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AH… the proverbial business development funnel… No, this isn’t some arcane biblical teaching; this is an exposé into the marketing and business development cycle from start-to-finish; from the pouring in of effort at the top to the return on investment at the bottom. And yes lawyers and legal marketers, this applies to you too!

We don’t have to rub salt in the wound to admit that lawyers often struggle with the concept of sales. A few weeks ago we touched on their aversion to the ways of modern marketing here. To be honest we were a little frank: lawyers aren’t always realistic or open to the ways of the today’s innovative marketplace. The industry perception is all too often that future clients will simply drop from the sky!

This is all silo mentality; we work in caves, we think in caves. So this blog post focuses on busting these legal-silos and bringing the modern marketing and business development principles to these legal cave dwellers. Well… we couldn’t keep our legal friends hidden from the natural pipeline process that drives business development. There’s so much to be gained!

There are many business development consultants that will produce pages of theory on this… we’ve read a few of their books ourselves. But we decided it was more helpful to create a start-to-finish template plan on how to craft your very own business development funnel, that came in typically plain Elephant Creative English.

1. Identify your market:

Know your market and make a list of all possible targets, with their direct contact details. It’s important that you keep the list for future reference. You don’t want to double call people or miss possible clients in the future. And remember: with the Internet at hand the whole world can be your marketplace.

2. Identify the needs of your market:

Once you’ve made a list of possible clients, do a needs-analysis. There’s no point just contacting businesses if you don’t know their business, their market, competitors, latest developments, and most importantly: what they need or don’t need. This second stage is one of the most important. Not only for other businesses but also for you as it will save time on no-hopers and also save any possible embarrassment and reputational-damage.

That doesn’t mean you need to write pages about each… an observations section, added to your spreadsheet or database (see 1, above) is fine.

3. List of ‘possibles’:

So once you have your intelligence and verified the needs of possible-clients you will then want to make a list of who you will approach and prospect with your products, services, reputation, personality and expertise.

Keep it manageable… know your limits! It’s better to have a rolling list of three targets (where each time one is knocked off, your replace them) than to miss-manage an ambitious list of twenty targets.

4. The approach:

This is the approach stage, and now you’re into the numbers game. Before you start your prospecting campaign it is proper to outline and stick to a game plan of how you will make contact.

So it’s likely you will approach by making phone calls, sending emails, launching email blasts, through social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others). Make the most of and leverage pre-existing relations, contacts, touch points and leads.

Most importantly, make the most of your marketing team (if you have one). Speak to them about how they can help…. One of our favourite techniques is to send out three eshots (with knowledge only in them), followed up by a personal note to say you’ll call on a certain day… or inviting them to an event. It warms people up and can be totally managed by your marketing team.

It’s of utmost importance that you stick to the game plan and approach in a tick-box manner. So that means no duplication of initial contact and when you get the invite for talks that you stick with a formalised and structured business proposal. Uniformity of delivery sounds mundane and pernickety but organisation and the little things are paramount.

We don’t need to tell you that not every contact will result in a client… it’s a numbers game. That being: the more you approach, the more presentations you make and the more you talk the more contracts you should hopefully reap.

5. Know your numbers:

The crux of the business development funnel is that it’s a numbers game. If you put x in, you will get y initial meetings and, of those, z will convert into clients. It’s important that you start to monitor this, so you can review 1-4 and improve the return on your efforts. It may be that you need to contact more people… it may be that your ‘close’ sucks and you need to review how you actually ‘talk’ to targets.

Here’s how a business development funnel might work:

  1. Initial Bid: So if you if you identify 50 ‘possibles’, initial contact and bid should result in around 5 first meetings.
  2. Pursuit: Once you can deliver in more detail your proposal at first meeting you can expect 40-60% to go on to second meeting. From that you could expect either a full return or absolute rejection but numbers would say that 50 initial bids should turn into 1-2 full contracts.
  3. Hot Ones Funnel: Once you’ve made your bid you will want to identify the business ears that pricked the highest so that you can anticipate and respond in the swiftest manner should the pursuit continue and you be called to a first or second meeting. Of this shorter list, this might only be about 10%.
  4. Sealing the deal: Whether you land the contract or not it is of great importance that you ask for feedback which will allow you to learn from the process and apply those lessons in the future. This should include everyone that you actually get to speak to.

6. Finally, know what you want:

It’s very easy to head into this with the goal of winning new clients. Of course that’s the overall goal but the business development funnel doesn’t work like that. You have to break it down and set more realistic goals. It may be more realistic to simply set a goal of ‘winning a cup of coffee with a target’ or ‘getting them to a breakfast seminar’ or ‘getting a connection on LinkedIn’.

The bottom line is that, as long as you have a plan, the funnel should work for you.

So there you have it, the full business development funnel for lawyers. You’re all legal rainmakers now! The moral of today’s story is that you need to be targeted; be plan and tick-box driven and have a readiness to adapt and riff round the chorus of events. In short: fail to prepare, prepare to fail… ok, ok… enough of the cheesy business quotes. We’ll go away now.