17 August 2021
International Legal Sector

What are the basics of good business development and how do they translate to a virtual world?

1. Remembering that business development is only part of the equation

Business development is about creating relationships. These can be stand-alone; but the best business development makes the most of opportunities that have been created by the professional services firm’s marketing. Marketing and business development are often amalgamated, and the terms used interchangeably. This does a disservice to marketing and can lead to frustrations in business development efforts that fall flat.   

How does this apply to the virtual world? Your marketing strategy exists in the real world. That is sometimes easy to forget. Who is your target market? What are your key messages? What are you delivering to your clients that meets their needs? These may have changed or evolved over 2020, they may be as they were pre-2020. It is likely that the tactics used to raise awareness have centred on digital marketing tactics: your website; online advertising; sponsorship of online events or publications; PR. How are you creating opportunities and what is your business development plan to leverage these?


2. It’s about relationships


Relationships don’t happen with companies; they happen with people. What people do you need to know? Who do you know? What do they like or dislike? What’s going on with them? What would they value? Asking questions that relate to people can help you devise a business development plan that resonates and helps you to win work. It can help you leverage the opportunities we spoke about at point 1. 

How does this apply to the virtual world? Think about who you need to speak to. What’s the best way to connect with them? Is it someone who you know well who you could ask for a virtual coffee or catch-up? Is it someone who you don’t know well who you want to try and get to know? If it is the later, do some research. Are they someone with lots of followers and who is active on social media? If so, an invitation on LinkedIn is likely to be received positively. Are they someone who seems to have a very small online footprint? If so, they are unlikely to respond positively to an approach out of the blue and they may prefer an email with a reason to engage with you.  This is really no different from the way that you would approach in person business development, and indeed, might prove easier as you have much bigger clues about how a person might like to engage with you. At the heart of this is thinking about what value you might be able to add to the other person and it’s about being genuinely interested in them. 


3. Luck and design

Business development is about design. You should be looking at data. You should have a clear idea of who your profitable clients are and who the clients are that you are looking to attract. You should know who the gift-givers are at these firms. You should have a pipeline and a target list. You should be engineering opportunities to get in front of these people

You should also not overlook luck. Design helps you make your own luck, but notwithstanding, you might be in the right place at the right time and a happenstance encounter might lead to opportunities that you could never have foreseen. Being open to that is also important in virtual business development. 

- How does this apply to the virtual world? Virtual business development perhaps requires a little bit more thought. You can’t just attend numerous industry events hope to exchange a pocketful of business cards and return to the office safe in the knowledge you have “done some business development”. You might need to be very specific in who you reach out to. You might have to approach people in a more targeted way. Data will be your friend – and this goes back to point 1. Your marketing should have helped produced some data that you can use to design a business development plan. Who is engaging with you online? Who has been attending your events or reading your newsletters? All of this can result in approaches that are targeted but which flow on from months of awareness raising. 

Don’t forget luck. Fortune favours the brave – that random “like” on LinkedIn – the second- or third-degree contact – might just be put in front of you at the right time – it is up to you what you do to seize those opportunities. 


4. Limiting beliefs hold people back

Relationships are two-way. Not only do we need to think of clients as people, we also need to remember that the professionals doing the business development are people too! Some will find making approaches easier than others. For some the data and logic will drive them. Some professionals will feel confident in their abilities, others will wonder how they will ever get good at it. Talking about limiting beliefs topping professionals from doing business development, making the unconscious conscious, can have a profound impact. 

How does this apply to the virtual world? Contacting someone on LinkedIn and asking them for a virtual coffee is different. Attending an online networking event and being forced into a virtual breakout room exposes not only the person but their home. It is uncomfortable for many. It’s new. Speaking on a webinar for the first time and engaging attendees virtually is hard for even the most seasoned of speakers. Thinking about these fears and unconscious beliefs is often what holds people back: the technology and the “how to” are usually secondary, even if they are held up as the blocker. Understanding what is really stopping professionals doing business development and working to remove these limiting beliefs is – in the virtual – hybrid – or real world – a useful starting point. 


So, what’s the secret of winning work online?

The secret is that there is no big secret! Winning work online is no more complicated to winning work in the real world. There will be rejection. There will be people who get you. There will be people who turn you off. Those who are bold will have one approach, those who are more reserved will find a different way. Those who work in a team will triumph. 

Relationships will prosper beyond technology and will adapt with whatever “normal” there is. People do business with people. Virtually, in a hybrid world, or in person

This article is adapted from one that appeared on Client Talk’s blog. To read the full article click here.

Copyright © The Impact Lawyers. All rights reserved. This information or any part of it may not be copied or disseminated in any way or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of The Impact Lawyers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of The Impact Lawyers.

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