow of meaningful interactions with existing and prospective clients and sources of referrals. I see it when they start getting out of the office to attend meetings and events – now, virtually – or even making phone calls, but on a more strategic basis as part of a business development plan I help them develop.
For some, that plan might include selecting meetings of professional associations while for others it could be participating actively in a targeted trade association. It might be as simple as reconnecting with classmates. As one client who did little business development put it, “Even with just a few months of coaching, I am thinking A for the first time, saying B, and doing C. As long as I keep at it, the new matters will come and keep flowing.”
Now that is what I call a major shift in outlook.
The Three Keys to Success Are Organization, Motivation and Accountability
Business development coaching cannot be viewed like being kept after class; it is not remedial reading or doing exercises on the blackboard. Lawyers who get forced into coaching are not likely to do well because they have not welcomed the opportunity.
Those who choose to work with a coach – either on their own or because their firm is supporting the idea – must be motivated by a desire to step outside their comfort zone, backstopped by me as their coach. My role is to help you identify your unique strengths and weaknesses, and then build a highly personalized and workable plan to capitalize on your strengths to move forward.
There always has been a lot of talk about attorneys having a personal marketing plan but few actually do. Even fewer implement theirs and often their exquisite plans rest on a shelf.
What I do is provide through regular coaching sessions the hands-on guidance needed to ensure that the lawyer is executing the plan by:
• Staying in contact with current clients even when not working on a matter for them;
• Contacting potential clients; and remaining close to referral sources and seeking new sources of referrals.
• For attorneys in midsized and large firms, internal networking with other lawyers is a critical part of any business development plan as your colleagues can be your best sources of introductions.
And there are other components in a successful business development plan such as virtual and in-person networking, being active in relevant organizations, writing articles or blogs to become a “thought leader”, public speaking or webinars, and most recently smart use of social media such as Linkedin and Facebook.
Also it is important for you and your business development coach to monitor your progress. What parts of the plan are working well? What parts are not working as expected? What changes or mid-course corrections should be made to the plan? Are you working within your business development budget?
Another critically important component of business development coaching is accountability.
As noted above, it is easy to let business development tasks go to the bottom of your pile. With coaching, clients feel accountable to me and therefore make sure that before the next coaching session they have done what they promised to do. Every one of my clients has expressed the view that by having regular coaching sessions, they feel accountable to do what they have committed to do. This accountability is extremely important to their business development successes.
Not everyone will quickly start by hitting home runs. But they will effectively play “small ball” with singles, perhaps doubles, and even a triple or two, all of which drive new business home.
How Does Business Development Coaching Work?
My “Green Sheet” tool for business development coaching for lawyers, accountants, consultants and other non-medical professionals produces a positive ROI because of the five-step algorithm I follow, which is:
Step 1 – I help you define your business development history and goals. We review your strengths and weaknesses, and the fears you may have about moving forward.
Step 2 – Together we will assemble the information needed to achieve your goals.
Step 3 –From this information, we will create your personal business development plan that becomes your roadmap to success. As Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra said, without a map any destination will do.
Step 4 – I work with you to help you execute your plan. I take a hands-on approach by holding regular Zoom or phone meetings where we assess your progress, examining what is working and what needs tweaking. We also discuss on a very granular level upcoming phone calls, meetings or events, and may even role-play to prepare you for the event.
Step 5 – By regularly monitoring your progress, I can suggest changes to your plan or how you are executing it. We also work on other issues and concerns that may not have been evident when we started working together.
Following this approach enables you to use a simple formula to calculate the ROI of your business development coaching:
The ROI of Business Development Coaching
Several years ago, a law firm consultant produced an analysis of the cost of not spending money on a business development initiative such as coaching. It found that the cost of doing nothing was twice the proposed investment in just the first year because of missed business opportunities. It found that the positive ROI over three years, if the money was invested, is close to 250%.
It is easy to evaluate the ROI on business development coaching. Assume the following:
• you have invested $5,000 in coaching
• as a resulting of coaching, you have new business from existing or additional clients of $250,000
• your gross margin is 50% such that your gross profit on this business is $125,000
In this hypothetical, your ROI on business coaching will be 2500%. And if the new clients continue for years, the ROI from coaching grows even more.
Business development coaching is not for every practicing professional. It works best when you are motivated to find a new direction for your career and want to follow a systematic, tested way of fulfilling your potential as a Rainmaker.
Are you ready to become a Rainmaker? Are you willing to take the action necessary to reach your fullest potential? Do you want to make more money and have greater influence within your organization? If the answers are “YES” and you want to explore the possibility of using business development coaching to turn you into a bona fide rainmaker, feel free to email me or call me at (862) 204 7719.
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